I'm sitting at my computer while both my boys scream for me from the other room. So, relax, I'm not going to tell you to savor every parenting moment. In fact, I'd say if you're savoring 25 to 30 percent of the moments, you're nearing Zen monk status. What I do have for you, though, are the following six sure-fire ways to boost your conscious parenting chops.
1. Follow your parenting instincts. In the words of Dr. Benjamin Spock, "The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all."
The best way to cultivate and hone intuition is by listening for and then following instincts as they arise. As Malcolm Gladwell teaches in his bestseller Blink, each time you follow an intuition, your intuition strengthens. I love seeing this as a skill that, with practice, I can hone.
2. Try meditation. There I said it. So sue me. Meditation is relaxing, it helps you focus, and it makes it easier to identify and follow your heart and intuition. It's a win-win.
3. Get help. These days we don't live in tribes or even with extended family, so there are usually, at most, two adults and there's way too much to do. To this conundrum, there is a solution. Instead of visiting the village shaman or rabbi with our troubles, we have a weekly session with a psychotherapist. Instead of having grandma watch the little ones while she knits, we pay a babysitter. This may sound expensive, but once the house is clean and you've gone out to dinner and maybe had sex, you'll save money realizing that you no longer need your couples' counseling. Plus, you'll feel a lot more relaxed and in touch with your parenting instincts.
4. Pay attention. This one comes from parenting guru, Alfie Kohn. Put simply, "Take children seriously." Really see them. Not only their misbehavior; look underneath. Ask, why is Esmeralda not staying in bed after lights out? Is she hungry? Not tired? Scared of a monster? Stressed about school? Wanting more time with Mom and Dad?
Each of these calls for a different course of action, a different parenting opportunity. We can address the underlying issue. More than just applying a Band-Aid, we can guide, help, and really make a difference in the lives of our children.
5. Relax. In the words of Simplicity Parenting founder, Kim John Payne, "Relax a little bit. Give [your kids] just a bit more space than you think you can." Within this space, kids can develop communication skills, fortitude, and inner strength. We do our kids no service by micromanaging their every conflict. This steals from them the opportunity to exercise their own muscles. It would teach them that their challenges make us worried, that we don't trust they can handle it. Of course, if our kids ask for help or if there are signs of bullying or inappropriate behavior, we must jump in. But, otherwise, forcing our way in meets only our needs and soothes our anxiety, not theirs.
6. Be Authentic. The twentieth-century philosopher Fred Rogers said, "My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts." Then he put on his sweater and changed into sneakers.
Maybe I can come clean to Noah and the world that this parenting thing is pretty darn challenging. That I have no idea what to do quite a bit of the time. Another modern philosopher, Louis Szekely, who is, albeit, from a different school of philosophy than Mr. Rogers, has his own take on this: "It's hard having kids because it's boring... They read Clifford the Big Red Dog to you at a rate of 50 minutes a page and you have to sit there and be horribly proud and bored at the same time." Louis Szekely, also known as Louis C.K., certainly speaks his mind.
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