You Won't Be The Same Parent in 6 Months (After Taking These Steps)

I was a few months into my divorce.

My ex, who was super pissed, seemed to be doing everything she could to limit my time with my kids. She knew what they meant to me and hit me where it hurt.

I was fighting with everything I had to get more minutes with them.

At times, the stress was unbearable.

I'd always known I wanted to be a father. I also knew, based on how my parents raised me, the type of father I wanted to be.

This is the story of how I became that father, and how you can deepen your relationship with your kids.

"Rob, Everything Will Change"

This is what Chris told me when I asked him what it was like to have a kid. Until my first child was born, I didn't believe him.

My wife's water broke and we headed to the hospital. Early that morning my oldest was born. 3 hours later I was coat and tie for my first day of business school - another story.

As soon as that little one came into the world, I understood what Chris had meant.

Within days I had sold my Toyota FJ Cruiser and bought a Volvo. Solid branding there.

My priorities completely shifted.

I was now building a business to:

  • Support a growing family and create opportunities for my kid

  • Be an example to them of what was possible following a different path

  • Maintain a hard-fought freedom so I could spend time with them

In an instant my "why" took a hard turn.

Now I had the opportunity to be the type of parent I'd always wanted.

Parenting Is F*cking Hard

I love my parents. They're incredible people. They worked hard to provide me with many opportunities, and I'm grateful to them.

If it wasn't for them and what they've given, I wouldn't be where I am right now.

That said, I can hold two conflicting ideas in my head at the same time. For instance:

My parents did the best they knew how to, and in certain ways, it wasn't enough, and it caused emotional trauma.

No parent can control how their child takes in what they say or do. It's the same between adults.

Emotional trauma will occur. As parents we can work to reduce it, and give our children tools to work through it. There are many professionals who can help too.

How my parents raised shaped how I was as a father. At first, very authoritarian. I didn't realize this until my second was born. That's when it hit the fan for me.

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Society teaches that to be successful you:

  1. Go to school

  2. Get a college degree

  3. Get a good job

  4. Save enough until you retire

  5. Retire, and do gods know what until you die

That's a 5-step plan for failure. It leaves a lot of reality at the door.

For generations, my family believed there was one path to success.

They followed that path, and expected I should too.

They believed in that path.

I did not.

Conflict arose between my parents and I as I felt forced to travel a path I felt was wrong and wouldn't work for me. Though I tried, I couldn't make it.

No amount of coercion worked.

I published a school newspaper in 4th grade because there wasn't one, I wanted one, and I knew I could do it. This is who they were dealing with.

But I did the sports, because they told me I had to.

I went to college after high school, because they expected me to.

These experiences shaped who I wanted to be as a father.

So Now I'm a Father

As a father, I had the opportunity to raise my child the way I wanted:

  • I could give them choice.

  • I could show them there were other ways to operate in the world.

  • I could guide them rather than force them into things.

Despite having done a lot of inner work, I remained emotionally immature.

That didn't show up until I had my second child, who was born into very different circumstances.

The Authoritarian Training Comes Out

I love seeing both of my kids personalities develop. While they have similarities, they are very different people.

When my second was born, I wasn't in a great emotional spot. My finances were stable, but I felt my life wasn't going in the direction I wanted.

When parenting challenges arose, I defaulted to what I knew - the "traditional" style of my parents.

You may be familiar with this style, as it's the default in the U.S..

  • Respect for Authority: respect and obey parents and other authority figures without question.

  • Obedience and Compliance: obey and follow cultural beliefs and values.

  • Structure and Discipline: follow a set of boundaries and rules or pay the price.

  • Hard Work: follow traditional values such as hard work and diligence.

  • Punitive Measures: punishment is the main deterrent.

  • High Expectations: follow high standards, particularly in areas like academic achievement and behavior.

Do we want our kids to listen to us? We do.

Should we have expectations of our kids? Definitely.

Do kids, especially when they're younger, thrive on structure? The books tell us so.

Yet this style lacks respect for a child as a conscious individual. And as an entrepreneur, blind respect for authority isn't in me.

This is not who I wanted to be.

There Must Be a Better Way

In reading books and watching other parents, I found 8 major categories of parenting:

  1. Authoritative Parenting: parents are responsive and place high demands on their child. Parents set clear rules and expectations while being understanding and flexible. Communication is frequent, and parents value their children's thoughts and feelings.

  2. Permissive Parenting: parents are responsive but demand little of their kids. They are lenient and avoid confrontation. They often act more like a friend than an authority figure.

  3. Neglectful Parenting: parents aren't responsive and demand little. They're uninvolved and show little interest in the lives of their kids.

  4. Attachment Parenting: parents focus on creating a strong emotional bond with their kids. These parents are responsible and may do things like co-sleeping and baby-wearing.

  5. Gentle Parenting: emphasizes empathy, respect, and understanding. Rather than controlling, parents guide their kids to foster a mutually respectful relationship.

  6. Free-Range Parenting: encourages children to function independently within certain boundaries. The focus here is fostering self-reliance and problem-solving skills.

  7. Helicopter Parenting: parents are too involved in their kid's lives. They make decisions for them and watch what they do.

  8. Overindulgent Parenting: parents have few rules, and give their kids lots of material stuff and attention. Often these parents are overcompensating for their own unmet needs.

I came up with a blend of authoritative, attachment, gentle, and free-range. I came to realize there's a name for this - Conscious Parenting.

What is Conscious Parenting?

Not to worry - nothing woo-woo here parents.

Conscious parents raise their kids in a mindful and emotionally intelligent way.

This is NOT easy.

It requires you to look inside of yourself. You examine your behavior and feelings to see how they impact your kids and your parenting.

There are 5 key elements:

  1. Self-awareness: reflect on your own emotions and experiences, and how they influence how you interact with your kids.

  2. Mindful communication: build a real bond with your kids by talking openly and honestly.

  3. Empowerment: allow your kids to grow within healthy boundaries. Support them becoming independent thinkers without the need of constant approval.

  4. Positive discipline: establish boundaries and use positive reinforcement rather than punitive measures.

  5. Emotional intelligence: work on your own emotional regulation to model and teach these skills to your kids.

In other words, to be a conscious parent, you have to work on yourself and increase your self-awareness.

It's not about letting your kids do whatever they want. It's about connecting with your kids and understanding they're independent beings.

If you can pull this off, which I challenge you do to, the benefits are incredible.

So Many Benefits For Kids

When I started down this road, I began to catch myself getting angry at my kids for accidents. Looking back now gives me huge "WTF?" moments. Accidents happen and that's okay.

My response suggested otherwise.

I also think of all the times when I used a loud voice or my physical presence to get my kids to do what I wanted them to. That may work a few times, but it can breed deep resentment. Not ideal.

The more I used conscious parenting, the better my relationship with my kids got.

With open and honest communication, our bond became stronger. By being empathetic, my kids opened up to me more. They knew I wouldn't judge them for what they told me, and I wouldn't try to fix their problems (unless they asked). They told me more and more.

The inherent emotional intelligence (EI) of my oldest has always impressed me, and it only grew. My youngest also gained emotional intelligence (EI). They learned how to speak about and manage their emotions. That came in handy dealing with classmates. I also increased my EI as I gained greater awareness of my own emotions.

With increased EI comes greater self-awareness and self-regulation. My kids are better able to handle their emotions, discuss them, and empathize with others. And yes, they have boundaries - super important.

My kids feel empowered to make their own choices, within healthy boundaries. They're improving their critical thinking skills. They feel more confident exploring their interests and making decisions.

They're well on their way to being resilient, confident, independent humans. They can handle their emotions, and the situations life throws at them.

I couldn't be more proud of them.

Getting there wasn't all unicorns and rainbows though.

The 10 Challenges I Faced That You Will Too

I'm not going to lie - this was very challenging.

I've been in the self-help world for a long time. I'm a certified life coach and coached many clients. I've worked with a therapist for years, done breathwork, and more.

This pushed my edge like nobody's business.

I'll share with you how to overcome these and reap the benefits, but first, here they are:

1. Change Takes Time

Adopting a conscious parenting approach requires time and dedication. Change does not occur overnight.

It involved developing self-reflection and internal control.

You need to be patient with yourself as you make changes to your behavior and how you interact with your kids.

2. Watching Your Kids Struggle

It can be difficult watching your kids struggle and fail. It sure was for me. Allowing your kids to experience struggles and failures is part of their growth. And it's hard.

3. Flexibility Over Rigidity

Someone taught you there's "one way" to succeed at life. That's completely untrue, but the programming is there. Thanks society...

Conscious parenting is not a black-and-white approach. You have to be flexible with the methods you use, and your expectations.

If you're used to a more rigid, structured approach, this will be a challenge. It was for me.

4. Letting Go of Control

Society at large has conditioned us to want control. Letting it go can be a struggle.

It will seem like you're losing control when you let your kids make more decisions in their lives.

5. No Clear Course of Action

Finding solutions and solving problems with your kids will not feel very natural.

Remember, there's no set playbook you're using. Each situation is unique. You'll need to put on your thinking cap, adapt, and stay in the present moment.

6. Safety Concerns

Sometimes, especially with young kids, you might need to act fast to keep them safe. In these cases, a reflective and collaborative approach may not be the way to go.

You'll have to decide when to collaborate and when to get a bit authoritative.

7. Emotional Labor

There's significant emotional work, on your part, that's required. You may need to work with a professional - therapist or coach - to develop your introspection.

I've worked with coaches and therapists for years. So many benefits.

8. Balancing Different Philosophies

You may find yourself mixing some of the 8 parenting styles listed above. That's fine. The important thing is to remain conscious of your inner and outer responses.

9. Potential Criticism

Other parents might think you're too easygoing or not strict enough with your kid. Don't listen to them. They're stuck in a traditional way of parenting.

Stick to your way of parenting. You know it's best for your kids.

10. Personal Triggers

This one is fun...

Seeing your shitty behavior reflected in your kids is challenging.

This can bring up personal issues and push your buttons. Dealing with your emotional baggage and unconscious patterns is definitely a challenge.

Make All This Easier on Yourself

There are quite a few challenges to conscious parenting. But you want those benefits damn it!

Here's some steps you can take to help make this a bit easier.

1. Shift from Power-Based to Relational-Based Parenting

Big words I know.

This means leaving behind old ways of strict parenting that focus on obedience and control.

It means moving towards building strong, empathetic connections with your kids.

This shift will help create an environment where your kids feel secure and valued. It also promotes better self-regulation and skill building.

2. Practice Empathy and Understanding

Use empathy to resolve conflicts and understand your child's perspective. This doesn't mean you agree with them. It means rather than trying to force your understanding on them, you try to understand theirs.

Remember - our kids have a different view of the world than we do. Our years of experiences shaped us; theirs shape them.

Give your kids the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand the reasons behind their actions.

This helps you both.

3. Develop Self-Reflection and Emotional Regulation

Self-reflection and emotional regulation are skills built over time. It took me years of therapy and working with coaches to become less reactive. There is hope!

Once you better regulate yourself you can model positive behavior. You can respond to your kids in a calm and constructive manner.

While it took time for them to understand, my kids response to me was very different when I did this.

There is no perfect here, only better.

4. Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability

This is a hard pill to swallow - there is on one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Yay humans!

While our kids may be similar in some respects, in many they aren't. General advice only goes so far.

It's time to "embrace the suck" and be willing to be more flexible, and adapt your parenting approach.

Willingness is key here.

Trying new things is hard. Be easy with yourself. Then say "f*ck it" and do it. If it doesn't work out, try something else.

5. Get Support and Find Resources

This is huge. When I was going through my divorce and parenting my kids, I got help from coaches and therapists. I also talked to other parents who faced the same thing.

This is invaluable.

Read books. Find a community. Attend workshops or online classes.

The act of sharing with others can bring great insight and perspective.

6. Start Small and Be Patient

Rome wasn't built in a day, and your kids and you won't change overnight. Sorry, but it's true. And yes, that sucks. A lot.

Don't tackle everything at once.

Start with small, manageable changes. Be patient with yourself and your kids as you both adapt to the new approach.

I started to be calmer when accidents happened, for instance spilling water.

Little thing? Yeah. Big impact? Yes!

Small wins get the ball rolling and make you want to win more.

7. Focus on the Long-Term Benefits

The prizes are huge:

  • Stronger relationships with your kids

  • Better problem solving skills

  • Improved emotional intelligence and ability to handle emotions

Keep your eyes on these. Use them as fuel when things are hard.

8. Address Your Own Emotional Baggage

This is so important. Wishful thinking won't help you become more patient or thoughtful in your approach. They take work on your part.

As with many things in life, the more work you put in, the more you get out.

Be brave. Take a hard look at yourself. Bring the shadow into the light and handle it.

Your Kids are Counting on You

Important things, hard things, take time.

You're worth it.

Your kids are worth it.

Your relationship now and into the future is worth it.

Pick a small thing to start. Here's 3:

  1. Not flipping out when they spill something (how I started).

  2. Not being harsh when they come home with a "bad" grade.

  3. Not judging them for something they choose to wear.

Start small and rack up the wins. They compound all the time. With this 1 + 1 = 3

Your kids are counting on you. And you all deserve a stronger, easier relationship.