On the Nightstand: The Awakened Family
If you're anything like me, your consumption of information (online and off) has increased over the past 18 months.
**Except for maybe that blip of Facebook and Instagram going down yesterday, which according to my internet provider really threw a lot of people off.
Yes, I called my internet provider when social media wasn't working, because neither was my WiFi. Apparently some outage in my area, at the exact same time as the FB/IG debacle. Mercury Retrograde, with a hefty handful of other planets also Rx, as the culprit? Or maybe the Whistleblower complaint? Or weird weather?**
Throughout the course of this weird, challenging span of time, I have found that my mailbox has been, more often than not, happily stuffed with a new book, a new way of looking at the world, a new way of looking at issues in my own life. The contents of my mailbox (and all that aggregate data from my purchasing history) has become a reflection of the journey I've been on the past year and half.
The way I cope with challenging times is to gather and synthesize as much information as I can, in order to understand whatever it is that's happening in a more nuanced, deeper way. And since my coaching business has become my sole source of income, what was once a passion project is now how I provide for my family. I am ever-grateful that what lights me up is in demand in the world, that what I have to offer, and do well and with gusto, is what others want and need.
What this also means is that my bookcase has transitioned from a colorful array of science fiction and fantasy novels, to a colorful, eccentric, esoteric self development library.
The newest addition to my collection is called The Awakened Family, How to Raise Empowered, Resilient and Conscious Children by Shefali Tsabary, Ph. D. I'm not being paid to endorse or post about this book, but simply bought it, and want to share my perspective on it here.
I'll preface by saying I'm still not quite sure how this book ended up in my mailbox. My mind is a funny thing, and while I recognize the relevance this topic has to my life, and how I support clients in similar situations, I cannot remember the actual find-click-purchase trail. This happens more often than I'd like, but here we are.
Past Self gifting Present Self with valuable, insightful information. Thanks, Me!
This book has been lauded by Oprah Winfrey as a "paradigm shift that can change the world."
My Take: You're going to get out of The Awakened Family exactly what you put into it.
I have a lot of respect for the work that Dr. Tsabary does, and the perspective she offers, both in this book and in the previous one, The Conscious Parent. What has been happening in my own home is a child-centric orientation toward parenting, and keeping the peace. Consequences for undesirable behaviors, parental monologues about how to improve, inordinate attention paid to missteps. There is also a good deal of celebration for "wins", emotional support for challenges, and working together as a team to find our way through situations.
Mainly, though, there has just been a LOT of bickering. And a lot of messes. And a lot of whining.
All household members doing all of the above.
Important note: My family and I just made a large transition when we moved from northern Vermont to upstate South Carolina. We did this over this past Summer, and now our kids live in a different home than they're used to, my eldest child is in a much larger middle school, and my youngest just started Kindergarten, after a year of being at home with me instead of pre-K. We have asked a lot of them, and of ourselves, and we take all of this into consideration as we move through our days.
BUT STILL. The repetitive pattern of tension in the house wears on a person. It's wearing on all of us. And so, it came to mind that I'd like to consider another parenting approach. A client actually inspired my search, when they mentioned a comparison between a Compliance Model to a Connection Model of parenting. This was just the mental nudge I needed to look around.
Once I dove into this book, I was immediately very uncomfortable.
Not because I found the information off-base, but because it was so relatable. There are so many cringe-worthy scenarios the author illustrates, and our family, in one form or another, has experienced. The author emphasizes that a typical response to this work is for parents to feel equal parts guilty and deflated, once they recognize the various ways that they are unconsciously reinforcing worn out, ineffective, and potentially harmful parenting strategies.
Dr. Tsabary busts a number of myths around parenting throughout the book, myth by myth. I found this systematic approach helpful, as it allowed me to absorb and integrate the lessons in bite-sized chunks. Some of the myths busted include:
Myth #1: Parenting is About the Child
Myth #3: There Are Good Children and Bad Children
Myth #7 Parents Need to Be in Control
She also offers a message of hope, overall, for how to become more awake as a person, which leads to being a more conscious parent, which models being a more conscious human for our children, which makes space for their innate capacity for conscious living.
What I did *not* respond well to were the sweeping generalizations, often preceded by an "always" or "at all times". In addition, although the author points out that "we were all raised with a plethora of 'shoulds'," she spends much of the book using words like "should", "must", and "need". I understand her message is earnest, and I also understand that when someone tells me I "must" do something, I'm actually less likely to do it. I'm a bit subversive, that way.
Tell me the stories that support your message. Show me the studies. Illustrate solutions. I'm all here for that. But to say to the reader that "at all times" they must show up as their best self in order to be an effective parent, I respond, "Not bloody likely." I have much more compassion for myself than that, and I have much more confidence in my children. I do not need to be my "best" self at all times in order to be worthy and capable of this role as parent. I sense it's important for children to see the various sides of us, including to see that we are human, that we struggle, and we mess up, and are figuring it out as we go along.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the author's ability to offer a new-to-me and enlightening perspective on what it can look like to lead from a more centered, aware place as a caregiver. I have already begun to try out some of the techniques provided, with mostly positive results.
One interesting aside, my daughter tends to pick up on when I'm trying out a new parenting technique. If we're in a sticky parent-child situation, and I practice something from one of the books I'm reading, she'll stop me right away and ask, "Mom, are you reading a new parenting book? 'Cuz I can tell." Not necessarily with kindness in her voice. She does appreciate that I'm trying to improve myself as a parent, but is perhaps annoyed that I'm not just caught up in the difficult moment, right along with her.
Final thoughts: I do recommend giving this book a look, and see what you take away from it. At the very least, you can tell your kids you tried :)
I'd love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to let me know below!
Love to All - Rachel