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Why is Conscious Parenting so Hard for many of us?

The Science Behind Conscious Parenting: Exploring the Influence of Neural Wiring



Understanding Conscious Parenting


Conscious parenting is a term that has gained popularity in recent years, but what does it truly mean? At its core, conscious parenting is about being aware of our actions, choices, and intentions as parents. It is about understanding that our parenting patterns are deeply rooted in our subconscious mind and have a significant impact on our children's development. By exploring the influence of our own neural pathways and neural circuitry in the area of parenting, we can gain a deeper understanding of how our brains work and how we can become more intentional in our approach.


The Power of the Subconscious Mind in Parenting


Our conscious mind is only responsible for about 5% of our mind power, while the subconscious mind accounts for a staggering 95%. This means that most of our parenting patterns, beliefs, and behaviors are driven by our subconscious programming. Our subconscious mind stores all the information and experiences we have accumulated throughout our lives, including those from our own childhood. As a result, what feels familiar to us is what our subconscious mind has acquired as familiar; and what feels familiar to us, tells our nervous system and other organs in our brain that because it’s familiar, it might the ‘safe ‘path --- even if it doesn't serve us or our kids. What becomes familiar to our mind is based in the neural circuitry of our brain. 


Exploring the Influence of Neural Pathways and Circuits in Parenting


To understand the influence of neural pathways and circuits in parenting, it's important to delve into the inner workings of our brains. Neural pathways are like roads in our brain, connecting different areas and allowing information to flow. These pathways are formed through repeated thoughts, behaviors, and experiences. Parenting patterns, whether positive or negative, create neural pathways that become deeply ingrained in our subconscious mind. As we repeat certain parenting behaviors, these pathways become stronger and more automatic, shaping our overall parenting style.


The Impact of Parenting Patterns on Neural Wiring


If we were raised in a home where love and compassion were abundant, our neural pathways associated with nurturing and empathy would be well-developed. However, if our upbringing was marked by neglect or abuse, our neural pathways associated with stress and fear may be overactive. These patterns influence not only how we parent but also how our children's brains develop. Children are highly perceptive and internalize the parenting patterns they observe, which can impact their own neural wiring.


When a certain thought, behavior or experience is repeated, it strengthens the neural pathways in our brain for that thing. If our parents told us we weren’t trying hard enough in our childhood over and over again, that becomes a strong neural pathway in our brain. If our parents told us, we can learn and overcome challenges with effort, then, that messaging because a strong neural pathway in our brain. So, when we become parents, depending on what we experienced more of in our past, it influences how we parent our children and what we say to them. 


So what is hard about Conscious Parenting? Essentially, if you had to grow up with negative messaging, your subconscious mind has integrated all of that, and that means, when you are trying to break a certain pattern that might have been done to you, you may find it feels very difficult. 


A father I coached recently said this to me: “I find that I have to put a lot of focused energy into stopping myself from doing [that old pattern that I’ve done all these years…]”. 


I said YES – that’s exactly it!


I read a lot of memes that say “Conscious and gentle parenting shouldn’t have to be hard or shouldn’t feel so hard.” 


I get what people are trying to say: That treating little humans with dignity and respect, and being gentle with them during this short phase called childhood ought to spackled with goodness and glitter – and really, why is it so hard to be kind to our kids, and support and encourage them even after they’ve ignored us the 17 times we kindly asked them to do something so we could get to school on time? The other thing creators of these memes might be trying to say is that if way back when, the parents of parents’ parents’ parents’ had parented in this conscious gentle and respectful way, then it wouldn’t feel so hard to us… We all deserved to have been parented in this loving, attuned and empathic way. 


First of all, let me discuss what’s going on that sentence above where I said ‘they’ve ignored us the 17 times….” : If we’ve asked 17 times, and the child hasn’t done the task, it’s not the child who’s got it wrong – it’s our approach. AND, children, whose brains don’t fully mature until age 25+ have less impulse control. So if playing with Lego and running around the house in the morning is more fun and motivating to them, they may have a hard time not doing that because its just so darn enticing. AND, finally, the adult agenda of school timelines is being imposed on them cutting down on autonomy and freedom.


And finally, it really is darn hard – isn’t it? Because I recall that when I was 7, I just did my tasks and walked to school. I didn’t horse around or look for Legos (actually we didn’t own any Lego) to play with. And so, my subconscious mind recalls all the hard work I put in as a child, and in the moment today with my child goes “Hey kid – why the heck are you doing this, why can’t you just……” and the words spew out. Not only that, if I had been yelled at for horsing around, that feels familiar to my subconscious mind, so my mind pulls out a pattern of behaviour for me to engage in – yelling – (because yelling often ‘got the job done’) – and this yelling comes up sometimes without my own awareness… (until I reflect on it later…) 


Now, if I had been raised with conscious gentle parenting, my parent might have been there with me, playing games, giving cuddles and supporting me into my tasks and also setting firm boundaries and following through on supportive rules. If I had been raised with conscious gentle attuned empathic emotionally intelligent parenting, my subconscious neural wiring would look totally different. 


Challenging Familiar but Unhelpful Subconscious Parenting Patterns


While it's true that our subconscious mind tends to default to what feels familiar, it's essential to challenge unhelpful parenting patterns that may have been passed down through generations. By becoming aware of these patterns, we can consciously choose to break the cycle and create new neural pathways that align with our conscious parenting goals. It requires self-reflection, introspection, and a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones of what our subconscious currently categorizes as familiar. Challenging familiar but unhelpful parenting patterns is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one for the well-being of ourselves and our children, and for changing the narrative of parenting and interrupting those intergenerational cycles. 


The Importance of Daily Parenting Intentions, Affirmations, and Reflections


A few powerful way to rewire our neural circuits is through daily parenting intentions, affirmations, and reflections. By setting clear intentions for how we want to show up as parents each day and repeating those intentions daily, we create a roadmap for our conscious mind to create neural pathways that over time, and with repetition, that becomes the instructions for our subconscious mind to follow. Affirmations further reinforce these intentions by replacing old, negative beliefs with new, positive ones. Reflecting on our parenting experiences during any given day, allows us to gain insights into our strengths and areas for growth. By consciously integrating these practices into our daily lives, we can reshape our neural pathways and develop healthier parenting patterns.


Rewiring Neural Circuits Through Repetition and Time


It's important to remember that rewiring neural circuits takes time and repetition. When parenting missteps happen, it’s important to practice grace and self-empathy. Just as it took years for our current parenting patterns to develop, it will also take time to create new pathways that align with conscious parenting. Consistency and patience are key. Over time, these new pathways become stronger and more automatic, leading to a more conscious and intentional approach to parenting.


Working Against Conditioning and Societal Norms in Conscious Parenting


Conscious parenting often involves going against conditioning and societal norms. Society often perpetuates certain parenting expectations and beliefs that may not align with our conscious parenting values. One of these, for example, is an attachment to the outcomes of certain actions/tasks our kids undertake – from tests, to how they perform in their extracurricular activities. If we attach ourselves to “do your best” and because of whatever reasons, they fail to meet our expectations, we may end up creating negativity around the activity/task itself. If we instead, focus on the “process” of a certain task, trust in the effort they did try to put in, and recognize their learning especially when they make mistakes, then we are helping them to shape their brains for resilience and confidence because the outcome of a thing doesn’t matter as much as the process of learning and growing that it took do the action (a.k.a. skill development).


It takes courage to challenge these norms and make choices that prioritize the well-being and individuality of our children. By consciously questioning societal expectations and staying true to our conscious parenting principles, we pave the way for a more authentic and fulfilling parenting journey.


Conclusion


Conscious parenting is a powerful approach that acknowledges the influence of neural wiring on our parenting patterns. And, the biggest challenge we face in conscious parenting, is that we need to use 5% of our brain power to influence the other 95%! That’s a big undertaking. No wonder it feels hard to many people. And yet, because of this thing called neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change over time, we can harness that 5% and transform our lives and our kids lives. And I gotta be clear – it really takes a lot of support too. It can be daunting and exhausting, and so the support systems we have in place are critical. That’s why you have me in your corner as your Master Certified Parenting Coach. 


By understanding the power of our subconscious mind and the impact of neural pathways and circuits, we can become more intentional in our parenting choices. Challenging familiar but unhelpful subconscious parenting patterns, setting daily intentions, affirmations, and reflections, and working against conditioning and societal norms all play a crucial role in conscious parenting. While rewiring neural circuits takes time and repetition, the journey toward conscious parenting will pay great intergenerational dividends. By recommitting every day to conscious parenting principles, we create a nurturing and empowering environment for both ourselves and our children.


Recommit everyday!


Hire me as your Parenting Coach today.

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