Have Intention: Parenting Choices Have Consequences
By Lauren Bondy, LCSW
Being a conscious parent means having intention about the qualities we wish to nurture in our children and for the type of parent we want to be. Intention is essential–especially in our toughest parenting moments.
Developing a family vision can be supported by making three very specific lists:
List #1: Write down the qualities you hope to nurture in your child. Be specific. Think ahead to the time when he is old enough to leave your care. Ask yourself, how do you hope he will feel about himself? The world? What do you wish for his character to be? Often, parents think about qualities: responsible, confident, respectful, thoughtful, empathetic, loves himself, open-minded, spiritually connected, etc... When making your list, stick to character traits rather than specific personality distinctions or your outward goals for him (i.e. athletic, popular, smart). For instance, your goal may be to help your children develop an internal compass for their lives rather than the goal be to attend an Ivy League school.
List #2: Write down the goals and dreams you have for yourself as a parent. What type of parent do you want to be? When your children are grown, what do you hope they will say about you? It helps to take a few moments to remember what it was like when you held your infant for the first time. With eyes closed, begin asking yourself some of the questions below and notice the thoughts and feelings that come to mind. This visualization helps you discover (and re-discover) your deepest dreams and feelings about yourself as a parent—the essence of who you are. While these ideas are fresh in your mind, write down the words that describe yourself as the parent you want to be. Often parents will use words such as patient, accepting, available, calm, joyful, confident, etc....
Below are a few suggestions that will help you create your list:
• How did it feel to love them EXACTLY as they were in that moment?
• What were your hopes and dreams for this new, precious life?
• Remember your wonderment as you contemplated the mysteries that would unfold in the years to come.
• What kind of parent did you promise yourself that you would be?
• How do you hope your child will describe you when he is an adult?
• What feelings and memories do you hope they will have of you?
• How do you hope they will feel about growing up in your family?
List #3: Make a third list with words describing yourself as the parent you currently are. This requires honesty and self-reflection. Make sure to list your all of your strengths. Parents often have a hard time acknowledging the best aspects of themselves, but it is important so that you can create more of that. Then, make sure to list those attributes that don't feel so good (i.e. impatient, quick to anger, judgmental, intolerant, unavailable, etc...)
Exercises to help you become a "conscious parent": After making the lists, look to see how list #3 matches up with list #2. Where are you in alignment with your vision? What are the areas that need attention? For instance, in list #1 you wrote that you want to raise a child who is patient, list #2 says you want to be a patient parent, but list #3 has helped you realize that you are constantly rushing yourself and your child.
These discrepancies are a gift in strange wrapping paper (thank you Dr. Darren Weissman for that phrase). Be cautious not to judge yourself but rather love that you have made this discovery. Any discrepancy represents a gap in your subconscious mind and is the key to helping you achieve your dreams for yourself and your family. The discrepant areas of your life are those that you can begin putting conscious attention toward changing. It is also an opportunity to heal this reactive piece of your subconscious mind. Becoming conscious about your parenting choices helps ensure that your actions match your vision.
For more information about our online parenting course or parent coaching, contact Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT at 312-330-3194, Karen@parentingperspectives.com or Lauren Bondy, LCSW at 847-562-9503, Lauren@parentingperspectives.com. Or, visit www.parentingperspectives.com.