Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Navigating the Parenting Map With Dr. Shefali
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 416 of Live Happy Now. Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and whether you have one, are one, or hope to be one, you don’t want to miss today’s conversation.
I’m your host, Paula Felps. This week I’m talking with Dr. Shefali, a New York Times bestselling author who blends Western psychology with Eastern philosophy to create a groundbreaking approach that she calls conscious parenting.
In this episode, she shares her insights on why most of what we think about parenting is wrong, and how we can all become more conscious, not just as parents, but in all our relationships. Let’s have a listen.
[00:00:43] PF: Dr. Shefali, thank you so much for coming on Live Happy Now.
[00:00:47] DS: I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.
[00:00:48] PF: Well, I could think of no one better to have for our Mother’s Day episode. Because parenting is your jam, and what I think is so interesting, you’re so respected for your blend of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy. How do you think that’s given you a different kind of insight into parenting?
[00:01:08] DS: I think Eastern philosophy is so rich in wisdom-based technique of how to manage Western based stresses. When I say Western, I just mean a westernized way of thinking, which has been so overly emphatic about competition, and striving, and achievement, and domination, which have gotten us great advancements, but they create high cortisol in us.
Eastern spirituality is such an amazing antidote to create that presence, that slowing down, coming into the inevitable impermanence of life, reminding us that that constant striving, and achievement, and competition that we’re putting our children through and ourselves through, is not the pathway to wellbeing. Eastern spirituality teaches us a direct pathway to wellbeing.
So, when I talk to my clients, I understand the Western obsession with power. But then I teach them how to create an antidote to that, to bring about greater wellbeing.
[00:02:24] PF: Wellbeing is so important. We know that it’s such a huge indicator for success, but we’re not taught that. How difficult is it for parents to make that adjustment? Because you still have to live in this western world, and you’re adopting a different kind of mindset than most of the people around you.
[00:02:44] DS: Yes. But the predominant mentality is this competition, domination, achievement mentality, which is why most of us are medicated, and obese, and diseased, and unhappy. Obviously, that is not the way to wellbeing. How to create that balance? Or I mean, there’s no utopic balance, anyway. But how to create that wisdom, where you are part of this world. Listen, I’m super successful, but there is a way to live in that successful driven world, success driven world, without being eaten alive by it, and without making our children feel eaten alive by it. That’s why I’m successful is, because I teach people, yes, you can live in this world. But you got to live in this world with sanity. I think we’ve become a little bit insane in striving for this power, and competition, and success.
[00:03:43] PF: I agree with you. I think we’re seeing so many of the effects that play out with the anxiety of children and young adults now who have grown up in this environment. You have such tremendous insights. What made you decide to apply that to family and parenting? Because as I read your works, and I read more about you, it’s like, you could help us in every area of our lives. Why parenting and family?
[00:04:10] DS: I am trying to help people in every area of their lives, but they’re so resistant. I finally said, “Okay, at least help your children. You don’t want to help yourself, and you’re so messed up in your own obsessions.” Maybe, I thought to myself, that if I could show people how badly they are damaged from their childhood, and help them deal with their children, maybe the big fat ego will burst, and that’s how I actually came to it, was like, “Maybe, you’ll bloody listen to me if I show you in terms of your own childhood, and in terms of children”, and that’s what struck a chord.
That’s one reason. But the other reason really, is that because everything really starts with the early parent child dynamic. Okay, we are messed up. We got screwed by our parents. Fine. But let’s not do this to our children. I really make a plea to parents. Please, yes, you are messed up. Yes, your parents weren’t conscious. But I’m giving you a way to unravel your childhood in a way that doesn’t pass on to your children and helps your children become who you could never be.
I think, parents hear that, because they hear my begging and my pleading. They remember their own pain from childhood. Then, they finally acquiesce and go, “Okay, we don’t want to pass this on to our children.” But let me tell you, it is still hard for me to do, because it’s such a deep conditioning. I mean, I’m banging my head on the wall, getting parents to see their own ego, because it’s so difficult for us humans. We are good at complaining about other people’s ego, but it’s very hard to see our own.
[00:05:58] PF: Yes. We live in a world that’s becoming more and more egocentric, because of things like social media. It turns it inward, those spotlights on us, instead of looking outward, so much of the time. What really burst you on the scene was your book, The Conscious Parent. I know other things we’re going to talk about build on that. I guess for a baseline, let’s talk about what you mean by conscious parenting.
[00:06:21] DS: To understand conscious parenting, you have to first understand that the predominant way we were all raised is the traditional parenting model. That model was based on hierarchy of the parent. The parent knows best. Control, shame, fear, guilt, punishment. That’s how we were raised. The parent was glorified in their authority and superiority. If you’re a parent out there, a mother right now, listening, you need to understand you were raised with this attitude that you know best, that you’re supposed to know best, that you’re supposed to control your children, and you’re supposed to raise perfect, super happy, super successful children.
First, you have to own that as a parent. “Yes, dammit, I was raised like that. Yes, I think my child belongs to me. Wow. Yes, she’s right.” First, we have to agree on that. Otherwise, we cannot agree on the second part, which is what is conscious parenting. Conscious parenting is for the parent to realize that they’re coming to the dynamic with their children full of their own parental expectations. They believe good parenting is to control the child.
Conscious parenting is for the parent to become aware of that, to realize that that is complete unconsciousness. That they need to raise themselves. They need to heal themselves. They need to stop using their children to fill their own inner longing. They need to stop asking their children to be happy, because that makes them happy, or be successful, because that makes them feel good about themselves. And begin to raise their children as the children need to be raised.
Yes, maybe your child will be a gardener. Maybe your child will be a baker. Maybe your child will be a mechanic and nobody’s child will be an Olympian. Yes, maybe so. That is completely okay. See, we’re not okay with that.
[00:08:20] PF: What’s so interesting is if you ask a parent, when they have a child, it’s like, “What do you want for your child?” They’re like, “I just want them to be happy.” That’s what an answer we hear a lot. But then the actions would tell us otherwise, because children are being, in many times, pushed into activities or academics that they’re not even interested in.
[00:08:39] DS: Yes. I’m not talking about this [inaudible 00:08:41] pleasure that we all have to indulge in. But I tell parents, you cannot ask for your children to be happy, because that’s coming from your idea of what happiness is. Why should they be happy? They’re allowed to be sad. They’re allowed to be angry. See, we were not allowed our big emotions, so it’s very frustrating for us when we see our children’s big emotions, even though our children are being human.
This whole idea of I want anything from anybody is really our own ego talking. Right? We can say, “I want this for myself.” We can’t say I want somebody else to be happy. Why? They can be whatever they want to be. We are so into this controlling mindset, that we don’t even realize how far reaching and deep this mindset of control is and we have to stop. Read my books and examine our need for control in a very deep way. Not a superficial way.
[00:09:42] PF: That’s so interesting, because your books have done wonderous things for people. Incredible. That has all led to your new book, The Parenting Map, and this one, you really smashed toxic patterns. You look about how to create authentic connections. Tell us how this book came about. You’re just building on everything you’ve already created.
[00:10:01] DS: Yes. I always say after every parenting book that it will be my last. But really, Paula, you can catch me on it, it’s my last parenting book. Because the other books were the what and the why, because I so needed to explain the what and the why, because people didn’t understand. This one is the how. So, this one is the 20-step how to become a conscious parent.
If anyone out there listening, is intrigued by my philosophy, and wants to dare, it’s a daring task to be a conscious parent, and dares to be conscious. They can pick up my book, The Parenting Map. It’s 20 easy steps with exercises. Listen, we have to take parenting more seriously than we are, because we are not realizing how toxic our current parenting practices are. Then, we want happy children. Then, we want secure children. Then, we want leaders, when we are the most toxic influences often in our children’s lives. So, if you’re a parent listening, and you want to be brave to change the parenting in your home, to become an enlightened parent, then my book will help you. I give practice exercises. We have to practice. My child is 20 years old, I am still practicing every day. It’s something we have to cultivate. It’s not something that we are born knowing how to do.
[00:11:26] PF: We think that we should. We think, I was raised. I was a child. I know how to be a child, so I know how to raise a child. Where does that mindset come from that, like, we just are all equipped to do it?
[00:11:37] DS: From extreme ignorance and stupidity. Really, because – and our ego, right? Our ego is so ignorant that it thinks it’s fine. It’s such blasphemy that we need to learn how to take care of – if you want to become a dog groomer, we need to pass a test, a license. If we need to drive a damn car, we have to take tests and licenses. Why do we think that we need to know and should know how to raise a child that we’ve never met? Never taken a psychology course. Because you know why? Parents are infused on steroids with this grand ego, that these people belong to me, and because they come from me, I will own the hell out of them.
It’s ownership. It’s blind, absolute control. It’s like saying, “I married you. I know you, and now you belong to me.” Right? But it’s even more crazy, because I didn’t even court this child. The child didn’t even have a choice. Now, I’m owning this child. It’s arrogance. It’s blind stupidity and arrogance that allows us to think that we should know it, because they come from us.
See, we mistake biology for psychology. Just because they biologically come from us, doesn’t mean we psychologically know who they are. We need to learn. We need to become humble. No one wants to be humble. I saw in my own parenting how arrogant I was. I was brought to my knees. That’s why I did this whole work. Because I was like, “Wow, you are so not good at this. Clueless.” I was humble enough to say I’m clueless. See, we’re so arrogant we don’t want to say we are clueless.
[00:13:14] PF: Right. I think it’s hard for people to acknowledge like, I don’t feel I’m very good at this, and I don’t feel like I’m in my element.
[00:13:22] DS: But why is it so hard? Because we have a damn big ego. We should be like, off the bat. I don’t know what to do. I remember when the nurse left my room, like she just left the room, and I was like, “Please come back. Don’t leave me with this” –
[00:13:35] PF: With this little person. I don’t know what to do.
[00:13:38] DS: I was happy to see I didn’t know because I was not so proud. See, it’s this false pride. We do not know what we’re doing. Nobody knows what they’re doing, including our parents who told us we should know what we’re doing. They are the culprit. Let’s blame them. Let’s admit we don’t know what we’re doing.
[00:13:59] PF: How does it change things when people are brought to their knees, as you say, and they start recognizing I do have these toxic patterns and what I’m doing isn’t working. When they’re able to acquiesce to that and accept that, how does it start changing their parenting mindset?
[00:14:15] DS: Oh, my God. It’s a huge floodgate of first, humility. Then, you begin to shut up. You stop blaming your child. Do you know what a huge paradigm shift that is, just you becoming aware that it’s you? You won’t open your mouth with that much grandiosity anymore. You’ll be like, “Oh, my goodness. Let me learn. Let me stop. Let me observe.”
The other day, a parent came to me and said, “Dr. Shefali, where is the fine line between mentoring my kid because I want to coach them and pushing them?” I said both of them are wrong. How about ask me where is the line between observing my child and observing them some more, and learning from them, and learning from them some more?” You see, we just refuse to believe we should be the students as much as we should be the teachers. I’m not saying don’t be the teacher, but be the student too. Can you learn from your child? So, this humility opens a floodgate of wisdom, and it just takes you off the pedestal. Your children feel it, your children approach you like a human being, and now they’re willing to learn. No one wants to learn from a dictator.
[00:15:33] PF: Right. That’s so interesting. You also talk about how our childhood wounds were playing out in our parenting role. Is that just our unresolved trauma that we end up bringing into our parenting? Then, what is that doing to our children?
[00:15:51] DS: Yes, yes, and yes. So, in my book, The Parenting Map, the second colored part of the book is all about breaking your parenting paradigms and patterns by recognizing your ego faces. Once you begin to become aware of how your ego is showing up from your childhood, then you begin to realize, “Wow, I learned this from my dad. I’m doing the same thing to my child and it’s so toxic. And my child is feeling unheard, and unseen, and unworthy. I’m creating low self-esteem. Do I want to keep doing this? Or do I want to break my pattern?” I teach people, step by step, how to break their childhood patterns.
[00:16:34] PF: This affects your relationship with your child, obviously. But how does it change relationships between partners, between spouses, as they break down some of these walls?
[00:16:44] DS: Because you become aware of your own ego, as I show you in the book, now you have awareness of your partners and your parent’s ego, and you begin to see how they have developed their ego phases. You have compassion. It doesn’t mean you need to stay, but you can at least have compassion, and realize it’s not personal. This just creates so much compassion in the world, so much upliftment in the world, so much radiance in the world, rather than bickering, and fighting, and domination in the world.
[00:17:17] PF: Have you seen a change the children of the people that you work with?
[00:17:22] DS: Well, my goodness, parents come and tell me, “My child just said to me to thank Dr. Shefali.” Or they say, “Go to Dr. Shefali. Read more about her books.” They get it. They’re like, “Do you see? Do you see? Finally, do you hear? I’ve been telling you all this time, mom, and you haven’t heard me. And now you’re listening to Dr. Shefali.”
I actually used to keep my own teachings away from my daughter, because she would kill me. She’ll be like, “You need to listen to you more.” But I do tell my daughter, and she’d be like, “Mom, you’re such a hypocrite. You don’t listen to Dr. Shefali.” She killed me. She’d be like, “See, you, yourself don’t listen to yourself.”
But what I’m trying to say is that children feel so heard and they feel so excited and they feel so happy and they flourish. My goodness. That’s why my work has become so popular is because parents see the effect. I get feedback all the time. It makes me so happy. I know what I’m saying works, because I’ve seen it work over and over again.
[00:18:30] PF: When we talk about parenting and talk about it on this level, we tend to think about young children. So, what about if you’re a parent of a teenager or even a young adult? Or if you’re a grandparent? Is this still going to apply to you? Can you still change your ways?
[00:18:45] DS: Of course. You can always be a better human. You can always break your patterns. You can always show up differently. I’m telling you, my daughter’s 20 and I’m doing it so much better today than I did 10 years ago. There’s no end to this growth. But you have to be willing to want to show a better. Who doesn’t want a better, more enlightened grandmother? I would love that.
[00:19:08] PF: That’s a great point.
[00:19:09] DS: I would love my grandmother to come right now and tell me, “I can see your mother is writing you for your grades, or writing you for your beauty, or writing you for your food, and this is how I want you to look at it, and give me an enlightened perspective.” Who doesn’t need a more enlightened perspective?
[00:19:26] PF: I love that. You’ve given us such a great body of work to build our lives on and to really recreate the idea of parenting. What is it with The Parenting Map that you most hope happens for people?
[00:19:37] DS: It’s just my plea and my offering to let’s do this work to end generational patterns of unconsciousness and toxicity, and make it different for our children.
[00:19:49] PF: What kind of world is that going to create? What is that going to look like as opposed to now?
[00:19:53] DS: Well, it’ll take a long time, but it’s person to person, human to human. It will start creating less suffering. Imagine, on every block, one house does conscious parenting. That can eventually become a town, right? Then, it can become a city. Then, it can become a nation. But it starts with this one parent at a time. I’ve been doing this way before Instagram came, and way before podcast, horse spreading this message, one barren at a time. Now, it’s become a movement. Now, conscious parenting is out there. That’s what I need. I need it to become like more, so that we have more enlightened parents and children feel safe to be children. What an amazing thing that would be.
[00:20:35] PF: I love it. Dr. Shefali. We have so much to learn from you. Thank you for spending your time with me today and I look forward to hearing more from you.
[00:20:43] DS: Thank you so much.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:20:49] PF: That was Dr. Shefali, talking about conscious parenting. If you’d like to follow Dr. Shefali on social media, learn more about her books, or discover how you can get free recordings of her Parenting Summit, and the Parent Reboot Workshop, just visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.
While you’re there, be sure and stop by the Live Happy Store to take advantage of our spring special where you can get 25% off storewide just by entering the code Spring 25. That is all we have time for today. Well meet you back here again next week for an all new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.