Enlightened parenting means parenting consciously and with acute self awareness. It means parenting in a manner that is absent the hierarchy inherent in most commonly accepted parenting practices. Children are not our possessions, our minions, nor are they a means by which to vicariously live the lives we wish we’d lived.
Enlightened parenting embraces a child/parent relationship that is on even footing; two comrades making their respective ways together, vs. one who walks ahead as an ultimate authority, leading, controlling and dictating to the other.
In enlightened parenting, gone is the idea that absent parental control, children will necessarily run amok, making bad decision after bad decision, putting themselves in harm’s way. The enlightened parent understands what it means to live as an example. His deeds and way of being are the lessons offered, and he is open to learning new things from his child.
Trust and support are at the basis of enlightened parenting. Honest feedback and gentle guidance takes the place of judgement and criticism, as the old adage, “Do unto others as you’d have to do unto you” abides as the overriding tenet. It is understood that begetting respect is the natural out-flowing of being respectful.
The enlightened parent helps instill self love, self acceptance and a strong foundation of self confidence within her child through accepting, nurturing and celebrating the child’s uniqueness and supporting the child’s personal explorations of who he is.
Personal values and judgements beyond the desire for the child to be a happy and healthy, autonomous individual, are kept under wraps. The child is allowed to develop his own unique values, likes, dislikes, independent of the parent.
“I am not your friend, I am your parent. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare and hunt you down when needed, because I love you.”
The quote above, and all similar versions, demonstrates a popular and disturbing sentiment among those who believe in an authoritative parenting style. I find it incredibly sad that this is truly how many parents approach their role. Clearly, love is being conflated with control. Real love is unconditional.
The greatest message you can give your child is that regardless of what they do, what they think, how they behave, who and what they are, you will love them, respect them and support them. Always and without condition.
In parenting my own children, I’ve embraced the principles of enlightened parenting as I really couldn’t imagine parenting in any other way. I share a deep and abiding yet respectively unique friendship with each of them.
From the time my kids were very young, they were encouraged to make as many decisions on their own as possible, while still ensuring their safety. Their opinions about their lives and the world in general, were given value and credence regardless of whether or not they aligned with mine.
From the get-go, they were free to choose how to wear their hair, how to dress, what TV shows to watch, what books to read, whether or not to wear make-up, how to wear makeup, how to decorate their rooms, what music to listen to, what hobbies they participated in, when to start and stop lessons for music, dance, etc., and what to eat.
One may think that children given full reign to eat whatever
they wanted would choose only sweets and snacks devoid of nutrition, but that
wasn’t the case at all.
Children who are parented in an environment absent the overt
parent/child hierarchy become comfortable with making decisions and dealing
with the ensuing repercussions early on. In my experience, by the time my kids
reached their teens, I was confident in their ability to navigate their own
directions with minimal input and guidance on my part. More importantly, they were confident in their ability to navigate their own way.
In enlightened parenting, issues regarding sexuality, drugs, alcohol, curfews, etc., are approached from the vantage point of education vs. dictation. In short, the parent provides the information, and gentle guidance when appropriate, absent overt personal judgement and allows the teen to decide what’s best for them.
The enlightened parent understands that a teenager is naturally going to push against boundaries. This is part of finding his own autonomy as he moves into adulthood. That said, if personal autonomy has been supported and encouraged from the time the child was very young, the need to behave rebelliously during the teens years, will simply have no footing. One who is confident in his own freedom to live as he sees fit, has little to rebel against.
Children who have been parented with an authoritative style, on the other hand, need to push hard against the boundaries, need to rebel in an obvious and overt way in order to establish the necessary degree of separation from the parent that healthy maturity into adulthood requires.
Enlightened parenting and the relinquishment of parental reign, is the natural result of a deep trust in life itself.
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