Have you ever wondered why we aren’t getting it right as a society? Thinking logically, each generation should be able to improve on what their parents gave them; but that isn’t happening. We’re still repeating the same lessons they gave us, and that their parents gave them, and their parents gave them.
The world needs conscious parents who are aware of what they are writing into the minds of their children. It is widely accepted that our subconscious is formed almost entirely by the time we are seven years old, so the first years of parenting are especially critical in how children act later in life. If you want to give your children a better opportunity to improve on what we have, it’s time to get serious about the thoughts and behaviors that fill their subconscious. Given how influential fathers can be in the formation of their children, we have a special and important role to play. Here are five ways to become a more conscious parent.
Listening is the easiest and most rewarding thing in the world to do. Part of being a conscious parent is really being aware of what your children are trying to communicate to you, and this accomplishes many things. For one, you’ll actually be able to understand the feelings and needs of your kid. Secondly, active listening teaches your children that they are worthy of the attention and that their feelings and thoughts matter. Lastly, listening, really listening, teaches your children to do the same. And when they learn to listen, the door is open for them to see the importance of other’s feelings and the knowledge that others can share with them throughout their lives.
We all want and need to be listened to — children especially. But often parents will interrupt children or only pretend to listen while they prepare what they are going to say. Children pick up on this, and they feel unworthy. The feeling of unworthiness, also known as shame, is at the root of most self-defeating behavior, says shame researcher Brené Brown. Just letting your kid know they are worthy of being listened to will be instructive of their behavior and the way they treat others when they grow older.
As simple as it sounds, one of the best ways to be an active listener is to say, “I’m listening.” This statement is especially meaningful to young people who are desperate for a share of your attention, but it also reminds you to look into the needs and feelings of your kiddo. Try it out, and keep mindful of listening to everyone you meet through the day to keep the practice sharp.
2. Limit electronics
People make jokes about an iPad or TV babysitter, but more and more parents are resorting to electronics to occupy their children. It’s tempting — you want a break, or your kid is getting into everything or throwing a fit. “Where’s the damn iPhone?!” But imagine how you feel when you see 10 people at the same table in a restaurant all craning over phones without making any sort of eye contact? It’s weird, obscene, bizarre, and not at all connected. Tempting as it may be, relying on technology for your child to feel engaged is the fastest way to disconnect them from humanity. The earlier they start the habit, the more profound the disconnect will be.
If you’re in the habit of handing the reigns to iNanny, you can break the habit by filling those tempting moments with fun. Read silly books to your child, even if they don’t know the words. Have puzzles on hand; especially these cool 3-D puzzles that test children’s special awareness and reasoning abilities (you’ll find them challenging too). Try making human connections with your child and satisfying his or her need to explore and learn about the world around and within them.
“Play is the highest form of research.”– Albert Einstein
Just like medicine being easier to swallow when it’s sweeter, knowledge is far easier to digest when sugar-coated with fun. Think back to your favorite teacher — what were his or her classes like? Do you remember feeling the time fly by when you were excited about learning and having fun? Fun is the gateway to a flow-state of learning, and playing is the most effective way to access it. Kids are looking for fun everywhere because playing is the best form of education, and the most natural to us.
During all forms of play, we teach our children about the physical world, our culture, our values, and about all-important personal boundaries. If you can make play a priority with your kids, you’ll develop bonds of affection while you prepare them to succeed on their own. Michael Mendizza and Joseph Chilton Pearce co-authored a book call Magical Parent-Magical Child, which details exactly how play is superior to rote programming in the formation of a young mind. If you want to learn more about the art and importance of play, pick it up from you local library or order it on Amazon.
Here are a few tips to make play a routine in your household:
- Keep an assortment of instruments handy, like bongos and xylophones, to make silly songs with and to drum along to your favorite tunes.
- Learn how to juggle. This is one of the silliest things an adult can do, but it’s actually beneficial for the brain. As a bonus, it will keep your kid engaged with almost anything you do, and he’ll be highly interested in learning more about the objects.
- Keep spare change in your pocket and test your kid’s quick thinking abilities by flashing the coins for a split second in your palm and having her guess. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, it’s educational, and you can do it with anything from words to colors to dice.
- Silly books are among the best ways to condition play as a habit. Stories like Green Eggs and Ham or Fox in Socks satisfy a kid’s need for ridiculousness while teaching them about syntax and rhyme schemes, and colors and animals. When they’re young enough, you also get to break out the funny voices, which will send your kiddos reeling.