The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D is a parenting book, that introduces the idea that to raise empowered, resilient, and conscious children we need to focus on ourselves as parents, and not on the child. I really liked this book. Her ideas were new, but presented in a way that made sense. Her ideas create a calm approach to parenting, where we allow our children to be who they are.
Her goal is to have children who “own, discover and awaken their inner voice”. She wants us to have family units where the parent and child are equal. She is not suggesting that we let our kids do whatever they want, or let them choose all the rules. She wants us to have a collaborative relationship, with mutual respect. When it comes to our children’s behavior, she wants us to understand that children act as a mirror. When they act out, it shows you where you need to develop. Her focus is on the parent’s continued growth and learning.
Parenting is often most effective when we concentrate on ourselves rather then our children. This is where the best results come from.The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary
A Shift from What We have been Taught
Our society teaches us, that we need to control our children. When you child acts out in public, you get looks to get your kids under control. Tsabary suggests it is not our role to control our children. Instead our role is to lead them through childhood, so they can define themselves. The only things we can control is ourselves, (our feelings and reactions ) and the how our home functions.
Parents need to encourage their kids to make their own decisions and take charge of their lives. Think of all the tasks we ask our children to do each day, cleaning, eating write, homework. What is our fear behind all these requests? What would happen if these tasks were not completed? Tsabary wants parents to step back, and let the children manage these aspects of their lives.
When we choose to become parents, we are often told thing like, “You are a great person, and will make a great parent” “Motherhood will come to you naturally” “When the time comes, you will know what to do”. This is the fantasy of Parenting. We tend to think that because child birth is a part of our nature, that means parenting will also come naturally. But parenting is a skill that takes years to acquire. It is not something that you will instinctively know how to do, it takes hard work, and is overwhelming and exhausting.
The other thing that our society has taught us, is that our children want all the new toys, clothes and games. And a good parent will buy these things for them. Tsabary wants us to realize that this is not what our children really need from us. What they need is simple. “Am I seen? Am I worthy? Do I matter?” Teens have a fragile sense of self-worth and self-love, so as parents we need to connect with them. We don’t want to miss the opportunity to reinforce their sense of self. And to do this we need to see them as they are, and not try to fulfill our own dreams through them. Our kids are unique individuals, and should be treated as such.
Parent Triggers and Reactivity
As I mentioned earlier, Tsabary’s view is that we need to focus on ourselves. When our children react to us, by yelling, disobeying and rebelling, it is an indication that we need to look within.
One thing we can do, is think about what our triggers are. She makes a strong point of saying that our children do not trigger us. The trigger is within us, and its our own unresolved issues that are causing it. Once we know what are triggers are, it is up to us to contain our emotion, and prevent ourselves from reacting. Similar to mindfulness technics, parents should internally reflect on what they are feeling, and then make sure we are focusing on the child’s needs.
We may always have the best intentions, but sometimes the way we react to situations doesn’t feel like love to our children. When parents react to every little failure, and demand perfection, children feel like they are living to meet their parents standards. When we yell or punish our kids, do they know our intentions? They are not going to understand the fear that our reactions are based on. Instead we need to focus on what they feel.
In the book she provides many examples of children’s behavious, such as failing a test, or being rejected by peers, then outlines examples of parental reactions, and what fears our reactions are stemed from.
At this point in the book, Tsabary has taught us that we need to focus on our own behavior and not our children’s. She also went through many parenting myths, that contribute to how we approch parenting. This is some of the things she suggests we need to do, to become better parents.
Stop pursuing hobbies, classes and schools, only for the benefit of getting your child ahead
Parents are signing up young kids for sports, preschools, and instruments, because we think it is in their best interest, and we want to give them an advantage over other children. When we push “a child to succeed early it is often enirely ego driven by the parents, who want both validation of thier parenting and a living breathing trophy of their own success as parents.” Tsabury wants us to remember that childhood is about the child’s experiences, and is not about what the parent wants for them. We should wait for or kids to request an activity, or participate for enjoyment only.
She wants parents to stop measuring their kids performances. We all want our kids in the gifted program, but need to accept that might not be who they are. So we need to stop trying to force it upon them. All the pressure and stress is harmful, and their whole identities can get wrapped up in their academic performance.
Tsabary believes there are five parental priorities that should be focused on: external accomplishments, connection to self, connection to family, community, and purpose. We are spending too much time on the first one, and ignoring the rest. Instead of signing our children up for every activity, and sport that might give them an edge in future, we need to step back and wait for them to decide what they want to do. With the extra time focus on other areas of growth.
When we step back and wait for our children’s inner being to show itself, we give them the inestimable gift of developing self-awareness.The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary
Start Living in the “As Is”
Children are known for knowing how to live in the “As Is”. Their moods change constantly, one minute they are happy and the next they are sad. They live in the moment and don’t think about the long term consequences. They are known for their ability to adjust and adapt, because they accept life as it is presented.
Tsabery want us to live in the “As is”. To do that we need to be present in the day to day. As adults we are often thinking about the future or stuck in our habits. Instead we need to accept life without judgement. Feel the moment and your emotions as they are. When our children are always striving for some achievement, they are focused on outcomes, and not living in the moment. When we live in the “As is” we feel and accept all our emotions even the ones that are labeled as “bad”. This means that we don’t avoid pain. Our children experiencing unhappy emotions can be a good thing, because it teaches them that life isn’t always good feelings. By experiencing the bad, they learn that they can cope, and they build resilience.
Treat your Children with Empathy
Sometimes we get into a situation where we don’t like our children behaviour and we react, and then our reaction causes a reaction in our kids and the situation escalates. When this happens we need to think about what judgments we made about our child’s behaviour. Tsabary reminds us that behaviour comes from feelings, so first we need to understand what caused the behaviour, then we can decide what action needs to be taken.
Love, as I define it, is the ability to fully see, accept and honor the other person for who they areThe Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary
She has a great quote about anxiety. “Once anxiety overwhelms the individual, all attempts at rationalization are in vain. The language of logic falls on deaf ears.”
Before we react, we need to connect with our kids. We need to align with the “As is” of our and our children’s feelings. The thing to remember, real empathy for another, has no agenda.
When we listen to our children, we should do so without judgement, sometimes we just need to be quiet and let our children express their feelings. We need to really listen, and accept any imperfections in our kids, with no intentions to change or “fix” them.
When we make the mistake of sharing our opinions, critizing, judging, or scolding we are alienate our children, and they will be less likely to open up to us in the future. “Instead we need to keep quiet, stay open, non judgemental and uncrital being careful not to insert ourselves where we dont belong.”
Empathy is so important. When we connect our children are more likely to comply. But if they are feeling unheard, they shut down and stop cooperating.
Children who are allowed to feel their own feeling and experience their own life in their own way, are empowered to take appropriate risks and engage in life as an adventure.The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary
After we have connected with our children, then next most important thing she teaches is “the discipline of creating boundaries”. Children need structure, and a part of that is creating clear consistent and compassionate boundaries. The consistent and clear part is very important, because if you don’t make the limit clear, your children will violate it.
In her experience she found that parents set either to many or too little boundaries, or boundaries outside of their control. So how do we decide what boundaries to make? Her answer is that “Every boundary we set with our children needs to have their optimum developments as its purpose.” Which means that each boundary should fall into one of these categories, Respect for yourself (hygiene, sleep), respect for your environment (clean home) , respect for your mind (education), and respect for family and community. Once you decide on them, own it. Agree on rules around the boundaries. And when your children break those boundaries it will result in predefined, or natural consequences.
I really liked this book, I found every chapter interesting and very infomative. In some books I dont like the real life examples, but the examples she used in the book were very useful. You can really relatete to them, and they always added something important to the lesson.
This book would be best for parents with young children 4 and up, including teenagers. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know how they can improve as a parent, and is willing to see parenting from a different perspecive.