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How To Help Your Child Tap Into Their Inner Self

Shefali Tsabary, PhD
September 11, 2018
September 11, 2018

This week, we’re introducing (Mostly) Mindful Parenting, real talk with leading experts and parents on how they navigate the beautiful, messy work of raising a family. Follow along!

I read clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s book The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient, and Conscious Children. Her parenting approach resonated so much with how I hope to raise my daughter, Ellie: less tiger mom antics, less helicopter parenting, and more play time, nature, and unstructured activities. I was so moved by the lessons in her book that I reached out to her to connect more on how we can relinquish our egos as parents and help our kids tune into their inner selves. —Colleen Wachob, Chief Brand Officer of mindbodygreen

How does the ego factor into our decision to become a parent?

The ego is that part of us that subscribes to the conditionings of culture and all that we believe we "should" do in order to feel worthy and complete. We are raised by a set of prescriptions that dictate how we should be in life: College, career, marriage, and parenting are some of the few prescriptions set forth for us by the culture around us. Many of us are led by this ego into the parenting process because it has been indoctrinated in us to do so. We believe we are being selfless but, in fact, are motivated by highly egoic and self-absorbed reasons. It is only when we can acknowledge the role of our ego in parenting that we will begin to become conscious of its influence—and then rein it in so that our children are not burdened by its expectations and agendas.

What key lessons would you teach in a parenting class?

Parenting is about raising the parent's self more than it is about raising the child's self. It is only when the parent commits to their own inner healing and inner integration that they will be able to attune to the needs of the child before them. When we parents become aware of our own "emotional baggage," we pay attention to the many ways this "stuff" overflows into our dynamic with our children, and we pay heed to not letting it interfere with who it is they authentically are. Our greatest gift to our children is to allow them to unfold into who it is they authentically are without burdening them with our projections and expectations.

I would also teach parents to mind their reactivity. Take a pause before reacting to ask yourselves this: What is this moment revealing about me? How can I change my awareness in this moment so that I can mindfully respond to my child as opposed to simply reacting to them blindly?

What is the difference between creating boundaries and discipline?

The concept of discipline belongs to an archaic paradigm of control over and manipulation of children, and it's considered primitive by most modern psychologists. Most techniques of traditional disciplinary practices are rooted in punishing the child for their negative behaviors, steeped in threats, anger, reactivity, and child management. The strategies used to punish the child often have little to do with natural consequences and more to do with the whims of the parent at that moment in time. Most likely, children of disciplinary strategies harbor resentment and shame, which may be hard to shake off for generations to come.

Boundaries, on the other hand, have less to do with punishment and more to do with self-respect and self-care. The parent institutes boundaries for acceptable and wholesome behavior as opposed to inappropriate and unwholesome behaviors. Boundaries can either be negotiated or set in stone. This is often determined by the severity of the inappropriate behavior. Boundaries are typically nonreactive and nonpunitive. They are instituted for the best interests of all parties involved rather than just the desire for the parent to regain control. Boundaries are essential for the self-care and well-being of all involved, raising self-esteem and self-governance.

How does chasing happiness have an adverse effect on children?

When children are taught to "chase" happiness, they are given the misguided teaching that happiness is something that is concrete and tangible that can be chased. Little do we realize that happiness is not something to be gained in the future; it is either experienced in the moment, or it is not. Happiness is a state of mind rather than an outcome to be achieved. In fact, the more one chases it, the more one is in lack and the more we drive it away. Conversely, when we steep ourselves in gratitude and abundance, we realize that happiness was nowhere to be found but in our own minds.

What are some key ways to let children enjoy childhood?

No screen time, more free-play time, and fewer structured activities. No pressure to succeed or look a certain way; more rest and relaxation rather than incessant anxiety over their performance. More being rather than doing.

Shefali Tsabary, PhD author page.
Shefali Tsabary, PhD

Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D., received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University. Specializing in the integration of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, Dr. Shefali brings together the best of both worlds for her clients. She is an expert in family dynamics and personal development and runs a private practice in New York City. Dr. Shefali has written three books, including the award winning New York Times bestselling book The Conscious Parent. Dr. Shefali is also a keynote speaker who has presented at TEDx, Kellogg Business School, the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, and other conferences and workshops around the world. She's been featured on Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday and Oprah’s Lifeclass.