An excerpt from: Shefali Tsabary PhD. “The Conscious Parent”
One morning, my daughter shook me from sleep with great excitement. “The fairy has left you an amazing present,” she whispered. “See what the tooth fairy left you!”
I reached under the pillow and found a one dollar note, torn down the middle in exactly half. Said my daughter, “The fairy left half a dollar for you, and the other half is under daddy’s pillow.”
I was speechless.
Simultaneously I found myself in a dilemma. All of those messages about “money doesn’t grow on trees” and how important it was for my daughter to learn the value of currency came flooding into my mind. Should I use this opportunity to teach her about not wasting money, explaining to her that a dollar note torn in half is worthless?
I realized that this was a moment in which how I responded could make or break my child’s spirit. Thankfully I chose to shelve the lesson and tell her how proud I was of her willingness to be so generous with her one and only dollar. As I thanked the fairy for her big heartedness and her acute sense of fairness in giving both daddy and myself an equal share, my daughter’s eyes responded with a sparkle bright enough to illumine the bedroom.
YOU ARE RAISING A SPIRIT THROBBING WITH ITS OWN SIGNATURE
Parenthood affords many occasions in which we find ourselves in a battle between our mind and our heart, which makes raising a child akin to walking a tightrope. A single misplaced response can shrivel a child’s spirit, whereas the right comment can encourage them to soar. In each moment, we can choose to make or break, foster or cause to freeze up. When our children are just being themselves, they are unconcerned about the things we parents so often obsess over. How things look to other people, achievement, getting ahead—none of these issues that preoccupy adults are a child’s agenda. Instead of engaging the world in an anxious mental state, children tend to plunge head first into the experience of life, willing to risk all.
The morning the fairy visited my bedroom, my daughter wasn’t thinking about either the value of money or the egoic issue of whether I would be impressed she had shared her dollar. Neither was she worried she might be waking me too early. She was simply being her wonderfully creative self, joyously expressing her generosity and delighting in her parents’ discovery that the fairy had visited us for a change.
As a parent, I repeatedly find myself presented with opportunities to respond to my daughter as if she were a real person like myself, with the full range of feelings I experience—the same longing, hope, excitement, imagination, ingenuity, sense of wonder, and capacity for delight. Yet like many parents, I tend to become so caught up in my own agenda that I often miss the opportunity afforded by these moments. I find myself so conditioned to sermonize, so oriented to teaching, that I’m often insensitive to the wondrous ways in which my child reveals her uniqueness, showing us she’s a being unlike any other who has ever walked this planet.
When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me”, but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.
Instead of meeting the individual needs of our children, we tend to project our own ideas and expectations onto them. Even when we have the best intentions of encouraging our children to be true to themselves, most of us unwittingly fall into the trap of imposing our agenda on them. Consequently the parent-child relationship frequently deadens a child’s spirit instead of enlivening it. This is a key reason so many of our children grow up troubled and in many cases plagued by dysfunction.
We each enter the parenting journey with visions of what it will be. for the most part these visions are fantasies. We hold beliefs, values, and assumptions we have never examined. Many of us don’t even see a reason to question our ideas because we believe we are “right” and have nothing to rethink. Based on our unexamined worldview, we unknowingly lay down rigid expectations of how our children ought to express themselves. We don’t realize that through our imposition of our ways on our success.
It’s helpful to ask ourselves, “What is my parenting mission, my parenting philosophy? How do I manifest this in my everyday interaction with my child? Have I mapped out a thoughtful, mindful mission, as I would were I running a major organization?”
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