their attention to the lessons that can help
them function in society. The balance of
bringing their attention to how to function
well among others, without making them
feel apologetic for reactions that are natural
to them, is a delicate one. It requires parents
to “grow themselves up” so that they don’t
become reactive like a child.
The second step is to cultivate the ability
to really “see” our children for who they are,
which includes their strengths, limitations
and weaknesses. Only when we truly listen to
our children, and stay in touch with them
throughout their ongoing evolution toward
adulthood, can we guide them toward a more
aware way of being.
An honest appraisal of our children’s
makeup, without imposing on them our fan-
tasies of how they “should” be, is crucial. We
not only have to get to know them as they are,
not as we might wish them to be, but we have
to stop seeing them as a reflection on who we
are as parents.
Third, it’s our ability to take ordinary
everyday situations, such as shopping, and
use them to teach life’s important lessons, that
really shapes children—not our attempts to
discipline and control them. As a clinical child
psychologist, I’ve had an opportunity to witness firsthand in countless families how disciplining children doesn’t work, any more than
a laissez-faire approach works.
And, too, from my experience with my
daughter, I’ve learned that none of the popular tricks and tips of the countless books on
bookstore shelves are truly effective. Which is
what led me to awareness of a quite different
way of parenting. The goal should be to elevate children’s consciousness, increasing their
awareness, so that they develop self-discipline.
In contrast, punishment in its various forms
simply causes resentment. Then we wonder
why, when they are in their teens, if not before,
we face outright rebellion.
So if children steal something from a
store, the way forward isn’t to reprimand
them and give them a “consequence” (which
is just another word for punishing them,
since true consequences are things that happen naturally as cause and effect, not something we impose). The way forward is to
patiently and lovingly teach them the “heart
consequences” of such
an action. We help
them connect to their
own deeper feelings
rather than their spur-of-the-moment urges,
including helping them
understand how their
actions affect others.
In other words, an
incident such as a tantrum, sulking or even
stealing isn’t about
It’s up to us as parents to seize these ordinary moments to bring out our children’s
inherent better nature, so that they learn to
regulate their behavior in a way that’s true to
themselves while also honoring those
around them and society as a whole.
Our children will be who they are—part
wondrous, part anything but. Our challenge is
to help them accept the delightful and the
reactive sides of themselves, and to shepherd
them toward ever-increasing awareness. C
By Dr. Shefali Tsabary
AS ADULTS, WE know how hard it is to cultivate qualities of compassion, tolerance,
kindness, presence and patience in ourselves.
Well, our children find it even harder to do so.
Which is why it’s so important we don’t act
like demanding dictators, as so many parents
unfortunately do, expecting of our children
what we often can’t even do ourselves.
For children, a piece of candy smaller
than their friend’s can be cause for a torrent of
tears. A compliment given to a sibling can
trigger feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.
Not getting the latest video game the minute
they want it can be cause for a major sulk.
As nice as our children can be, they can
also be demanding—and emotionally turbulent when their demands aren’t met.
Especially if we’re in a store and they really,
really want something.
How are we, as parents, to handle such
situations without speaking to our children
angrily or in a derogatory tone, let alone
The first step is to understand that when
children act in less than desirable ways,
they’re simply doing what’s natural for them.
As they grow, with the right parenting, they
will adopt more civilized ways of responding
to situations that frustrate them.
In the meantime, because children’s
reactions are only natural, it’s a huge mistake
to blame, shame or scold them. Instead, it’s
vital to accept that, just as we often can’t help
ourselves, so too children can’t help being
the way they are.
Although we don’t want to make our
children feel ashamed, we do need to draw
COSTCO MEMBER Dr. Shefali
Tsabary is a clinical psychologist
who specializes in the integration of
Western psychology with Eastern
philosophy. An expert in mindfulness-based therapies, she focuses on helping others create a more balanced life
filled with purpose and meaning. In
this Connection exclusive, Tsabary
addresses some of the fundamentals
of mindful parenting and how
parents can begin to change their
relationship with their children.
—Stephanie E. Ponder
Recognizing life’s teaching moments