Shefali Tsabary’s book brings an attitude of mindfulness the world of parenting. The author, a psychologist, asks adults to look inward to stop controlling their kids and start controlling themselves.
The Awakened Family is like a yoga class, but for your parenting. It will stretch, strengthen and bring balance to your family life. It will cause you to look inward. It will ask you to grow up.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s third book about conscious parenting is sort of like that moment in a meditation class where the teacher says: “Of course your mind will wander off and you will start to think of many things. When it does, just gently, without judging, bring your attention back to your breath.”
I started reading this book on Day One of a family vacation, and the rest of the trip was like a sigh of relief.
I felt empowered by Tsabary’s articulation of ideas I already had in my heart: I don’t need to control my son’s feelings or behaviour, I need to control my own.
And I don’t need to do parenting perfectly, I only need to do the best I can do at any given moment.
I was moved to realize that my own maturation as a person is the most basic and important work of being a parent. The realization had a relaxing effect on our vacation.
He dislikes his breakfast? Hmmm.
He hates sunblock? My goodness.
He lost his new football? Interesting.
It was very relaxing to listen to my son’s feelings but not react to them.
Look at your self, not your kid
By telling stories about her own life as a parent, and by recounting stories of families she has counselled, Tsabary explains how a parent’s fear of the future can get in the way.
One parent, Karla, is stuck in the cycle of wanting her 14-year-old child to perform academically. It causes conflict in their relationship. But when Tsabary asks about the fears that might be underlying her expectation, Karla admits she’s terrified her daughter won’t get into a “good college” and get a “good job,” fears that stemmed from her own experience of life. It had nothing to do with her daughter.
I could relate to that. Tsabary reminds me to live in the present, not worry about the future.
A specific language for abstract ideas
Everyone feels anger and fear. But it’s possible to not let those feelings run your inner life.
The Awakened Family provides a positive language for talking these difficult with family members.
Yes, feelings are important. But they don’t run this show! And neither do logic and reason. The highest self, the “powerful presence,” the mature adult is in charge here, persistently doing what’s right.
I’ll use Tsabary’s language to talk to my husband about how we are parenting and how we could get better at it. My husband is not a yogi, but he does meditate. He’s open to the yoga of parenting, it’s just that he needs someone to explain why and how to be more conscious.
Transformation takes time and struggle
Sometimes while reading, I had the feeling Tsabary’s view suggests that change just around the corner, and it’s consistent, permanent and deep.
But I’m pretty sure transformation takes time and a lot of trip-ups along the way. I’m going to avoid falling into that trap of thinking that a single reading of a single book will change my life forever.
Instead, I’ll be gentle with myself. I’ll try, and I’ll fail, and I’ll try again. It’s okay if the changes aren’t radical. It’s okay if they’re not forever.
Tsabary’s philosophy is a reminder that parenting isn’t a problem that needs a solution. It’s an opportunity that deserves exploring.
Like this review? For more reading recommendations, sign up for my newsletter.