Lately my email inbox, Facebook feed, and even my radio stations have been flooded with advertisements, articles, blogs, and online community events from “parenting experts” claiming to have the “keys” to helping me be the best mom I can be. They claim to have the answers to how to get my kids to bed, what lunches to pack, whether to vaccinate, how much homework they should or shouldn’t do, how much television they should watch, how much screen time to have, should they cry it out, not cry it out, co-sleep, sleep alone, sleep train, and the list goes on.
Parenting Angst=Big Business
The truth is that anxious parents are big business, and parenting books and self-help manuals are a critical component of our fragile and uncertain economy.
In 2015, Amazon recorded 35,814 listings for parenting books, and that is only the general parenting category, not including “specialty topics.” As of this writing, a Google search for “parenting advice blog” returns 5,260,000 results. These numbers do not include the articles, webinars, courses, workshops, and training that flood the internet.
The New York Times best-sellers lists are often top-heavy with parenting guide books, memoirs, and issue-specific books, and these same titles enjoy a deluge of reviews and media attention. And while each of these books offers some snippet of good advice, they are as anxiety provoking and stressful as they are helpful, causing us to need books about how to combat parenting stress that came from the parenting books!!
Instincts & Values
As a child and family psychologist I have worked with thousands of parents throughout the years who have come to me for support for a variety of issues with which they were grappling. What I have witnessed through the past decade is an increasing need for people to seek answers and advice from external sources while neglecting their own intuition as parents. In general, as a society, we have become incredibly disconnected from ourselves and our own inner power. Our core values are hidden behind a veil of know-it-all experts who claim that they know what’s right for us and our kids. Parents have learned to doubt themselves and their innate instincts about what’s best for their families.
I, too, have fallen prey to this phenomenon. I can distinctly recall the day that I was so engrossed in reading the latest book about how to manage tantrums and meltdowns. I was so immersed in the book, hanging on the authors every word, ignoring everything around me, including my three-year-old son who had been hanging on the bottom of my leg while crying for me to pick him up!!! Guess I didn’t need a book to tell me that I should pick him up and hug and kiss him! Although, I’m pretty sure I read in some other parenting how-to guide that you shouldn’t pick up a crying child? Ugh---it’s overwhelming!!!
According to Stephen Camarata, Ph.D., author of the book The Intuitive Parent “Sadly, parenting today has become practically a competitive sport, so it’s easy to fall victim to the contradictory advice of innumerable “experts” exhorting a particular product, device or parenting scheme such as “helicopter,” “tiger,” or “free range” styles. Worse, an army of marketers is all too happy to cash in on this angst; using scare tactics and scientific-sounding jargon that make it seem like parents are in constant danger of making unintended mistakes that short change—and short circuit—optimal learning and brain development. Who would want to risk irrevocably hard-wiring their precious child’s brain for a lifetime of failure! These factors not only produce needless anxiety and guilt that rob parents of the natural joy—and fun—they should experience while raising children, but also undermines parents’ confidence in their own powerful intuitive ability to properly nurture and enjoy their babies.”
It is impossible for there to be a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting because each child and family is unique. The truth is that WE are the experts—the parents—each of us is the expert in our unique family. Nobody knows your child better than you do! The answers are already within us!
As parents we need to connect with our intuitive powers. Our intuition helps us to reconnect with our inner values. I believe that a lack of values has really caused many of us to become derailed in our approach to parenting. Honestly, I believe that a disconnection from values has derailed society as a whole! Once you quiet the mind, put down the books, and plug in to “self,” your value system will become clear.
I encourage parents to take a values inventory--what are your values as an individual? What are your values as a couple? What are the values that you have for your children? Values provide an inner compass to help you navigate life. Your intuition will help you to connect with your core values so that you can make choices and decisions that are based on the inner knowing of your mind and heart.
This approach to parenting creates a shift from angst and insecurity, to confidence, knowledge, and faith that nature has really equipped parents with everything they need to take care of their kids. Ultimately parents can then recognize that the most important thing they can offer their child is connection; that the most beneficial thing they can do for their child is to care for self, and spend time connecting, paying attention to, and interacting with their child. The goal is always connection. Connection is the fundamental and universal human need.
Children are hard-wired to signal their needs, and tuning in to your intuition as a parent will enable you to tune in to your child so that you can be available to listen, offer empathy, connect with your child, and recognize the cues that they give when a need arises. Ask yourself what you are thinking and feeling. Think about your child and recognize his or her needs without judgement. Not every feeling or behavior expressed by you or your child means that something is "wrong." Perhaps everything is actually "right." Perhaps it’s neither right or wrong, it just is.
I'm not suggesting that parents shouldn’t ask for help when really needed. But I do believe that people nowadays are so unplugged from self that they immediately doubt their ability to manage any challenge or hiccup in their lives and immediately seek external support. As parents, building resiliency in our children starts with us. When we show our children that we are always seeking answers, we are teaching them to always look outside of themselves for answers and truth. They learn to discredit their own thoughts and feelings and believe that everyone else's thoughts and feelings are right.
Tips for Plugging in to Your Intuition
1. Be Still and Quiet
Tapping in to your intuition is about returning to your natural state of being, who you were before the world told you who you should be. It’s the most natural state of being. In order to get back there, you have to get to a place of quiet that is without distraction from the outside world. Such distraction is what creates self-doubt.
Turning our attention inward is a struggle in a world that is not set up for silence. Constant communication and connection, in addition to internalized scripts that we have about how we “should” feel or think or how we should follow rules without questioning, creates conditions that are unfavorable at best for listening to our inner voice.
Take a pause as often as you can throughout your day. Put down the phone, log off of Facebook, put down the self-help books, and turn off the T.V. Take a few deep breaths and go within. Mediate or simply remain still and silent.
2. Pay Attention to your Mind and Body
Once you are still and quiet, you can begin to feel your inner knowing and intuition. Intuition is felt in the body. It’s a sense, a sensation, that will come to you when you are paying attention. Sit still, take a few deep breaths, and notice how your body is feeling right in that very moment. Just notice, without judging what you notice. Ask your body what it wants you to know, what it’s trying to tell you. Listen to you.
Pay attention to whatever sensations come up. Sometimes you will notice a tingling, or a feeling in the pit of your stomach, or chills, or tears. Sometimes words may come to you, or just a sense of what to do or what to say about this or that. Just practice listening and be patient. Offer yourself love and compassion for whatever you feel or see or hear. Sometimes it can be helpful to write or draw what you feel.
This may take some practice especially if you have trained your inner voice to be silent for so long or if you have trained yourself to believe that what you intuitively feel or want is wrong or not allowed.
Although some of the best-selling parenting books are quite tempting with their humorous titles that promise us the solutions to all of our problems, and it is nice to have a few tricks up our sleeves for managing the daily parenting grind, don’t bite the hook. Relax! Put down the books! Unplug the computer and plug in to you! You have everything you need right within yourself.
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do,” (Dr. Spock) And let's not forget about your common sense....but that’s a topic for another day!
If you are ready to ditch the books, and connect with your amazing intuitive powers, contact me today!
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