Learning Aware Parenting is like learning a new language

Have you ever tried learning a different language, say French, from a book, without ever hearing someone speaking French, without ever going to France, and without being amongst French people?

This is a bit like first practising Aware Parenting.  I talk to many parents, whom, upon reading The Aware Baby, or one of Aletha Solter’s other books, start to practice Aware Parenting with their baby.  When they come across challenges, feel frustrated, or their baby has developed a control pattern, they often judge themselves for not doing it “perfectly”.  

I like to help them see, with much compassion, that it is likely that they were never held with loving presence when they were feeling upset and simply needed to express their feelings and be truly heard.  As a toddler, their tantrums were probably ignored or punished; it is possible that not even once did their parents know how to simply listen with loving attention.  

So we are intending to practice a form of parenting that we did not experience ourselves, have probably never seen anyone else practising, and is at polar opposites to the mainstream parenting that we see all around us.

This is no small feat.

To help it be easier, there are things we can do… one of the first is self-compassion… remembering the radical shift we are asking of ourselves, to carry our babies close, to distinguish between their needs, to listen to their feelings, to be present with them, to take responsibility for our feelings and reactions rather than blaming them on our children.  Not only that, avoiding punishments and rewards and seeking to understand the needs underlying the behaviours of our children that we don’t enjoy, and refraining from the concepts, “naughty” and “good” , and responding accurately to those needs, according to whether they are present unmet needs, a need to understand, or a need to express painful feelings.

Furthermore, we can intend compassion for ourselves in the continual learning journey that Aware Parenting involves as our child grows… learning more about ourselves, and our learning edges, as well as their changing developmental needs and abilities.

Another easier-making factor is knowing other people who enjoy the same kind of parenting paradigm.  Coming together, both in person and in cyberspace, and connecting, sharing stories, challenges and celebrations, as well as questions about Aware Parenting, we develop our own sense of growing our Aware Parenting Beingness.  This is like being around other people also learning French – talking to people who have been learning for longer, as well as to those who have been learning for less time.  

So, whilst there may not be an equivalent to France, Aware Parenting-land, that we can actually visit or live in, having compassion for ourselves as first generation Aware Parenting folk, and connecting with other Aware Parenting people, are vital on the journey.

Edited April 2012