Starting this day and this post off by saying a special HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the moms out there (including the ones who are moms to furry, four-legged kids). In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’m delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author (and Dr.) Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D. here today to talk about her new book, THE AWAKENED FAMILY: A Revolution in Parenting.
This transformative new parenting book comes out from Viking on May 31st. Thanks to Emma and the great folks at Viking/Penguin Books, I have a print copy to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.
Dr. Shefali’s awakened parenting approach focuses not on how we can change our kids — but on how we can change ourselves as parents so we can become our children’s biggest supporters and resources. The goal? To help parents avoid the anxiety and fear surrounding parenting, and embrace what makes their kids special and unique.
You can think of Dr. Shefali as the Brené Brown or Eckhart Tolle of parenting; she has spoken at TEDx and been featured on Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday and Oprah's Lifeclass. Oprah Winfrey called Dr. Shefali’s first book “the most profound book on parenting I’ve ever encountered.”
In this new book, Dr. Shefali (a Columbia University-trained parenting expert) shows us that connecting with our children—showing them that our love is unconditional and not tied to external success, praise, or validation—allows them to develop their self-worth and resilience. This book lays out a clear path to more effective, rewarding parenting, and gives parents the tools to tune into their own needs and challenges in order to better accommodate their children’s needs. Dr. Shefali’s authoritative and spiritual approach to parenting is unique, and she is considered the expert in this area.
Here are just a few of Dr. Shefali’s eye-opening lessons from THE AWAKENED FAMILY:
· Stop the double standard: We don’t expect ourselves, our spouses, or our friends to be agreeable, even-tempered, and flexible all the time, so why do we expect this from our children?
· Work through the clash of the time zones: Parents are oriented to the future, children inhabit the present. Most of the disconnection between parent and child comes down to this rupture between a life enjoyed moment by moment and a life that’s focused on moving ahead.
· Overcome fear: Fear is the root of parental concern and insecurity—we’re afraid that our children aren’t equipped to succeed in the world, and kids pick up on this fear. Parents must overcome their own fears and triggers (anxiety, fear of failure, social issues) so that they don’t pass them on to their kids.
· Support who your child is, not who you want them to be: One goal of parenting is to help children develop a sense of self, and we need to respect and rejoice in the healthy friction that sometimes results when they assert their own voices and demand that we value their desires and feelings.
Please join me now in a publisher released conversation with Dr. Shefali.
You say that most parental anxiety is rooted in fear—can you explain that?
There is no one we are more attached to than our children. Consequently, we feel that our psychological wellbeing depends on them in some way. This attachment results in fear that something terrible might happen to them, that they will be unhappy, or that they will in some way fail. We project onto our children all of our unresolved fears, causing them to become receptacles of our beliefs about ourselves, our sense of worth or lack of it, and our anxiety about life in general. The more anxious we are, the more likely we are to dominate our children’s lives, as if they could somehow fix our issues and rid us of our emotional pain.
The idea that parents should seek to “raise” themselves before trying to raise their kids underpins all of the parenting principles in THE AWAKENED FAMILY. Why does change start with the parent’s behavior?
Instead of dominating our children, which has been the approach until now, it’s the parents job to set the tone. This is fundamentally different from trying to control a child’s behavior, which sadly and erroneously is what almost every parent is focused on. When we put the spotlight on the areas in which we ourselves are immature—the way we react to our children emotionally instead of responding intelligently, and how we look to them to fulfill our expectations and needs instead of fulfilling them for ourselves—we grow ourselves up.
How can parents help their children with test anxiety and homework problems? How can they avoid making kids even more stressed?
Many parents burden their children with the expectation to excel and push themselves ahead of the curve. But for what reason? To get into college. It’s as if getting into college is the final destination in life. Parents need to reconfigure their own relationship with achievement, asking themselves why they so identify with certain goals as if they were more important than being true to themselves. Most likely they will find that it has to do with their own sense of inadequacy, lack of self-worth, and dread of failing to achieve to the degree they “should,” based on their parents’ expectations of them all those years ago. The parent’s task is to encourage them to discover what their passion is. In this way, we help children find their own path, not the one we ascribe to them.
Summer vacation is also just around the corner, offering a break in kids’ and families’ routines. This can be a time of stress for families. How can parents prepare kids (and themselves) for time apart? How can they make the most of extra time with their kids during vacation?
I think summer time is a golden opportunity for everyone to slow down. It offers us the chance to simplify our days and enter more deeply into a state of being instead of being so driven. It’s also a wonderful time for the family to connect with each other by allowing themselves to enter a more gentle and fun rhythm—rewarding aspects of life that are too often missing during the school year. If a child’s inner being has been encouraged to flourish, and the parent has learned to take care of their own needs instead of asking the child to “be there for them,” then time apart is just a further step in the development of individuals.
If you could give parents just one piece of advice, what would it be?
If you could release your agendas and your illusion of control, you could enter into a partnership with your children, whereby you allow them to show you more about who you are. In this way, your children serve as your teachers, showing you how you yet need to grow.
What do our children really need from us? And what do you wish parents would just stop worrying about?
More than anything, children need our presence and our acceptance of who they are. The worrying we do as parents comes from our desire to have our agenda met and our expectations fulfilled. It’s because we are caught up in a mindset of lack that we are unable to enter the abundance of each moment with our children. As a result, they begin to absorb a sense of lack, which causes them to hunger for a fulfillment and acceptance. It’s this hunger that drives them to all sorts of acting out.
How would you describe an awakened parent?
An awakened parent is aware that they bring their own emotional baggage into their relationship with their children. Realizing that their children bounce off their energy and absorb their ways, they are careful to differentiate between what’s truly the child’s issue and what’s really their own.
Many of the examples you explore in THE AWAKENED FAMILY show parents who love their kids and are just trying to do what they think is best for them—and their efforts are completely backfiring. What’s going wrong?
The problem is that we are unaware of how our own past conditioning affects us as parents, and this causes us to bring our own fears, ego, emotional reactivity, and need to control into the equation. The love we feel for a child is thus obscured by our own past conditioning and the pain, often unrecognized, that we suffer as a result of this conditioning. We don’t mean to yell, scold, or punish our children, but they activate our insecurity and anxiety to such an extent that we feel we must control them in order to assuage our sense of helplessness. This results in an abyss between parent and child, who wants nothing more than to be seen for who they really are, instead of as an extension of the parent’s desires, expectations, fantasies, and neediness.
You state that “the traditional paradigms of parenting where the parent is seen as greater-than are obsolete and dated.” But parents are more experienced and sometimes they need to be in charge. How do boundaries fit into this, and how do serious behavioral problems (like underage drinking, for example) fit in? Why is it good for families to establish a more equal playing field?
A parent needs to be a good leader, and good leadership is fundamentally different from a dictatorship. The point isn’t to control a child—to dictate what the child should become in life, micromanaging the many steps that lead toward such a goal as helicopter parenting advocates. When a child is in love with some aspect of life, the child doesn’t require us to “force” them to do these things—the self-discipline required springs spontaneously from within. However, if a child grows up having their authentic interests and desires crushed at every turn, they are naturally going to resist and ultimately rebel. When a child’s natural self is denied the opportunity to blossom, the growing child increasingly feels an emptiness where their authentic self ought to be. It’s this emptiness, this hollowness, this void within that leads the child to seek fulfillment and meaning in dysfunctional relationships and harmful behavior. The growing child is now driven not by the desire to self-manifest but by a deep neediness.
Part of the problem, you suggest, is that parenting is expected to come naturally, and parents who struggle feel like failures. Wrapped up in this is the idea that our kids “should be” a certain way, and if they’re not, that’s a poor reflection on us as parents. How can we fix these misperceptions?
The key lies in first and foremost addressing our “need” for our child to be a particular way. We have to abandon the idea that they should turn out as we imagine they should, which requires us to address our need to have them complete us. The key is differentiation—being true to ourselves, in a nonreactive manner, while encouraging our children to be true to themselves—and staying tuned into them even when this leads them in a direction that’s different from what we think they should pursue.
You argue that a lot of parent-child conflict is rooted in a “clash of time zones,” with the parent looking toward the future and the child focused on the present moment. How can parents be more present, and how does this shift improve relationships?
The future isn’t something we can dictate. Even if we were able to impose our dreams on our children, ultimately the child would grow into a dissatisfied adult—and the likelihood of a midlife crisis, as the false self the child has learned to be collapses around them, then becomes acute. It’s therefore crucial that we allow life to unfold. When as parents we are focused not on the dysfunctional nature of our own past, nor on our anxiety about the future, we are present in whatever we are doing in this moment now. This empowers us to be present also with our children.
Can you talk about a few of the most remarkable transformations you’ve seen when parents commit to this kind of “awakened” parenting style?
When parents embark on this path of awakening, there is an immediate sense of ease and calm. They cannot believe that all it took was a shift in perspective. They are able to see how “mad” the old ways were, and how they were self-destructing. Not only does the child absorb the changed atmosphere, but the parent undergoes a dramatic transformation where they now release their anxiety and start enjoying their life in the present moment.
What do you see as the most damaging myths about being a good parent?
When we label our children as good or bad, we compartmentalize their sense of self, fracturing their natural wholeness. This we do based on how they make us feel. If they allow us to feel competent and whole, we label them “good.” If they cause us to feel lesser-than and unworthy, we are quick to label them “bad.” These labels emerge from our own relationship to ourselves and have little to do with our children. When we label them in this way, we fail to allow their sense of self to develop as it should.
Your first book, The Conscious Parent, was a New York Times bestseller and really connected with parents who read it. What about this approach do you think parents respond so positively to? And what do you hope they’ll learn from THE AWAKENED FAMILY?
THE AWAKENED FAMILY presents the insights shared in The Conscious Parent, plus a great deal more, in a more practical tool-based form. It offers a concrete road map that empowers both parents and children, thus transforming the dynamics in the family.
ABOUT DR. SHEFALI:
|Dr. Shefali Tsabary - Photo Credit Lily Rose|
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.
Thanks to the wonderful folks at VIKING/Penguin Books, I have a print copy of THE AWAKENED FAMILY by Dr. Shefali Tsabary to giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only and will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, May 17.
To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. A winner will be selected by the Rafflecopter widget and I’ll send an email with the subject line “Thoughts in Progress Giveaway.” The winner will have 72 hours to reply to the email or another winner will be selected. PLEASE be sure to check your spam folder from time to time after the giveaway ends to make sure the notification email doesn’t end up there. If you win and you’ve already won the book somewhere else or you just decided for whatever reason you don’t want to win (which is fine), once again PLEASE let me know.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope everyone (women and men) have a wonderful, safe and joyous Mother’s Day. What are your thoughts on the eye-opening lessons from THE AWAKENED FAMILY?