I started an authentic parenting workshop this week. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, honestly. Much like “mindful parenting”, I feel “authentic parenting” is thrown around in a way that doesn't put many of us on the same page.
Do you feel that way, too?
My guess is you probably have and that you probably have one extreme opinion or another on the term “authentic”.
What it means to you may mean something different to me so let's leave it to the experts.
Merriam-Webster defines it well:
adjectiveau· then· tic | ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-
Definition of authentic
1a: worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact paints an authentic picture of our society
b: conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse
c: made or done the same way as an original authentic Mexican fare
3: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions
Authentic Parenting 101
I decided to take the workshop to connect and to discuss with other parents. I'm feeling stale in my parenting these days and with a soon to be middle school the anxiety of losing my kids, of missing out, of longing for the earlier days is becoming a daily experience for me. Who am I kidding? These anxious feelings happen many times throughout the day.
So, I went in search of ways to circle back to the moment in all it's good, bad, & ugly glory & triumphs.
So, what did I learn?
That I'm not alone (always a good reminder). That is a big one.
Related Read: How to Stop Tantrums & Live Happily Ever After
According to research, parents of “secure” infants (defined as a child who perceives his parents as emotionally available, consistent, attuned, collaborative, and responsive) readily adapt their own caregiving style to that of their child “in a fashion that was apparently ‘good enough', the behavior of these parents tended to reflect sensitivity rather than misattunement, acceptance rather than rejection, cooperation rather than control, and emotional availability rather than remoteness.”
In other words, I need to stop caring about what others think about me, my kids, and my parenting style. My child often has trouble getting along with his peers. So this point is a particularly important one for me to keep in mind. I need to embrace my a la carte parenting approach and simply accept who I am as a mother.
All of this means that we need to journey inward to find our authentic parenting persona. Does that make sense?
Maybe this quote will help…
“How we have come to make sense of our lives, how we tell a coherent story of our early life experiences, is the best predictor of how our children will become attached to us.” ~ Dan Siegel
“Reflecting on your childhood experiences can help you make sense of your life…A deeper self-understanding changes who you are. Making sense of your life enables you to understand others more fully and give you the possibility of choosing your behaviors and opening your mind to a fuller range of experiences… Changing attachment status as we develop (earned security) is quite possible.” ~ Dan Siegel
From there I thought about my relationship with my mother (my father died when I was a baby, thus I was raised by a single mom) and how it changed over time. I thought about how my mother parented me and my siblings. I thought about how my mother communicated with me.
Then I thought about what pieces of my mother I carried with me into my parenting…
…and what I hope my kids will learn from their life being parented by me.
Heavy stuff but kind of fun, too.
Ideas for Emotional Regulation
Most recently, we discussed emotional regulation strategies for children & parents. The content was amazing. So, I obviously have to share a bit with you!
The instructor shared a Victor Frankl quote (I am a huge fan of this man's work) that resonated with me big time.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth & our freedom.”
I view a goal for myself and my children to find a way to expand that space to choose a response.
Here are a few ideas to make emotional regulation a reality:
- Practice reflective thinking by being receptive and thoughtful about our internal states AND the internal states of others
- Be curious about your child's thoughts, emotions, motivations, intentions, & subsequent behaviors
- Identify your triggers & your child's triggers. Literally, make a list and try to stay one step ahead of the triggers. (Proactive vs. Reactive)
- Teach your child about emotional regulation by discussing & creating “anger rules” as a family
- Be an emotional regulation model for your child
- Talk about high, low, and amazing points of the day
- Learn together to pause, breathe, respond, and then reflect
What do you think? How do you maintain authenticity as a parent? What are your strategies for teaching emotional regulation?
By the way, if you're looking for a nice little back to school activity, these All About Me Activities are great!