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Conscious Parenting 101 (And The Truth About Being A Stepmumma)

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I have been asked many times to write about conscious parenting, and to be honest, I have held back. My Mean Girl told me, ‘You’re not a ‘real mum’ because you didn’t give birth to Leo’. Oh, and another goody was, ‘You can’t really comment on parenting Melissa because Leo didn’t come out of your vagina’. Hilarious, huh?!

But, knowing that this was an important topic to share with you (and not wanting to let my Mean Girl run the show) I mastered her with my 3 step process and got down to business writing this deeply personal (and hopefully deeply useful) article.

Now, before we dive in, let’s be clear: No, I didn’t birth Leo... But I raise this divine little being 50% of the time. I am an equal parent and I choose to actively be involved in bringing up this angel. I also understand and respect that having one child is very different to having three or five or a whole football team of little tykes (!). To be honest, none of us can ever fully understand the unique circumstances of other parents, and we can make things very difficult for ourselves when we make assumptions. But what I do know — without doubt — is that these 6 tips I am about to share with you are universal truths, and they apply not only to your children but to ALL your relationships. (So, before you skip this post and think this is just for the parents, hold up sista because ANYONE can benefit from reading this!)

I also want to preface this post by saying that I am not claiming to be a parenting expert. I am simply sharing what has worked for me (and my husband) and what has made my life a lot more joyful.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the six insights that have helped me become a better parent, wife, friend and human. (Warning: What you are about to read isn’t taught and may challenge some of you. Stay open!)

1. Understand Their Love Language

I recently wrote about how understanding your partner's love language can radically improve your relationship. This post went off. But it doesn’t only apply to your partner. By understanding your kid’s and even your friend’s love language, you are setting yourself up for some kick-ass connections. Leo’s love language is quality time and if I am constantly buying him gifts or giving him words of affirmation to show my love, it can sometimes fall on deaf ears. Which will most likely lead to me feeling upset, angry and frustrated and think he is ungrateful or being a brat — and the poor kid has no idea what he has even done wrong! Now that I know quality time is his number one, I can make sure to shower him in love in the way that means the most to him.

Sometimes that might look like 30 minutes of deep quality time squeezed in between school activities, and sometimes it’s an entire day of love and attention on the weekend. And sometimes, all he needs is 10 minutes of soccer with his dad and his love tank is overflowing. To be honest, the length of time is irrelevant. What matters most is that his love tank is being filled by getting that focused, love-filled, quality time with each of us.

In Gary Chapman’s best selling book The 5 Love Languages of Children, he teaches you how to identify what your child's love language is and gives you so many great ways and ideas on how you can implement these into your everyday life to fill your child’s love tank up. And please note that every child will be different, so if you have 3 kids you will need to work out what each of their love languages is and act accordingly. Have fun with it and enjoy filling up each of your little angel’s love tanks.

2. Just Listen

So often, when our children come to us with a problem, the first thing we want to do is put on our ‘fix it’ hat. But most often, the problem will be resolved if we just simply listen. People (even little humans) just want to be heard, and so often by simply speaking something out loud it helps us resolve the issues in our mind. But the yang part of us wants to fix, fix, fix. Instead, stay in your softness and practice conscious listening. Don’t comment. Don’t try to fix, hold space for them and be fully present and with your child when they are expressing. Don’t be distracted by your phone or someone else. This can be one of the most challenging things to achieve, but when you open your heart, be present with your child and just listen, you will be amazed at what unfolds and how they can even resolve it within themselves. It’s very beautiful to witness.

Listening is one of the biggest acts of service.
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3. Treat Them Like an Adult

From day one, we have spoken to Leo like an adult. No goo-goo gaga, no baby talk, no talking down to him. We treat him as an equal and speak to him like we would speak to anyone else. We don’t treat him less than or like he is stupid just because he is a child (I’ve seen it done).

In my mind, it’s simple: If you speak to your child like a child, you will get a childish response. Likewise, if you speak to them in your parenting/authority tone, you will get a childish response. But if you speak to your child like an adult, you are more likely to get a mature, adult-like response.

Children are amazing and because we have always spoken to Leo like an adult and not ‘babied him’, he is able to hold a conversation with other adults. Yes, let children be children, but you don’t have to talk to them like they are aliens or dumb things down for them. You would be amazed and how intelligent they actually are.

4. Remember They Are Pure Love

This one’s a toughy. Let’s face it: when shit hits the fan in the home, it can be challenging to remember that your angel is pure love. I get it... but they are! They (just like everyone else) are the embodiment of love and when things don’t go your way, reminding yourself they are love can really help. That doesn’t mean you don’t/won’t feel angry when your kid has painted your white sofa blue, or smashed your favorite lamp, or decided to clog the loo with your socks. Of course you are going to feel pi$$ed, no doubt. And it’s important you allow yourself to feel that anger, frustration or sadness, but then once you are done, have a pity party dance off and choose to let it go and not carry it into the future any longer.

5. They Are Not Here To Control

I am a recovering control freak, so this one has been a biggie for me. In the past I so desperately wanted things to go my way that when they didn’t, I would lose it. That went on for years until I learnt that it was my Mean Girl who wanted to feel in control so she can run the show and keep me stuck in Fear Town. But to be honest, that sucks! And I want to hang out in Love City. And trying to control every aspect of your life is not only incredibly exhausting, it’s IMPOSSIBLE!

Your relationships are not here to control. They are here to teach and serve our evolution.
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Bestselling author of The Conscious Parent, psychologist and parenting expert Dr Shefali Tsabary says, that most people have a child and think, ‘Yes! Finally something or someone I can control!’ Your children are NOT here to control or to live out your unrealised dreams. They are their own beautiful being, here on their own magical journey, and our role is to support and guide them in this lifetime — not control and micromanage them.

6. We Have Chosen Each Other

Your child has chosen you and you have chosen your child. It’s easy to remember that when everything is peachy, but when we are in the pit of darkness, us funny forgetful humans tend to forget it. We are so quick to judge, point and blame everyone else. We are so speedy at forgetting that our souls have chosen each other in this lifetime to learn whatever it is we came here to learn.

When Leo came into my life, I knew that he and I had chosen each other. He is one of my greatest teachers and I am open to learning from him. That doesn’t mean I always get it ‘right’. Or that I am ‘perfect’ or that I am the most zenned-out step mumma goddess on the planet. HA! No way, far from it. But I am here. I show up every single day, wanting and willing to be better than I was yesterday. And I am so deeply committed to being the best person I can be.

So take what you wish from this list and implement it — not only in your relationships with your children, but in all your relationships.

Now I am bursting to hear from you. What one tip are you going to implement into your life? Remember this information doesn’t just apply to your kids you can use it in ALL your relationships.

So share away in the comments below.

And remember, thousands of beautiful souls come here daily to get inspiration and your comment might be the one thing they need to read to spark massive shifts within their own life. So open that big beautiful heart of yours and share from there.

As always my darling, thank you SO MUCH for being here. I love serving and supporting you to be the best you can be.

Comments (49)

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    • Jasmine
      July 6, 2016

      What a great read Melissa. I know what my love language is, but I haven't ever thought about what my children's were. Can't wait to delve in to this so I can shower them in love, but in the way they can best relate to. Thank you! ☺️❤️

    • Alexia Clarkson-Rowntree
      July 7, 2016

      Whoa. Talk about the universe reaching out.

      Yesterday, my daughter literally put blue ink all over her wall and on my couch - I lost it. Got so grumpy and she got upset. And I knew from the moment I opened my mouth in anger that it was nothing to do with her, it was all me, and the fear I felt around losing control.

      I felt terrible. I apologized to her. But even today I'm still carrying around that guilt.

      But not anymore. I know that it is time to let that go and to show up today as the best I can be!

      Thanks Melissa, your posts are as impeccably timed, as always ;)

      xx

    • July 7, 2016

      Gorgeous, Melissa. I'm not yet a momma but love the perspective you have so much, especially seeing the child as their own person. That's such a beautiful way to look at ALL people: chosen for this lifetime and on their own magical journey.

      Thanks for sharing your love!

      • July 7, 2016

        I couldn't agree more! I am not a mom either, but that comment really resonated with me. I'll definitely be implementing this immediately!

    • Anja
      July 7, 2016

      Dear Melissa, what a great article, well done and thank you for sharing your thoughts/learnings and experience. I always enjoy reading you. Wish you all the best, Anja

    • Victoria
      July 7, 2016

      I'm not a mum yet, but I have been a Kindergarten Teacher for over 10 years. This is such an important message to spread around Melissa, I love it!! One of the hardest things I see is a child being pushed into something by parents when they are not ready, It's one of my biggest challenges. I'm going to be a first time mum in December and I'm bursting out of my skin to meet him. I firmly believe that he his own divine being and he will be on his own magical journey, it's a miracle he is even here in the first place. I'm not here to map out his life or make him play football because his grandfather, father and his 5 cousins did or do. I don't have any expectations or have any divine plans for his future, I just want to take it day by day and learn about him through the discoveries he makes, not by what I put in front of him. A great read Melissa, thank you.

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Great intention honey. You're amazing!

    • Brady
      July 7, 2016

      This came at a perfect time for me. I'm a full time live in nanny and have been struggling with my situation and my boys lately. I think my takeaway from this article is the love languages. I never thought about what their love languages might be, but I know figuring them out will beneficial! We've looked up their birth charts and those have helped to better understand them. Also listening. I think as parents/caregivers and just humans in general we've all become so distracted and I know when the boys aren't listening to me and I'm feeling frustrated it's most likely bc I haven't taken the time to deeply listen to them and their needs! So glad you overcame your mean girl and wrote about this!

    • Laura
      July 7, 2016

      Thank you so much Melissa, I really needed this article today. I am a stepmumma and my mean girl definitely comes out with the same things about not being a "real" mum. I can't wait to put these six insights into practice and I particularly love the reminder that my step-children and I chose each other x

    • Kate
      July 7, 2016

      We get this so right in our little family - hubby and cat - but the lack of any of this in my family of mum sad and siblings is the massive disconnect today. After years of acknowledging my mums love language and as a result a better relationship for it, when I needed her emotional support over sharing multiple pgcy failures and infertility recently i was dismissed and it has not been addressed again. So very upset I can't bring myself to continue to support someone who has a complete inability to acknowledge my pain. Depleted enough as it is. So I focus on my healing and the happiness of my little family

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Hey Kate,

        Focusing on you and your happiness first is key, then focus on the people around you and bringing more joy to their life. Oh and have fun with it :)

    • Brenda
      July 7, 2016

      Thanks for sharing. My baby girl is 26 and going through a rough time. This made me realize when she talks to me I should be quiet and just listen no advice. I'm good at giving lots of advice got to work on this.

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Oh me too Brenda. The thing is we ALL want to give our two cents, but we are stopping that person's growth when we do. Something I am working on daily ;)

    • Chelsea
      July 7, 2016

      Melissa,
      Congratulations on such a beautiful piece of writing that is so heartfelt & full of love. It matters not that you've not (yet) had your own child. I would argue that it's more difficult to be a step parent and in fact it takes a lot of courage to step up & be involved in another child's life as a step-parent & to get along with ex-partners for the sake of the child. As a nearly 47 yo I had my first step-parent at 7 yo & I can assure you that step-parent still doesn't have the views of the skills that you have. I am pleased to have experienced that my other step-parent took me on at 9yo warts & all & has been more of a parent to me than my biological parent of the same gender. This is not to say that I'm beating up on any of them because I believe that we get their in our own time & for some of us that takes a lifetime.
      Your little man Leo will only relish in being surrounded by all of the love and support that you all give him & for that he will be a wonderful adult & if he ever experiences what it's like to be a step-parent he will have taken some wonderful experiences from you.
      Big love X

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Thank you so much Chelsea. You're words are magic and you are an angel <3

    • July 7, 2016

      I love this post! I was surprised when I learnt my three children's love languages and it's made a powerful impact to now know.

      Another tip that I use is never to ask children "Why". That word is a presupposition to judgement so, in their minds, their answer is either going to right or wrong therefore they freeze before answering because they question whether to say what you want to hear or whether to be honest. What I find a lot more affective is "For what reason ..." That lets them know that their answer is valid for them and as a result, they are a lot more forthright and empowered to answer.

      I also try to ask them "What do you feel" as opposed to "What do you think" as they know that feelings are always valid however their thoughts may be judged.

      Just little things that I have found helpful. At the end of the day, every mother is doing the very best that she can, with the resources that she has.

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Exactly honey ;)

      • Gillian
        July 7, 2016

        Hey Sue, thanks so much for your tips on simply changing the wording on a question, I think this will really help me get to the bottom of things. One of my girls is struggling just now and causing problems for her sister, and I can't get to the root. This just might help. Thank you for helping me see there is a way. X

    • Holly-Ann Rutherfoord
      July 7, 2016

      Melissa even grandparents are able to learn from your posts so thank you for these tips. They are useful for my relationship with my grandchildren. You are making a huge difference to so many lives Melissa. I thank you. Gods rich blessings rest on you and your Family. Lots of love, Holly-Ann xo

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Thank you so much Holly-Ann <3

    • July 7, 2016

      Love this Melissa! I'm not a parent yet but these were amazing advice for me and my partner when it happens. I'll keep this in mind and I really agree with you when it comes to speaking to the child as an adult.
      Thank you for the amazing words Melissa!

    • Serena
      July 7, 2016

      I recently read the five love languages and instantly could identify that one son's is Quality Time and the Other is Personal Touch. The older one is always seeking to 'play' with me and the younger one would hop inside of me if he could.
      Sometimes I feel really guilty because I can't find the time to play with me eldest in between everything I need to get done as a Mum. I am getting better at saying yes and even if it is only 5 minutes, he feels a lot better for it. I suppose I also find it hard to play dinosaurs when it isn't really my interest. I would much rather build a lego tower, or do a puzzle or art.
      Thank you for this post, I imagine that Leo is very grateful and worthy of having two (maybe 4?) very dedicated parents in his life.

      • Melissa
        July 7, 2016

        Hey Serena,

        I totally get what you mean, I don't love playing cricket but 15 minutes means the world to Leo so in that moment I surrender my preference. Your little mean will cherish those 5 minutes of dinosaurs playing for life ;)

    • July 7, 2016

      Beautiful darling. Thank you for sharing this. Proud of you. x

    • Kelly Hensley
      July 7, 2016

      Love this hunni!!!! Perfect timing for me as this parenting road is so daunting. Important to just go back to basics. You are a lucky step-mumma & Leo is even luckier to have you xx

    • Sarah
      July 7, 2016

      What about baby-talking with your baby? I have a 3 month old and he lights up when we engage in "baby talk." What is your stance? Thank you!

      • Melissa
        July 11, 2016

        What ever makes you happy and brings you joy do that sista ;)

    • Giana
      July 8, 2016

      I am so grateful to have read this Melissa, Thank you for your beautiful insight! I too, am a Step mommy to a 3 year old boy. One morning he can be the biggest you know what and I think he hates me, which makes me think how bad I am at this, then 8 hours later, he runs up to me wanting to give me a hug and a kiss. Truly, you can see that their love is unconditional. He didn't remember how he acted that morning so I take it all in stride but it did not take me overnight to get there and even to this day, its still never easy. My husband doesnt necessarily want kids of our own, which makes me upset at times, did you want to have kids of your own? I wanted to get your insight to how you feel about that. Additionally, how do you deal with your husbands ex? At the end of the day, we have our routine and love for each other, just the three of us so what she thinks doesnt necessarily matter and there isnt a whole lot of drama by any means, she just isnt over him. This is weird for me and taking some used to. I come from an Italian Catholic family, we dont marry into already made families, I did. Always and forever embracing, the family of my dreams!

      • Melissa
        July 11, 2016

        Hey Giana,

        Have you communicated to your husband how you feel about him not wanting kids together? I think it's very important you communicate that to him from love. I believe it's imperative that two people are united on all levels and when you're not that's when disharmony occurs.

        Yes, my husband and I would like a baby one day but not right this moment ;)

        And the best way to navigate any relationship is to be love and remember everyone is doing the very best they can with the knowledge and understand they have at the time.

        Does that help honey?

    • Paula
      July 8, 2016

      Thank you. I know all of this but it is so lovely to be gently and lovingly reminded of it from someone else. I am a stay at home mum for my two angels and love it, we go without many things because we are on one income and everyday i feel so blessed to share my day with them. But so many times when asked "what do you do" i reply shyly "oh just a mum". Now mastering my mean girl i am beginning to own the words "i am a stay at home mum". Thankyou for radiating the light. Xo

      • Melissa
        July 8, 2016

        Yeah you are. Well done sista! Own it.

    • karise
      July 8, 2016

      Such great wisdom thank you! I became a step-mum to 2 children aged 8 and 10 three years ago and yes, it can be tough! But your comments really resonated with me especially the parts about control and quality time so thank you x

    • Rakia
      July 9, 2016

      Beautiful Melissa, so much wisdom in that post!!! I grew up with an emotionally abusive stepfather. He destroyed so much inside me (and my relationship with my mum) but the ironic thing is that step parents can have as much of a positive impact on a child's life as his was negative! Shame he never realised that, but Leo is so lucky to have you in his life! I'm going to be a mummy soon and mega scared of making the same mistakes as the adults I grew up with (unfortunately, not one of them gave me the love that would make me want to call them parents) but I think if I follow what you've outlined, i.e. listen and take kids seriously and think about what THEY need then hopefully, together with the willingness to work on myself, we should be able to become a happy family. Thanks for your insight you wonderful momma!!! xxx

      • Melissa
        July 11, 2016

        Hey Rakia,

        Let go of the Mean Girl fear that you will make the same mistakes as your parents and choose to create your own reality instead. This is your life and your rules honey.

        xx

    • July 9, 2016

      Mel this is perfect! I love it and couldn't agree more.

      As a mum of three beautiful munchkins who make my world so amazing but also drive me crazy at the same time, I can really relate to all of these points.

      Being a mother is the most magical thing I have ever done in my life xo

      • Melissa
        July 11, 2016

        <3 <3 <3

    • Katie
      July 15, 2016

      Hello Beautiful,

      Over a year ago now my sister stepped into the role of step mumma for her partners two beautiful children, she recently related a story to me, my sister had the kids for the day while Dad was at work, she had asked their youngest to do a little chore for her. His response was "you can't make me your not my Mum!" I then asked her "How did you deal with that?" Her response... she acknowledge "your right I'm not your Mum and I can't make you do..... for me. When your with me we are responsible for looking after one another, we both care for and help one another. If you can help me and go do as I've asked please, then I can care for you and we can play a game together, How do you feel about that?" He thought about it for a minuite, shrugged, went off and completed his task. They spent the next couple of hours playing games happliy.

      This is something I've put into pratice parenting my two cherubs, demanding your children to complete a task is going to get everyone worked up and angry no one wins, pull out the team player card and the situation diffuses quite quickly.

      Happy parenting
      Much love
      Katie

      • Melissa
        July 15, 2016

        Hey Katie,

        Thanks for sharing that. I love the idea of being a 'team player'. We say to Leo, 'everyone is part of this family and house and it's our role to all contribute'. When you give kid's task's they actually LOVE it. It makes them feel important and special because we trust them with a job. ;)

    • Sarah Thornborough
      July 19, 2016

      Hey Melissa,
      Just finally got to read this. Thank you, you amazing step mumma goddess

      • Melissa
        July 20, 2016

        Hi angel,

        Thanks for your awesome question. The only thing you can do is lead by example and inspire your children with your actions not your words. Children learn best but following actions not by being told what to do. Go back and re-read the section in my book about inspiring others ;)

        And I can't wait to see you and give you a massive hug at the next Goddes Group. Which date are you coming to?

    • Julie
      July 20, 2016

      Great advice Melissa. Thank you for sharing. Xo

    • Hannah
      March 9, 2017

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for sharing beautiful!! My partner has a 5 yr old son whom we also have 50% of the time. He's the sweetest and I love our little family. However recently and totally out of the blue, his mum has been making life very difficult for us. She has become very controlling lately and constantly contradicts herself ( I think just to be difficult) It's exhausting and I don't get involved however it has somewhat paralyzed me the past few days and I struggle to find happiness. How do you combat that and stay so happy and positive? I want to get out of this funk and don't know anyone else who has a stepson/ who I feel like I can talk to/who will understand, so I thought I'd reach out.
      ❤️❤️

      • March 11, 2017

        Hey Hannah,

        Thanks for reaching out honey. I remind myself that everyone is on different operating systems and no one is better than the next, they are just different and it's not our job to judge others. Come back to presence. Feel grateful for her otherwise, it's only going to cause you suffering. I am so grateful to my husband's ex-wife because it shaped him into the man he is today (my dream man) and without that experience he may not be the way he is today. I am also very grateful to her for birthing Leo because I get to be his step muma. And I am grateful that she has raised such a beautiful child with Nick.

        I know it may feel hard but find the gratitude, honey.

        Also, have you read my book yet? I think you would get a lot out of it. Have a read angel.

        xx

    • Emily
      July 16, 2017

      Hi Melissa,
      I have your book and started reading it but have gotten sidetracked (must get back to it!)
      But I read this article because my partner of 2 and a half years has an 8 yr old boy and I struggle. The childs mother and my partner didn't plan him, are very different and they don't really discuss parenting enough. I read this article last week but we had him this weekend and he was really awful!!!! He is really rude and disrespectful! I feel like I can't do anything! The poor boy is getting pulled so many different directions, one week with his mum, that weekend with her parents then 3 days with her again then 4 days with us (mixed in with 2 nights of my partners mum)! I don't know how to help!! Sometimes my partner criticises me saying I don't know what it's like to have kids or he said about a month ago when I said his son was being rude "what should I do, belt him?" I just don't know how to help! Sometimes the boy makes me just feel like I don't want to be around him!!!! But sometimes he's an angel!!!!!!

      • July 18, 2017

        Hey Emily, thank you for your openness. All you can do is be love and give love! Remember no one can make you feel anything, you are feeling that way because it's triggering something within you, something you need to look at, it's not about him. You and your step son have both manifested each other to learn and grow together. Have you read the book The Conscious Parent, it's life changing. Have a read and let me know what you think. xx

    • Jane
      January 1, 2019

      Hey Melissa
      Thank you so much for this beautiful share. How do you deal with the relationship with Leo’s mum? Do you all co-parent together? And do you find this part the hardest? I sure did so I’d love to hear your comments.

      • January 4, 2019

        Hey Jane, we are actually going to do a podcast on parenting and step-parenting to answer all these questions so keep an eye out for that. xx

    • Sarah
      March 20, 2019

      Thanks you! This is so spot on and so helpful. Your words really hit a note with me and my situation.

      • March 22, 2019

        You're so welcome Sarah. What were your top 3 biggest takeaways from this episode?

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