Conscious parenting is informed, thoughtful parenting,
in which the mind and heart of the parent resonate with the needs of the child.
- Thomas Verny
Conscious parenting is a concept and a science that is encouraged these days actively. I support it wholeheartedly and promote it in my counselling work too. When discussing mindful parenting, I have an existential approach and ask future parents three fundamental questions to consider before they conceive:
1. What do you need or want for the child?
2. What do children want and need the most?
3. Are you prepared to become a parent?
Also, I like working with the meaning of words very much. Sometimes analysing a word, we can find lots of wisdom and answers to our search. Let have a look at the dictionary and find out what the word "conscious" means.
The Oxford Dictionary gives us a few options. Conscious means:
aware of and responding to one's surroundings.
having knowledge of something, concerned with or worried about a particular matter.
deliberate action or feeling.
With the dictionary help, we can conclude that conscious parenting requires awareness, responsiveness, knowledge, and intentional action. Do all the parents meet these expectations? Of course, not. And this is very sad. Parenting is the most responsible role in our life and the one taken with less preparation. That sounds like a great contradiction!
What is extremely important is to ask these questions before conception and to become a conscious parent before you become a parent at all.
Question #1 – What do you need or want for the child?
Please notice the difference; I am not asking "Why?" but "what for?" The question "Why?" is much easier to answer because there are lots of options, like:
getting pregnant was an accident; I didn't plan for it;
it is time, or I am running of time;
everyone has children, and I feel that I would like to have too;
there are too many questions about us not having a child, and we would like to escape from the pressure;
I am single and would like to have a child to get some meaning in my life;
we have one child, and it is not suitable for him to be alone;
real family is the one with two or three children;
I want to leave the job I hate;
I want someone to have with me, I feel too lonely;
the oldest child needs a brother or a sister;
I hope to correct or keep my partner;
I want a descendant, a continuation of me;
I am afraid of old age and loneliness;
I hope to get more benefits, financial support, etc.
When in the counselling session, I ask, "What do you need a child for?" usually, there will be a long pause in our conversation, and my client will struggle to answer this question. Many people have witnessed that they never considered such a question.
By asking this question, I invite people to reflect, be honest, and verify the reasons they consider to be correct to bring a child to the world. Challenging these reasons is one of my responsibilities as a counsellor.
Everyone has their own reason for having a child, but answering this question is important for each child. And to every parent. Because it will affect the child’s and parents’ destiny, their relationship. Will affect, definitely!
Can we classify people's reason's as good or bad, correct, or incorrect? Yes, we can, and we must. And reasoning must come from the child's best interest, not from an adult who prepares to become a parent. Everyone wants and deserves a beautiful story of origin, not trivial or insulting.
I think there is only one correct reason to bring a child into the world is people's readiness to give the best of themselves and to create the best conditions for a future human being growth and development. We give birth to the child, not to please ourselves and whatever selfish reasons we have. Whatever we do – everything is for the best of the child, therefore it is good to have reasons like - “just to give life to another person”, “to live nearby and be present while another very close person grows and lives - my child "," to be a witness and participant in the miracle of someone's birth, becoming, and life. "
I will add one more reason why it is worth having children - for JOY. And to have joy, and not torment and disappointment, the future parent must be an adult (psychologically healthy and mature) and have a conscious approach to such a serious stage in life as fatherhood and motherhood.
I firmly believe that being a parent isn't only a right but a privilege. As life shows, to become a parent is much easier than to honour this privilege. Especially now, when creation is utterly divorced from human relationships, and when we can make the beginnings of life outside the human body. Now we can buy children. Easily!
When we have in mind a child's best interest, we protect the child from abuse, manipulations, expectations to fulfil parents' expectations, bring meaning to parents' life, or return what the child has received. Raising a child is a hard job, and it is a beautiful way to pay back to life, humanity, Universe for the work our parents have done for us. It is a well-ordered cycle of life, don’t you think?
I want to give here three examples of wrong reasons to have a child. Usually, such reasons have nothing with the desire to be a parent and require deep psychological work before parenting is considered.
Example#1. The reason to have a child: “I want to be a mother to become a fully-fledged woman with a functioning reproductive system”.
In this case, the criteria for a "fully-fledged" woman have firmly settled in the person's head, among which the ability to become pregnant, bear and give birth to children takes the first place. As a rule, further motherhood turns out to be a huge surprise, and the time comes to switch to a new template of an "ideal" mother, into which one SHOULD be shoved, as well as into a "full-fledged" woman. In this case, the child is a means to an end, not a goal. As a counsellor, I would recommend working with a woman's attitudes regarding her usefulness, the habit of idealizing, and black and white thinking. It will also be good to find why she has driven herself into such a rigid framework.
Example #2. The reason to have a child: “To have someone to love and care for / to correct the mistakes of their parents”.
One of the most frequent motives, which downright screams that no one is expecting a new child here: a grown child (expectant mother) wants to deal with her problems as soon as possible, rewrite her childhood for a clean copy, close gestalts and “replenish love”. It seems that there is nothing wrong with this, but this is only at first glance. Overprotection, problems with further separation, lack of independence and inability to live - this is a dowry that you can leave to your child. A child is a means to an end, not a goal.
It will help to work through your childhood traumas, the images of parents (especially mothers) in order not only to live your life fully, but also to be a support for your child, who is just beginning to get acquainted with this world, and not an adult child who does work on mistakes with the help “alive” toys (your child).
Example #3. The reason to have a child: To give birth and feel like the deal is done, provide a "present" to the husband/mother-in-law/mother, etc.
Everyone says: you must give birth, the clock is ticking, move faster, you won't have time! Here, for everyone to wipe their noses and shut their mouths, organizing the child is being started, for the husband to become a dad, mom, and mother-in-law - a grandmother, so that the extended family would be happy. Nobody is going to become a mom here. Well, or is going to become, but somehow later. Again, the child is a means to an end, not a goal.
It is recommended that you sincerely deal with your desires - you have the right to do so. Resolve the issue with the family by working out personal boundaries because even after the birth of the child, the tools of your relatives will remain the same: it will still be possible to communicate with you in the same way, showing you how to live, what to do, how to raise your child, etc.
Question #2 – What do you need or want for the child?
After analysing possible reasons to have a child that adults might have, let imagine for a moment that we have a chance to talk to an unborn baby, or yet not conceived human being and ask them a simple question: “What do you want and need the most for your life and future development?”
The unborn human being most probably will say three things:
They want to be wanted and loved.
They need both - Mom and Dad.
They want and need Mom and Dad to love each other and be there for them as role models for a lifetime.
You might disagree with me, you can call it my vague assumption, or you can say that I am too idealistic. I am not. I strongly and wholeheartedly promote conscious parenting based on science. Now we have enough scientific evidence about what happens when we do not meet these conditions. The children ask for primary conditions that form an environment where human life must develop. Children ask for what we call normality. Unfortunately, we ignore these needs and do not invite children to be part of the equation.
Thomas Verny, the father of perinatal psychology in his book “Pre-Parenting”, says: “Conscious parenting is informed, thoughtful parenting, in which the mind and heart of the parent resonate to the needs of the child. The findings in fields as diverse as neuroscience, cell biology, and psychology demand that conscious parenting starts at conception. Ideally, every child should be a planned and wanted child. Every child deserves to be cherished and loved from the start.”
There are two domains where humans do not hold the monopoly over – life and death. We do not know if we will have children or not and when, and how many. We do not see how they might look like and what characters unfold. We do not know many things. But we do have the enormous responsibility to provide the best start for their life. Here we have control, power, and influence conditionally – if we take it seriously and consciously.
How often do future parents see life from a child’s point of view, his needs and wants? How much these needs and wants are respected and met? Another question is, how serious are we about being ourselves "the best possible environment" for our future children?
Question #3 Are you prepared to become a parent?
What preparation do I mean by asking this question? There is a list of things to consider:
- Did you heal your traumas and will not pass them onto your children? Are you capable and ready to stop the transgenerational trauma in your extended family?
- If you have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences, will you be capable of replacing blame-shame-punishment rules and policies with understanding-nurturing solutions and approaches?
- Do you think you have a good character that can be a model for your child?
- Did you reach psychological maturity? Do you know what it means?
- Did you separate from your parents and can parent independently?
- Are you capable of providing a loving, stable, and lifelong environment for your child’s development, growth and becoming?
- Do you have high enough values and standards to guide your child through life?
The experiences of childhood shape us into adults we become; therefore, parenting requires a high level of maturity and emotional intelligence. Conscious parenting is about letting go of a parent's ego, desires, and attachments. Instead of forcing behaviours on children in the future, parents should focus on their own language, their expectations, and their self-regulation. And it should be done before the child is born. I encourage you to look at the adult you see in the mirror and try to be honest with yourself. Are you ready to be a parent? Are you capable of being a conscious parent?
If parents do not want to go to psychotherapy, their children will access it later.
If you need help, you are most welcome to access my counselling services.
1. Pre-Parenting, by Thomas R. Verny and Pamela Weintraub
2. The Life Project, by Helen Pearson