Parenting with presence – a review and thoughts

Parenting is a hard job. If you are anything like me, you never feel like you are doing quite a good enough job. You don’t feel patient enough, loving enough, present enough, just plain old good enough. The truth, though, is that we are all doing the best job that we can do, at that very moment in time. We all have bad moments, times when we are not at our finest, but balancing those out are the moments when we are awesome. Because we are, you guys. We are awesome. Our parenting experience and journey is defined not by those moments of frustration and annoyance, but by the moments of joy and peace, those moments when you are able to look at our kid and think “wow”. Those are the moments that your kids will look back on one day.

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I know that I am always on the search to be better and do better when it comes to Q. I recently received a copy of the Eckhart Tolle edition of “Parenting with Presence – practices for raising conscious, confident, caring kids ” by Susan Stiffelman, MFT. Parenting with Presence invites parents to embark on a journey of bringing greater peace, joy, and personal transformation into their day-to-day parenting. Stiffelman offers proven strategies to help parents navigate the ups and downs of real-life child rearing with more consciousness, and to learn how to subdue the triggers that make them lose (or temporarily misplace) their equanimity. The book is an inaugural title in Eckhart Tolle’s new publishing imprint with New World Library, which features books hand selected by the bestselling author of The Power of Now for publication.

I don’t read a lot of parenting books, as I’ve seen too many that basically leave me feeling like I am doing absolutely everything wrong and am going to wreck my son despite my best efforts. When I was given the opportunity to check this one out, however, I jumped at it. There was something about the book that called to me, and I am so glad that I listened.

I devoured this book, making notations in the sides, marking out quotes and passages that stood out to me, and nodding my head throughout. This is not your ordinary parenting book. It is full of relatable bits of advice, anecdotes from the author’s family counseling practice, and ideas on how to implement the strategies in an easy way. It challenged my ways of thinking on a few things, especially when it came to looking inwards to my own issues, but trust me, this is a good book. I kept going through it, thinking “oh, I want to include this, and that, and this, and…” and before I knew it, I pretty much just wanted to quote the whole book for you.

Passages like this one: “While there are many qualities that we can and should nurture in our children, there is one without which all other attributes become significantly less important: we need to raise our children to know they are inherently worthy of love and happiness so that they will be able to absorb all the good that comes their way.

Or these.

It is a lifelong journey to carve out room within ourselves to receive all the goodness of life.

It is our challenge and opportunity to foster in our children the living, breathing knowledge that they are worthy -as is- of being loved.

That last quote made me stop and go “wow”. Think about that for a second. As is. We don’t give ourselves permission to love ourselves as is, so without that, how do we give it to our kids? They deserve that. We deserve that. So how do we do it? There is no easy answer to that, but it is something we all need to work on.

Although all of the chapters made me stop and think, the chapter that really grabbed me was the one on Modeling Self-Love and Awareness. Respect is such an important trait to have, but it is easy to forget that in order to truly be able to respect and appreciate other people, you first have to be able to respect and appreciate yourself. Interesting thought, hey? It is easy to our ourselves on the back burner, especially as parents, but what kind of example does that give our kids? That it is ok to show courtesy and love to everyone else but yourself? That is not good enough for me! This chapter had some really good tips on where to get started with this. I would love to quote them all for you, but figured that it would be a lot easier if you just read the book, so instead I will summarize my favorite bits.

Leading by Example. If we are unable to enjoy our own company, and have to rely on other people or electronic devices to act as constant companions, we are teaching our kids how to be lonely. Being comfortable in our own skin is the building block to healthy relationships, both with friends and with romantic partners. It is easy to feel lonely even when you are surrounded by others, because you simply aren’t comfortable without some kind of approval or recognition, but it is worth it sometimes to just be, with your thoughts, with your kids or partner, and see what comes of it. It might just surprise you. I would much rather my son be able to seek the approval he desires within himself than looking for it from an unhealthy source in the future. It’s a scary thought as a parent, and certainly not something we want for our kids.

Appreciating our bodies, imperfections and all. This one was the toughest for me. I have struggled with negative self image and low self confidence for almost as long as I can remember, I see the negatives, the poochy tummy, the round face, the curvy figure. I struggle to see myself as others do, and I am absolutely terrified that I will accidentally pass these thoughts and judgements about myself on to my son. I want him to know that all bodies are beautiful, and that he is incredible just the way he is. I want him to know that people come in different shapes and sizes and abilities and that is not only ok, it is great. In order to do this, though, I need to accept that fact about myself too.

Thank hour parts for serving up and allowing you to dance and sing and eat and see and smell and touch and climb. When your children see you acknowledging the wonderfulness of your body instead of complaining about what you don’t like about it, they will be far more likely to regard their own bodies – warts and all- with respect, care, and appreciation.

This quote got me right in the gut. My reaction to myself is going to shape the way he sees not only himself, but others in the future. I don’t want him to judge other women based on my insecurities and fear. I want him to celebrate himself and others, and realize that different is not only good, it completely awesome. It starts with me. Like I said, right in the gut.

Enlisting Your Tribe. There is a reason that people say it takes a village to raise a child. As much as we would like to think we can do this parenting thing alone, we can’t. We need to hear from others that the tantrums your 2 year old is having are completely normal, or hear the stories of how others survived the dreaded attitude. The problem is, though, that we have become a lot more isolated in this digital age. Instead of knowing our neighbors and greeting them, we regard them with suspicion and mistrust. Instead of reaching out and asking for help when we need it, we are determined to look like Supermom and that we can do it all by ourselves because Mrs X. made it look so easy. This kind of behaviour isn’t benefiting anyone, our children or ourselves. It keeps our kids from feeling rooted and a part of a community. I grew up in the country where we did know our neighbors, and everyone knew everyone. It makes all the difference in the world. Find your people and lean on one another. We can’t do this on our own.

Appreciating Ourselves. Like I said before, this parenting gig is tough. The job that we are doing raising our kids to be happy, healthy, generally good kids is exhausting and some days it feels like it is all in vain. It’s not though , and we need go give ourselves some slack and realize that we are doing a great job, whether it feels like it in that moment or not. Give yourself, or your partner a pat on the back every once in a while. It feels good to hear someone say “you have a good kid”, and might be just what was needed in that moment.

Some other really great tips are:
-Living in the 3-D World
-Hitting the Off-Switch
-Maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships and
-Listening to intuition

The final two tips in the chapter are ones I feel quite strongly about and think go hand in hand with each other. Living with Passion and Fostering Curiosity.

Consider how your children watch you using your time. If you carve out space for perusing your passions – reading, painting, watching the stars, gardening – your children will see learning as an important part of life. And if you aren’t sure what brings you joy, pursue the little things that catch your eye: a link on a Twitter feed, an interview on the radio, a headline on a magazine cover. Follow the bread crumbs, and they will carry you to where your heart wants you to go.

If we want our children to discover their passion and purpose, we must stay open to what they drift toward rather than pushing them in directions we prefer they follow but does not call to them.

When we follow our hearts to thing that make us happy, we are generally more content, more authentic versions of ourselves. The same goes for our kids. Each with their own personalities, it is important to remember that we don’t all like the same things and that is ok. It is a good lesson to learn early in life, and the earlier it is learned, the easier it will be accept and celebrate those same differences in others. I know for myself, when I’ve opened myself up to curiosity and allowed myself the time and space to explore new things, I have found new passions and an incredible amount of fulfillment. My son has seen me participate in these things, and I have seen the effect that it has had on him. It’s pretty awesome. He marches to the beat of his own drummer most of the time, unconcerned with the ideals that people feel that he “should” be doing, and that honestly makes him one of the coolest people I know.

All of these points lead back around to the same basic point. When you show kindness to yourself, your children will take their lead from your example and be able to show the same kindness to themselves and those around them.

Although there is so much more I want to say about this book, I need to stop and leave some things for you to discover for yourself. I really hope that this book has the kind of impact on your that it did me, and that you are able to incorporate these tips into your everyday life, both for yourself and for your family. Let me leave you with this one last thought.
When we engage with our children with presence as a good-enough parent, they come to know that they are worthy of love, kindness, and the infinite blessings of life.

About the author: Susan Stiffelman, mft is the bestselling author of Parenting with Presence and Parenting without Power Struggles. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a credentialed teacher, and the Huffington Post’s weekly “Parent Coach” advice columnist. She lives in Malibu, California where she is an aspiring banjo player, a determined tap-dancer, and an optimistic gardener. Visit her online.

I received a copy of Parenting with Presence in order to facilitate my review, but all thoughts and opinions on the book are mine. I am sharing it with you because it resonated strongly with me and I hope it might do the same for you. All quotes are from the book Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids ©2015 by Susan Stiffelman. Printed with permission of New World Library

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