This week, Dr. Shefali’s wonderful book, The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient and Conscious Children, was released in paperback. As most of you know, this book has been transformational in my approach to parenting and I’ve quoted it many times in this blog. My copy of the book is highlighted with notes in the margin and sticky notes colorfully flagging sections that demand to be read over and over again.
I’ve read a lot of parenting books and this one stands above them all. Why? I think there are two reasons. The first is her use of relatable examples. Not only does she share stories from her patients she has helped throughout the years, but Dr. Shefali also sites experiences she has with her own daughter. Early in the book, she shares a story where she and her 12-year-old daughter had a disagreement. After the incident, Dr. Shefali breaks it down for her daughter in the following way:
“When we get upset or afraid we won’t be understood, we turn into a ferocious tiger to protect ourselves. This is what was happening to you. You realized I wasn’t taking the time to understand you, and in your desperation you bared your teeth and showed me your claws. Of course, based on the way I was brought up, I thought to myself, ‘How rude!’ I then bared my own tiger mommy teeth right back at you. I should have known you would never go on the attack unless you were somehow feeling scared or trapped.”
“How rude” is such a trigger point for so many parents and to have it broken down in this way, helps us to see it differently. I love this example because it not only helps us as parents to identify what is going on in the heat of the moment, but it gives us the words to speak to our children. We don’t always think to speak to our children with such transparency, but if we can it will only strengthen our relationship.
The second reason I believe this book stands apart from the others is because it says what we are all thinking. Here’s a perfect example:
“Bringing up children is a scary task, because we are always afraid we’re doing it “wrong”. As parents who are trying our best to do a good job, we don’t realize that it’s precisely our fears for our children, which we think of as concern, that are the problem with most parenting. These fears often take the form of intense anxiety with regard to our children. Whatever its precise manifestation, our fears undermine so many of our good intentions. Fear is the reason our parenting somehow manages to produce results that are the exact opposite of what we were aiming for.”
Can you relate to that feeling of “doing it wrong”? I think there are many parents out there that feel this way, yet few of them have ever said it out loud.
As the book goes on, Dr. Shefali breaks down seven myths about parenting which detail out more of these unspoken “rules” about what it takes to be a “good” parent. My favorite is #4, “Good Parents Are Naturals” – “Instead of being told that being a parent is second nature, it would be more helpful if we were told that it would feel like entering a foreign country where no one speaks our language.” Ha! It’s funny because it’s true. How many of us have felt like we are stumbling and bumbling our way along in a foreign country without a map?
The good news is that in reading this book, the foreign country starts to look more familiar. You learn that the key to learning the language lies in connecting with your child. It’s not always easy, but this book helps break it down in a way that is simple to apply to your everyday situations. As the days of summer get longer, and our patience with our kids gets shorter, it is the perfect time to pick up this book.
In lesson #2 of my class “Parent’s Guide to Preteens: Communicating through Connection”, we expand on Dr. Shefali’s concept of Sand and Stone boundaries and how you can incorporate them to improve your communication and relationship with your preteen. It’s not too late, sign up before June 15th and save $50! Just use coupon code PRET50 at checkout.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.