Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to welcome Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s voice to Green Child, as she shares her perspective on mindful parenting and releasing the expectations we have on our children. To learn more about parenting from a place of peace, presence, and connectedness, check out her new book, The Awakened Family.
What is Mindful Parenting?
Mindful parenting is the purposeful act of being present, in the moment, with your child. Giving your full attention is one of the best things you can do for a child in this modern, busy world.
Releasing Your Expectations
If there is one fear that is common to most of the parents I have encountered, it is this: “My child is ordinary.”
It’s as if they have been insulted, or worse still, rejected in some way. Where does this fear come from? Why is there such a need for us – parents especially – to raise “extraordinary” children? Is our sense of self so compromised that we need our children to wear bells and whistles just so we can feel good about ourselves?
Countless parents believe they need to “optimize” their children and feel guilty if they don’t push them—all because of a deeply ingrained fear-driven idea that we need our children to reach for an imaginary “potential.”
One of the common phrases many parents use is this, “I just want my child to reach her potential.”
In this quest for “potential” they feel justified to push and pressure them, and in many instances shame and belittle them, all the while believing that they are doing so for the good of their children.
Instead, consider the benefits of mindful parenting, and how it can redefine you as a parent.
Mindful Parenting: Understanding Potential
Instead of seeing potential as future-oriented, involving who our children will become, we need to break the word down into its components, getting at the root meaning. The word “potent” lies at the heart of the word. Potency isn’t futuristic, but refers to the power our children already possess that will propel them into a better tomorrow. Anything that will come later is founded in what’s already abundant in a child, not on something we are trying to instill.
Look up the word “potency” and you will find synonyms such as “vigor,” “capacity,” “energy,” “might,” and “moxie.” Each of these speaks to the abundance of vitality a child possesses in the here and now. So if we wish to emphasize a child’s potential, we need to focus on the child’s inherent powers right here, right now, not on wishful thinking about what they might someday “become.”
When it comes to living in the now, young children are gurus. Perhaps it’s their lack of language, especially in the first few years of life, that allows them to immerse themselves in reality body and soul. Their ability to be in this moment now, detached from “what was” and “what might be,” with all its fearful “what ifs,” is a sharp reminder to us of how to engage life in the time zone in which we actually find ourselves.
When we shift from defining potential as something in the future and move into the recognition of each child’s potency in the here and now, our entire perception of what is “extraordinary” shifts. Now, instead of wishing for something – often fantasized – to take form in order to claim it “special,” we shift our attention to what is occurring in the present moment.
Mindful Parenting: Revealing Children Gifted with Abundant Qualities
It is here – in our attention to the here and now that we become aware that every child is both gifted and ordinary at the same time. We begin to notice the nuanced qualities of their character and are amazed by all that unfolds before us. Instead of medals and certificates being the qualifiers of merit, we begin to pay attention to the joy in their eyes and the quickness of their smiles. We realize that our children don’t possess just one quality, but are forever and fluidly capable of many expressions, including giftedness and ordinariness.
The insight slowly dawns that our children are indeed extraordinary – in their very ordinariness and that we can end the quest for them to be anything “extra” or “special,” for they already possess all that they need to in this present moment. Isn’t this a liberating thought? I counter that not only is it liberating for us to stop the quest of fixing and producing our children – but also ultimately empowering for our children.
Can you imagine the release of pressure a child must feel knowing that who it is they are – at this present moment – is worthy of their parent’s praise? This is the meaning of mindful parenting. It immediately allows them to feel a sense of rightness within themselves – one that releases their capacity to fully potentialize themselves.
Only when we parents understand that our desire for our children’s extraordinariness comes from our own inner state of longing and lack, will we release our children from the burden of making ourselves feel better.
Consider bringing mindful parenting into your daily lives. Your children need your full attention here and now.