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Aware Parenting

by Anna Cole

Our autumn issue is out now. Regular contributor and parenting expert Anna Cole shares what Aware parenting means to her. Dive on in to find out more…

Aware Parenting

A profound approach to parenting

In the last issue I shared about a traumatic loss experienced in my extended family. Staying right in the now, in this present moment – moment by moment – and being supported to release the shocking emotions present, was how those closest to the epicentre of that trauma somehow got through that time. By becoming present and aware, the moment and the possibility of change has space. So, it feels fitting in this issue of Positive Life on the theme of awareness, to focus on a profound parenting approach called simply ‘Aware Parenting’. This approach has its roots in the same fertile soil as the ‘Parenting by Connection’ or Hand in Hand approach that I teach.

Back in 1984, Aletha Solter, a Swiss/ American developmental psychologist published her first book, ‘The Aware Baby’. She headed up the introduction with the Mayan proverb, “For in the baby lies the future of the world…” and she called for a revolutionary approach to parenting. At the time she had no idea if people would read, let alone endorse her approach. Nearly 40 years later her book has touched the lives of tens of thousands of families and has been translated into a number of languages. It has contributed to a groundswell of quiet revolution among parents and professionals practising the ‘Aware Parenting’ approach.

Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing based on research into child development, drawing on and building on attachment theory. It questions most traditional assumptions about children and proposes a new approach that includes non-punitive discipline and a tried and tested mechanism for healing from stress and trauma. Aletha Solter went on to publish four further books including the revolutionary ‘Tears and Tantrums: What to do when Babies and Children cry’ (Shining Star Press, 1998). Each book adds to an understanding of this practical and paradigm-shifting approach to parenting.

As I recently returned to Aletha Solter’s first book ‘The Aware Baby’ and reread her introduction, her discussion of the relationship between early infancy and non-violent approaches in the world seemed especially relevant today:

“…until recently, there has been little effort in Western culture to raise children to become non-violent…because of the powerful weapons of destruction and the easy availability of guns, raising children to be non-violent is now of primary importance for everyone’s survival. We must teach children alternatives to violence for solving conflicts. We must also raise children so they will be free of pent-up rage or fear, because these emotions are so often at the root of violence. This means paying close attention to the way they get hurt and helping them heal from stress and trauma. We can no longer afford to ignore how children feel.” (Aletha Solter, The Aware Baby, Revised Edition, 2001).

In western industrialised nations parents have traditionally emphasised the development of independence and the acquisition of linguistic and cognitive skills over inter-dependence, co-operative solutions to disputes and the cultivation of peace. The idea is that children must become intellectually competent and self-reliant in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. Vocabulary, reading and math and the speed with which children can do these along with superficial knowledge deemed important by school curriculum writers, is valued at the expense of the development of deep thinking, creativity, cooperation and empathy.

That empathy, so apparent in children and teens raised in this approach, and its sister approach, Hand in Hand Parenting’s ‘Parenting by Connection’, bring hope to a world that seems lopsided with conflict and ‘power-over’ nature. It returns infant and children’s nature – their innate sense of the meaning and purpose of emotional release to the heart of parenting, and changes the world, one parent at a time.

Anna Cole, PhD, Regional Lead, Hand in Hand Parenting.
Find out more about Anna and her work: handinhandparenting.org

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