In continuing my mindfulness research, I came across a topic that is very near and dear to me…parenting. I recently heard Dr. Shefali Tsabary speak about being a more conscious parent and how it seems as though there is a disconnect in our society about parenting. What she had to say was eye opening to me as a mother, but also as a teacher. I immediately went out and got a copy of her book, The Awakened Family to read more about her ideas of how to be mindful in raising our children.
This book has been one of the most life changing books I have read. In it, Dr. Tsabary explains the importance of letting go of so many of the expectations that we have as parents in order to help our children to grow into the individuals they were meant to be. On the surface, I know that there are some of you are that are thinking that this is a completely crazy idea. How do we do our jobs as good parents and not expect great things from our kids? Without expectations being placed on our children, aren’t they just going to become technology addicted slugs? This is the point of what she explains in the book. If we take a step back and become mindful of those thoughts, don’t we immediately start to feel a bit of anxiety creep in? We start to worry that if we don’t raise our children to excel at every class or every sport that we are somehow not doing what is best for them. We start to worry that the people around us who are signing their children up for every SAT prep course known to man will someone produce kids who are far more successful than our kids are. We start to worry that if our kids do not start dance class or baseball as soon as they are able to walk, that they will some how be behind everyone else and never succeed. However, do we ever stop to think that the anxiety that we have just created in ourselves over these thoughts helps to foster the way we react to our children on a day to day basis.
So often I have parents who come in to parent-teacher conferences and tell us about how anxious their child is when they come home from school. They have stories about how their kids are so worried about doing well and getting everything done perfectly. Many of these parents will share with our team that they do not know where this anxiety comes from because they do not push their children to do this well or be perfect. I have to admit…I fall into this category. I have always prided myself on telling my kids that their grades do not matter to me as much as knowing that they are well mannered, respected, and hard working people. However, when I really look at what my actions say, I am a hypocrite. There are many occasions that my own fears about their success will dictate how I react to them in situations. Learning to let them fail and learn from the process without criticizing them or belittling the effort that they have put in is something that does not always come easy. This book has made it clear that I need to be more in the moment with my kids and not allow my own fears to dictate how I react. Instead, I need to foster an environment that allows my children (and my students) to grow into the people that they are meant to be. I need to focus less on the outcome and more on helping them through the process. I cannot allow my own fears to come into the parenting of my children. Instead, I need to be mindful of my fears so that I work on fulfilling my voids so that I do not look for my children to fill them. In order to be a good parent, I have to parent myself first.
You may saying…”well, of course! I know that!” I thought that I knew that too. However, reading this book has helped me to see the errors of my ways. Throughout every chapter is clearly defines the things that parents (and teachers) often do and say that are filling our children with anxiety. Learning to be mindful parents and teachers is not only essential for our own personal well being and happiness, but also to the work that we do with raising and teaching conscious children. I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone who parents in some way!