For this, my 100th essay, it seemed fitting to take a moment to reflect on all that I’ve learned both from parenting and from writing about parenting. If someone were to ask me, “what is soulful parenting?” what would I say, now that I’m 100 essays in?
The obvious place to start is with the word soulful? There are many words that would have been appropriate to describe my approach to parenting and it took me a while to settle on this one. I like intentional, compassionate and respectful very much also. But, for me, soulful goes a little deeper. It reminds us that our children are not simply bodies to be cared for and minds to be nourished but that children have all the same capacities, intricacies and subtleties that we experience as adults. For me, soulful parenting suggests nurturing our children down to their core. And that’s what my writing is essentially about – giving our children an experience of childhood that maximises their wellbeing both in the present and throughout their lives.
The manifesto below outlines the principles that guide me as a parent and guide my children towards their deepest wellbeing. They are the commitments that I make to my boys everyday, failing regularly but always recommitting.
MY SOULFUL PARENTING COMMITMENTS
1. Above all else, I recognise that my main purpose as your parent is to empower you to be your true self. You came to me whole and perfectly-formed. I let go of all other agendas that may stand in the way of seeing and honouring your truth.
2. I will demonstrate to you your inherent worth through the way I interact with you. Nothing you do makes you any more or less deserving of love, respect and joy. I accept and value you as you are.
3. I will prioritise your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I will give all parts of you the love and nurturing they need and will seek help from “the village” when I see a need I am unable to meet.
4. I will show you that you belong and you matter. Your needs and wants are no more or less important than anyone else’s and you have valuable contributions to make to our family, our community and humanity.
5. I will give you space to explore and to make mistakes, keeping you safe by setting boundaries that are necessary and transparent. When you cross boundaries or stumble, I will remember that we all falter and will support you to recover & to learn through your experiences.
6. I will use presence as my main parenting tool will. Being fully with you, whatever is happening, is the best way to connect with you, to perceive what is going on for you and to recognise what you’re needing from me.
7. When I see that something needs to change within our family, I will take responsibility for being the change I wish to see. Through my example and intention, you will learn how you can contribute to the change we need to make.
8. I will show up for you as myself – fully human, honest and unique, knowing that I am enough for you and showing you that you are enough too.
9. I recognise that, when I feel challenged by you, it is my job to manage myself, not to control you. To do this, I will do the ongoing internal work of addressing my personal triggers so that I can avoid inflicting the pain of them on you.
10. I am willing to let you raise me as much as I raise you. The relationship we share is for the learning and growth of us both.
These commitments may sound idealistic & abstract and they are not always easily executed but, in Soulful Parenting, we are allowed to be human & imperfect! I have written 99 other essays that show you how it looks to try and keep these commitments in the ordinary, yet extraordinary, situations that we find ourselves in with our children.
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