Our children are gifts that can help us accelerate our emotional healing and spiritual growth. Yogis naturally want to develop themselves, become better people and be of service. It's all part of the practice.
Parenting is hard work, but the pay off can be huge! The key to parenting lies in our capacity to practice self awareness in any given moment, to reflect before we react so that we choose a course of action that doesn't dampen our child's inner light.
In order to rise to this challenge, we Yogis must be willing to practice more than just the physical aspects of Yoga, but dive deeper into the Self to find the wisdom we need to guide ourselves and our children towards the path of balance.
Svadhyaya: the practice of self study
Does your kid every push your buttons and test your patience? Of course! But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. When our children push our buttons we have the opportunity to practice a very important part of Yoga. It is the fourth Niyama, called Svadhyaya, or study of the Self.
The feelings our kids arouse when they make mistakes, or even when they consciously test our boundaries, are not their fault. Essentially, they did not make us angry nor did they put that anger inside us. Their behaviors sometimes trigger the unresolved anger we already carried inside us.
The opportunity to acknowledge and release that anger exists anytime it is triggered. In order to do this you must learn to bear witness to your own emotional state of being. It means pausing and taking a step back before you react. Even if the child is deliberately pushing your buttons, you can practice stepping back and reflecting before you respond. In some cases this means literally stepping back, or even walking out of the room for a few moments to take care of yourself.
Taking care of ourselves first
Thich Nhat Hanh writes often about how important it is to take care of our emotions, particularly anger. We should not discipline our children while we are in a state of anger, because it is too easy to be too harsh. We must first take care of our anger, and restore our own energy to a state of balance, then we can fairly and clearly teach our children boundaries.
Dr. Shefali Tsabury, a renown therapist and conscious parenting author, makes the case that parenting is more about developing parents’ maturity—and less on children themselves. An article reviewing her latest book highlighted this point,
"Children come into the world naturally “awake,” or aware of who they truly are, claims Tsabary. The problems that show up in children—anxiety, behavior problems, resistance—are not of their doing, but are really manifestations of problems with parents who are not sufficiently enlightened, awake, or conscious, according to Tsabary."
This is a powerful claim, but I can attest to the truth in it from my own experiences. My son tests my boundaries on a daily basis, but regularly practicing Svadhyaya allows me to navigate those situations consciously, resulting in more self awareness and a deeper bond with my son.