It's no surprise that conscious parenting was one of the biggest childrearing trends in 2022. With 255 million TikTok views on #consciousparenting, it’s safe to say that people are intrigued by the concept. Conscious parenting experts are certain that in order to parent healthy, emotionally resilient kids, you’ve got to come to grips with the way that you were raised. This can mean confronting past trauma and taking a close look at the way the adults around you growing up met your needs or failed to do so. This type of inner work is easier said than done, but it can make all the difference in breaking generational cycles of trauma and fear-based discipline.
Here are some conscious parenting tips to build emotional resilience in your child—and give yourself some peace about the past, in the process.
Oftentimes we expect our kids to regulate their own powerful emotions while we have the equivalent of “adult tantrums” in front of them on a regular basis.
4 Conscious Parenting Tips to Teach Your Kids Emotional Resilience
1. Recognize that adults have tantrums, too
Maybe you’ve been insisting your kid get it together when it comes to staying calm, without recognizing that you’re actually modeling the exact opposite when things don’t go your way.
Dan Peters, PhD is a psychologist and host of The Parent Footprint podcast. Dr. Peters considers himself a proponent of a conscious parenting approach, citing the way that children tend to mimic the behavior they see from the adults in their lives. “Children learn about being a person by watching and listening to their parents. When parents lose their temper, yell at people while driving (even when they deserve it), or talk negatively about other people, their children are more likely to do the same,” he says.
In other words, sometimes we’re actually demonstrating the exact behaviors we’re looking to curb in our children. And oftentimes, we expect our kids to regulate their own powerful emotions while we have the equivalent of “adult tantrums” in front of them on a regular basis.
“Adult tantrums can take the form of yelling, throwing things, punching walls, verbal abuse, ignoring, withholding love and affection, and being passive-aggressive,” Dr. Peters explains. “Tantrums can be in response to virtually anything—a child not listening or complying, being rejected, things not working out as one expected, feeling unappreciated, having a bad day, being late for an appointment, being stuck in traffic, and the list goes on.”
If this behavior sounds embarrassingly familiar because, uh, you’re the one who does this, chances are it’s not your fault. Adults who are prone to having tantrums rarely want to be this way. But this type of behavior can be the result of growing up without being taught the skills you need to regulate your emotions effectively. If you can’t think of a way to communicate your emotions but you have to get them out somehow, you might revert to behavior that feels (and, let’s be honest, looks) like a toddler having a tantrum.
2. Take frequent emotional inventory
The road to self-regulation when it comes to your own emotions might be a long one, but the good news is you can start right now. Being aware of your emotions, communicating with words, and taking time to calm down and think before responding in a highly-charged moment can all become habits over time. Studies show that while your emotions might influence your child’s behavior, they won’t necessarily determine it—meaning that even when you feel extremely volatile, you have a chance to be a role model by reacting to your emotions in a way that is appropriate.
Of course, we’ve got to be aware of our emotions if we want to respond to them well. And that doesn’t always feel so good, especially at first, and especially if there is trauma in our past that we’re not exactly thrilled about processing. It’s a necessary tension, and one we need to learn to lean into, according to Dr. Peters. “It is often difficult to sit with and acknowledge difficult emotions, but they are often the messengers from our past inviting us to learn and grow,” he says.
Dr. Peters says that a simple exercise to increase emotional awareness is to slow down and to ask ourselves questions as a way of getting present. Some sample questions he suggests include:
- How do I feel about this situation?
- What am I feeling in my body?
- Why is this bothering me?
- Is this reminding me of something I experienced in the past?
- Is this emotion about me or my child?
- What is my desired outcome here?
When you’ve gotten used to asking yourself some of these questions before responding in a touchy moment, you can share them as a coping strategy with your child to help them name and regulate their own emotions.
3. Master the art of the apology
It can take some extreme humility to apologize to an adult when you were wrong, even in the best of circumstances. Apologizing to your child can feel even more challenging. After all, you owe your kids your best, so owning up to ways you could have done better can feel particularly mortifying.
But apologizing to your child after a hurtful situation teaches them how to be human and equips them to take responsibility for the times that they mess up. Good apologies don’t need to be big productions, but they do need to address the hurt that was caused and avoid scapegoating others.
“Let your child know that your emotions got big, or you felt them strongly and you did not handle the situation like you wanted to. Tell them what you did wrong and what you will try to do next time instead,” Dr. Peters says.
With young children, this will mean keeping it simple and direct. With older kids and teenagers, you might want to share more about what triggered your strong emotions or over-the-top response.
4. Say how you really feel
Frankly, kids know when you’re not being real with them. And pretending everything is fine in an attempt to show them how to be resilient doesn’t help them in the long run.
“When kids see their parents always succeed, never get disappointed, and always do everything ‘right,’ they are not learning about emotional resilience,” Dr. Peters says. Instead, they’re learning how to set unrealistic expectations, which can result in an unhealthy ideal where they feel the need to be perfect.
It might feel counter-intuitive, but honestly expressing your own disappointments and frustrations (without blaming your child, of course) can set them up for the way life really unfolds. When parents let their kids get a peek at how to have a bad day without taking it out on everyone else, they’re better equipped to handle their own bad days in the future.
What’s more, talking about your feelings, good and bad, with your child, helps them know how to label their own. Dr. Peters says that this concept, often referred to as emotional literacy, significantly impacts the way that your child understands themselves in relationship to others and helps them to manage difficult circumstances. While these four conscious parenting tips will help you get a taste of this philosophy, there's a whole world of advice out there if you're still struggling to connect with your child.
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