Our Children Are Raising Us

In the evenings, I’ve been enjoying Shefali Tsabary’s wonderful book The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children.  If you’re ready to dig deep when it comes to parenting, this is the book for you.

If you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, you’ll have a head start.  Tsabary does a lovely job of combining Western psychology with Eastern mindfulness.  I can’t say enough good about the book.  Because I want you to experience it for yourself, I’m not going to comment too much.  I’m simply going to include a few more eye-openers to whet your appetite.


Tsabary introduces the radical notion that our “road to wholeness sits in our children’s lap.”  We are being raised by them, just as much as they are being raised by us.  Listen.

While we believe we hold the power to raise our children, the reality is that our children hold the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become.  For this reason, the parenting experience isn’t one of parent versus child but of parent with child.  The road to wholeness sits in our children’s lap, and all we need do is take a seat.  As our children show us our way back to our own essence, they become our greatest awakeners.  If we fail to hold their hand and follow their lead as they usher us through the gateway of increased consciousness, we lose the chance to walk toward our own enlightenment.

When I speak of our children transforming us as parents, don’t for a moment imagine I’m advocating relinquishing our influence on our children and becoming their minions.  As much as conscious parenting is about listening to our children, honoring their essence, and being fully present with them, it’s also about boundaries and discipline.  As parents, we are required to provide our children not only with the basics of shelter, food, and education, but also to teach them the value of structure, appropriate containment of their emotions, and such skills as reality testing.  In other words, conscious parenting encompasses all aspects of bringing up a child to be a well-rounded, balanced member of the human race.

We all have visions of what our children will be like, should be like, and when they’re nothing like we imagined, there’s a tension that arises because of our expectations.  If we didn’t expect anything, then our child would be fine and dandy, as is.  On our part, it’s not passivity but acceptance that’s important.

Acceptance looks like this (read closely):

I accept my child is different.
I accept my child is quiet.
I accept my child can be stubborn.
I accept my child takes time to warm up to things or people.
I accept my child is friendly.
I accept my child gets upset quickly.
I accept my child likes to please people.
I accept my child resists change.
I accept my child is fearful of new people.
I accept my child can misbehave.
I accept my child is moody.
I accept my child is gentle.
I accept my child is timid.
I accept my child is shy.
I accept my child is bossy.
I accept my child is defiant.
I accept my child is a follower.
I accept my child is temperamental.
I accept my child is below the curve in academics.
I accept my child isn’t as driven or motivated as most.
I accept my child often lies when under pressure.
I accept my child can be too dramatic.
I accept my child finds it hard to sit still.
I accept my child has their own way of being in the world.
I accept my child is their own unique person.
I accept that to thrive, my child needs firm boundaries.

Any of those punch any buttons?

But wait.  There’s another point to be made.  By accepting your child for who he or she is, you must accept the kind of parent you need to be for your child.  You might need to make some adjustments on how you parent, depending on your child.

It gets tougher.  Our ability to parent is directly linked to how well we accept ourselves.  If we are not role models of what we’re teaching our children to be, how do we expect them to garner those abilities from us?  They won’t.  If you’re stuck in your past, if you’re battling the demons of who-knows-what, you will feed it all to your sweet, unsuspecting progeny.

To gain a better understanding of the ego, recall how I noted earlier that when I suggest to parents they must change if their children’s behavior is to improve, they insist I’m mistaken.  They then present various explanations for why their relationship with their children is as it is.

We find it difficult to sit with the knowledge there may be a piece of us that contributed to whatever negativity we are experiencing in our life, preferring to place responsibility for our situation on factors in the world around us.  When all we know ourselves to be is the image we have of ourselves, the idea of having to change threatens our identity, which is why we vigorously defend ourselves and vainly hope that the others in our life will be the ones to change….

When we operate from [a] rigid place of “rightness,” we bring to our reality an already-formulated assumption, ideal, or judgment.  If a situation or individual doesn’t conform to our will, we react to control the situation or the individual, bringing them under our domination….

To parent children from ego is to live with the unconscious mandate that your way is the right way.  Consequently, you urge your children…to enter your world and miss the opportunity to enter theirs.  Sadly, it’s likely you feel the most competent when your children are under your domination willing to follow your word as gospel.

Oh me, oh my.  So true.  There’s this happy medium I’m trying to employ—letting Liliana be her and stipulating certain behaviors.  I’m continually asking myself (concerning my interactions with her), “Where is this coming from?  Do I have her best interest at heart?  What is her desire?  How might I help her follow her dream?”

Of course, she’s five.  But you’d be surprised.  I’ve read from numerous sources that what a child is like at five, she’s like as an adult.  Her basic personality, likes and dislikes are all in place.

So.  I’m being raised by Liliana, just as she is being raised by me (and Dan).  I’m becoming more mindful, more conscious of how I interact with daily challenges and joys, because if I can’t handle them, how will she learn that every situation is a valuable part of life…and manageable?

In an earlier blog post I mentioned that raising kids is a lot like planting a seed from an unlabeled seed packet.  You water it, you talk to it, you provide a little Miracle-Gro, and who knows what you’ll end up with?  A flower?  A pumpkin patch?  A zucchini?  A tree?  Half the fun is not knowing.

[Post image: Liliana horseback riding, July 2011]


  1. Allison
    Oct 18, 2011

    Another great post on parenting…such timely words for me. Thank you, Elissa, for sharing these profound truths! They inspire me to hope and change.

    • Elissa
      Oct 19, 2011

      Me, too! I can’t tell you HOW often I need to be reminded of these things…thanks, Allison!

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