Raising Happy, Healthy Children; Aware Parenting and Natural Learning.

Best Parenting Style:

What’s the best parenting style for raising happy children? What’s it like to be raised with Aware Parenting and Natural Learning? What have my children taught me about parenting after 18 years?

Parenthood is hard, especially in our small nuclear families without the village around us to support us and share the work of raising our children. But Aware Parenting has been so transformational for us and so often I am asked by clients, particularly those with young children, what happens when we raise our children this way? How does Aware Parenting “work”? What are teenagers like when they are raised this way? Is it really a good idea to listen to our children’s feelings, to parent without punishments and rewards, to allow our children freedom to be who they are and do what they want to do? Don’t our children need to learn how to be “good” citizens and how to be cooperative and connected?

We discovered Aware Parenting when my son was 2 and my daughter was a baby and our life was changed forever. And then, when my son was 4, he went to a small community school for Kindergarten but he wasn’t ready to learn to read yet and hated being taken away from the serious business of play, to be forced to sit down and “learn”. So we started homeschooling, never imagining that we would continue to homeschool all the way through the school years. And, over the years, we have embraced Aware Parenting and Natural Learning more and more.

But, whilst I love Aware Parenting so much, what have these choices meant for my children? What’s it been like for them to be raised this way? To have been “Aware Parented”? To have not been at school? To have had so much freedom and trust in their learning? How is this way of being parented different to some of their friends? I recently asked my 18 and 15 year old children these questions and this is what they said:

  • “Being raised this way means we are a lot closer as a family than people raised with more traditional parenting. Our relationship is so much stronger as a result and this connection is not always there in the families of other children we know”.
  • “It’s given me a great understanding of how to deal with my emotions in a healthy, safe way and how to release and express emotions”.  
  • “It’s given me an understanding of what is going on underneath behavior to see the deeper feelings that are there”.
  • “I have been raised in a more loving way, with more understanding, listening and kindness”.
  • “When we are behaving in a way that is challenging, you don’t react to the behavior, but rather see what is behind it and support me that way”.
  • “It’s given me so much more emotional intelligence than I would have otherwise”.
  • “Being homeschooled with natural learning has meant that we have learnt how to motivate ourselves to learn, to put real effort into the things that actually interest us”.
  • “Homeschooling gives us so much more autonomy and choice and allows us to focus on our interests without feeling pressured to do what YOU might want us to do”.
  • “We have been able to learn in the ways that work best for our brains and the learning styles that we enjoy”.
  • “No child needs the pressure of being compared, scored and judged by teachers all the time and being free from that has been really awesome”.
  • “Not having punishments and rewards has meant that I go easier on myself when I made a mistake and helped me learn from my mistakes coz I wasn’t shamed or blamed. This has meant more trust in the family and helps with being vulnerable and real, without worrying that we would get into trouble when we did things wrong”.
  • “Family meetings were great and were important opportunities to discuss any issues or problems in a friendly neutral environment”.
  • “We always feel like we have a non-judgemental safety net around us. This means we can always try things without any pressure in life coz we always know we have your support. So we feel we can find our passions in life more easily”.
  • “It has taught me to be gentle on myself coz I haven’t been constantly being criticized and judged by my parents”.
  • “It’s a better way to spend our childhood - not stuck in a classroom all day but instead free to spend time having fun, doing what we want to do and getting into things that really interest us rather than having to learn what the teachers tell us to learn”.  
  • “100% I will aware parent my children”.

I also asked what would have made the experience better? What they wished had been different?

  • “Less nagging about our learning and more trusting us, especially in the later teen years”.
  • “The hardest times in the family were when you were stressed and overwhelmed and weren’t able to stay calm, kind and patient. In these times things like family meetings were really hard. These types of things should only happen when everyone is in the right frame of mind otherwise you feel bad and they are unhelpful and end in fights. But because we have always been really close we were always able to quickly rewind and get back to being loving to each other”.
  • “Getting self-motivation for learning the structured “school-type” learning has been hard at times, even though we realized that having skills in maths, reading and writing for life are important and valuable. It hasn’t always been easy to motivate ourselves to learn that stuff”.
  • “Socially it has been difficult at times for me because there weren’t many girls my age homeschooling where we live. So I have had to meet people in different ways and have friends who are at school”.
  • “Recently things have been hard with restrictions due to Covid impacting on where we are able to go and what we are able to do”.

So, what have I learnt about parenting from my children after 18 years?

  • Aware Parenting works so beautifully to create loving close relationships with our children and ourselves. It supports our children to be cooperative, connected and loving.
  • There is no such thing as “perfect” and families are often messy and challenging!
  • Parenthood is an on-going work in progress with many ups and downs along the way.
  • Focus on connection with our children and prioritise the relationship with our children, rather than stressing about their behavior.
  • Trust my children and trust myself.
  • Play more! We played a lot together but you can never be too silly or playful with your children, no matter what age they are.
  • Laughter really is the best medicine!
  • They will learn what they need to learn and what they want to learn and they will learn how to learn so I don’t need to stress and worry about that.
  • Any time I have capacity to lovingly listen to my children, it’s a profound gift for them.
  • Try to listen without judgement, or comment and resist the urge to advise when they are sharing what’s in their hearts.
  • It’s ok to mess up and be imperfect, to shout at my children and get it all “wrong” sometimes, as long as I rewind, repair and reconnect. All families have challenges and arguments and fights and conflicts. I just need to keep trying to do the best I can and get support for myself when I am struggling.
  • This also models to our children that it’s ok to be imperfect.
  • Homeschooling gives our children freedom, a deep connection to their authentic selves and a clear understanding of who they are meant to be.
  • Special time (also known as non-directed child-centered play) is helpful for building strong relationships and supporting our children to release feelings.
  • Screen time is a difficult new phenomenon for us to navigate and it’s stressful. Screens can be a beautiful way to have fun, be entertained and connect with others. But they can also be highly addictive, very disconnecting and impossible to put down. If I notice a compulsive quality to screen use in myself or my children, it’s a sign that there are some feelings lurking close to the surface, causing agitation and we need some loving listening to express what’s in our hearts.
  • Loving limits are a very powerful strategy when our children or ourselves are needing to release feelings. Moving in close with a loving voice and saying “No” to the behavior whilst we welcome whatever feelings then come out is so very helpful to support our children back to balance. And when the limits aren’t feeling very loving, it’s a sign to step away coz I need more support.
  • Parenthood brings up so much of our hurts from our childhood to heal and hear and process. So often our reactions to our children’s behavior are a beautiful invitation to look inside ourselves and get the support and listening we need to take our emotional reactions out of the picture and then be free to listen lovingly, and with clarity, to our children.
  • But this way of being with ourselves and our children is hard and we can’t do it all alone. So we need to get support for our feelings so we can heal and process our wounds and pass less of it to our children.
  • It’s also vital to take time to focus on what I am needing and then make time to creatively meet those needs.
  • Support from like-minded people is crucial! Having a listening partner or 2, who I can reach out to for loving empathic listening has saved my sanity!
  • Time flies by so fast. One minute they are babies and we are feeling stressed about not getting enough sleep, and the next they are driving off to university. Remembering this is so helpful, even in the midst of the exhaustion of the early years, so that we cherish our time together with our children and prioritise our relationship with them.

Aware Parenting with Joss

I am so passionate about sharing this beautiful approach with parents. I believe that Aware Parenting is THE solution for so many of the challenges facing the world. - Joss Goulden, Aware Parenting Instructor
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