Conscious Coparenting by Jai Maa
By Jai Maa
Raising children in a mindful manner takes patience and kindness.
It takes a village to raise a child has been casually spoken around me my entire life. What does this cliché mean in today’s modern age where our homes have gotten bigger and our yards smaller?
I grew up in a neighborhood where every household knew each other. Almost daily there would be a knock at our door from kids wanting to play, parents stopping by to see if their kids were playing in our trees, or one of the neighborhood ladies bringing jams she made from the guavas growing in our back yard. If we wanted to talk to each other, we didn’t bother with an impersonal phone call, we would just walk down the street to say hello.
Today, I’ve witnessed family members being in the same house communicate through text if they need something! In many neighborhoods today, you can see through your neighbor’s window from your window, yet you may not know their name. What is happening here? How are we becoming closer in space and further away in connection?
And what does this mean for our children? If children are not interacting with each other by climbing trees, making forts, riding bikes, and getting dirty, what are they doing? How are they learning to connect, and most importantly, how consciously are they being raised?
I am blessed to be a part of a thriving community of those making healing, service, connection to God, and self-realization their priority. I have witnessed these adults embrace a conscious parenting style that gives me hope for a new, enlightened world. I have not given birth to any children of my own, but I am a mother to many.
One of the recent gifts I have received as a village-mother is the opportunity to care for my little 3-year-old friend while his mother attended the transformational seminars through Satvatove Institute. I got to experience coparenting with a few other moms in environments centered in conscious communication. We took turns watching over each others’ children who were all 5 years of age and younger, freeing up energy so each adult could run their business, and get proper self-care and rest.
In the business of parenting we had a lot of fun! The home was full of laughing children, spontaneous dancing to Michael Jackson prompted through Alexa, the sounds of the dishwasher and laundry room operating most of the time, and the smells of yummy, healthy food permeating from the kitchen.
Everyday was laced with kid’s arguing over toys, someone getting hurt in a wrestling match, or another feeling left out from creating with Lego bricks when they weren’t being shared. It was these opportune moments that caused me to grow deeper as a conscious coparent.
Every time a kid had a meltdown, the adult present would stop what they were doing and, without reacting or raising their voice, bend down and use empathic listening to understand what was happening amongst the children.
Empathic listening means to show understanding of what another is saying. For example, “You feel sad because the toy was taken from your hands.” Showing empathy inspires a child’s connection with you because they feel seen, heard, and understood. After demonstrating understanding of what each child was crying about, the adult would remind them of the rules, and ask the children to say their understanding of the rules.
The children were never called “bad” or had love withheld from them when they misbehaved. None of us ever used bullying tactics to get a child to submit to our will. Hitting a child is not an option for us. Physical violence may work up front to scare a child into submission, but in the long run, any form of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse creates the pain, disconnect, and fear that carries over into their adult experience.
It was not easy remaining centered and keeping my cool when I was alone watching over a house full of wild young boys. Much of the time, I felt mentally scattered and emotionally triggered when meltdowns occurred and I wasn’t being listened to. No matter what, I am still 100 percent responsible for staying centered and in control of my emotions when I assert boundaries and reenforce rules.
If a child had trouble listening, I would, in a gentle, non-threatening tone, say, “What do you understand I said?” This is different than, “Do you understand what I said?” — which could leave space for the child to say “yes” without clear understanding. In saying, “What do you understand I said?” the child would do their best to repeat what they heard. If they still did not have complete understanding, I would repeat what they missed and say, “What do you understand I said?” I repeated this process until each child was on the same page and had an understanding of the rules.
If the rules continued to be broken, I would remain calm and take the child who was out of bounds by the hand to sit quietly with me and have a conversation. If they continued to not listen, I would say, “It’s time for a nap. I know you understand the rules, and when you don’t follow them, it lets me know you must be tired,” and I put them to bed. Naturally, they cry and protest that they didn’t need a nap, and within minutes, they’re usually fast asleep. Understanding that a three year old needs a nap when they are out of control is a form of empathy.
This process cycled all day long. I would turn off the stove if I was cooking, hang up the phone if I was talking, and address the breakdown from a centered space of non-reactivity. The other coparents did the same. Whether we were alone or working together, our nonreactive parenting style matched our intention to discipline children without the use of violence.
The energy and attention children require can be demanding and draining. Perhaps this is why it takes a village to raise a child. I would further add that it takes a conscious village with conscious parenting skills to raise a child. Many say they want peace on Earth, and raising a child through patient, loving, assertive discipline is the tedious, time-consuming, and necessary work to make that shift.
I have witnessed many parents in my community never once hit their children or verbally abuse them in any way. These children are growing up feeling safe and secure, confident in who they are, connected to their power to create what they want, and with the Light of Spirit still twinkling in their eyes. Some may feel this is a complicated idea to implement, but it seems we are complicating our lives without it. We owe it to ourselves and our children to put forth the effort. The more self-realized and healed we are, the greater gift we are to our future generations.
Enlightenment Challenge: Where in your life are you emotionally reacting verses calmly responding to experiences that trigger you—especially where children are concerned? The next time you feel triggered by anyone or anything, take a moment to breathe and connect with your center before you choose how to mindfully move forward.