- Lori K Walters
How to Access your Inner Parenting Wisdom
Every parent, at one time or another, wonders if someone else doesn’t know better what to do in a particular parenting situation.
I mean, parents are surrounded by parenting advice. A barrage of podcasts and bestsellers on conscious parenting, peaceful parenting, mindful parenting, awakened parenting… And the voices of grandparents, teachers, professors, religious leaders, psychologists, neighbours. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how you should be raising your kids.
All those outside voices and so-called experts make it hard to stay connected to what you know about your child and what they need. Hard to trust your intuition, your heart or your gut instinct.
All that opinion and information makes it difficult to access your own parenting wisdom.
Have you sensed your own instincts, but ignored them and followed the suggestions of others?
Have you succumbed to what others might be thinking and taken a different approach, even though it didn’t feel right to you?
Have you felt totally out of your depth and lacking any valuable knowledge in the matter, grasping for the ‘right’ answer?
Have you asked for advice with a sense that surely someone else knows better than you?
I know what it’s like doubting myself and thinking that the knowledge I needed to raise my children was “out there”. There were times I stopped trusting my own instincts. Well, more accurately, I didn't know how to connect with and listen to those instincts. All I knew was that I didn’t want to screw up the most important role I’d ever been given and, so, I let people tell me what to do.
When you get caught up in other people’s ideas about how you should parent your kids, it often ends up creating more distance between you and your kid. It disingenuous and your kid knows it. It's unsustainable. It feels wrong, in your gut and in your heart.
So I started looking for my inner teacher, one who would lovingly guide me to become the best mother for these two particular souls that had come into my life. I dug down past my parents and grandparents in search of something that's inherent in all parents. Something I could really trust. Something primordial in this mother's body. Some divine light glowing in me for my kids.
That’s what I came to call my parenting instinct. You probably experience it differently but, for me, it feels like 'yes' settled in my belly, a smiling spaciousness in my heart, and a gentle nod in my head. It's a feeling I've come to trust.
I'm not saying that I’m not perfectly attuned to my parenting wisdom. Of course, I still get caught in self-doubt and look out there for the answer. But I also actively practice accessing that deeper wisdom and I’ve learned some things that are worth passing along:
1. Speak one truth every day.
Say it out loud: one thing that is honest and completely consistent with what you hear and know within. Things like, I am a dedicated parent. I know x about my big kid. I can sense x in our relationship. My expert parenting skills are…
Let your mouth get used to speaking your truth. Bit by bit, you are clearing the somatic pathway from your gut/ instinct to your lips. Open the gate for your inner wisdom to rise and be heard.
2. Explore the words.
With your trusted journal or friend, in your therapist’s office, under the stars or on your walk – let the words all come out. The truths and half-truths, the certainties and doubts. Rant, ramble, write, be it graceful or awkward, scary or hopeful…say it all. Let it flow without censoring.
Do this regularly and, in amongst it all, bits of your parenting instincts will coalesce and find their way to the surface. You might be stopped in your tracks as you realize what just came out of your mouth. You might highlight one sentence in all that you wrote that really captures the essence. Or you might sense a change in your body as you find a different way of expressing something.
3. Notice what doesn’t feel ok.
Being able to recognize your ‘no’ is just as important as being able to recognize your ‘yes’. When something is not ok with you and you feel displeasure, frustration, uneasiness, grief, defensiveness, apprehension or annoyance - that IS your wisdom.
Notice what’s going on for you in those moments. What does ‘not ok’ feel like in your body - hot or cold? Tense or loose? Moving or still? Shutting down or bursting out? Get to know the ways in which it communicates with you.
4. Survey your experience.
Create an inventory of the times you did hear and trust your inner parenting wisdom. What happened? How exactly did you hear that message from within? What had you believing in it? Where did the truth land in your body? What was the impact then? What has been the effect over time?
You build trust in your instincts experience by experience – so write them down and put them where you can see them to remember that you’ve done this well previously.
5. Create space for listening.
If you want to hear ocean waves, you go to the beach. If you want to hear your inner parenting wisdom, you create the conditions to hear it. Take a quiet pause first thing in the morning or make a habit of stepping outside before supper or lighting a candle for 10 minutes before bed. Practice listening, not just in your meditation or reflection time, but also in the midst of your day. Find your unique way and cultivate a new pattern of listening inward.
And then, when you’re caught in the middle of figuring out how to respond to the next 'thing' with your child, you’ll be more able to let your fears, obligations, comparisons, etc. wait while you go within. That’s where you will find the insight, direction and confidence you’re looking for.
That’s where you’ll find your most reliable source of wisdom.
Of course, there are good sources of wisdom outside of yourself. But please don’t go along with the ones that cause you to second-guess yourself in the middle of the night. Nor the ones that go against your grain, mess with your heartrate or give you a headache. Nor those that have you compromising your values.
Instead, hone your skill at listening for parenting wisdom within yourself, in the layers of your heart, in the deep juices of your belly, in your marrow.
Let your inner teacher(s) speak. They speak from Love - the love that flows from you to your child.