What is integral parenting?
Integral parenting is an evolutionary, developmental consciousness and skill set that empowers adults to connect and relate to themselves and children from wisdom and compassion. It is a way of parenting that is different in many respects from traditional parenting. It is an outgrowth of our personal conscious evolution, as well as the growing awareness of human rights in Western society and culture. It is not helicopter parenting or laissez-faire parenting.
It is characterized from the beginning by deep consistent involvement of all parties with one another. It really begins with the parents being committed to their own awakening and growth, as well as cooperating with the nature of the child, which, in turn, leads to deeper and deeper connection with each person. Instead of exercising power over the child, the parents develop power with the child; this is essential. Power struggles are greatly reduced because one-up power is no longer in practice. Neither are children falsely empowered in integral parenting. Influence goes in all directions and love, practiced by the parents from the outset, is the motivating force. It’s not about getting kids to cooperate. It’s about parents modeling same-as power at first with each other and teaching this way of being powerful with others, rather than having power over others.
Integral parenting is person-centered rather than child-centered or parent-centered. Initially, the focus is primarily on the needs of the child(ren), although not exclusively, with gradually developing respect for each person in the family and extending to others outside of the family.
All-inclusive respect is one of the cornerstones of integral parenting. This includes respecting oneself as well as others. This is extremely important for parents (frequently mothers) who may tend to forget their own needs in parenting their child. The needs of the child are always taken into account, yet not exclusively. Children gradually learn to take others’ needs into account as well as their own because this is what is modeled by their parents. They learn to become both assertive and considerate of others.
What does power look like in integral parenting?
It is power with one another, rather than over one another, and at the same time, recognizes and respects natural hierarchies and differential statuses. This means that parents and children have influence with one another and allow themselves to be influenced. Each person’s status in the family is acknowledged, honored and respected. Essentially, power in the family is the power of love rather than fear. Integral parenting acknowledges natural hierarchies, i.e. the different statuses of various family members with corresponding rights and duties, privileges and responsibilities, depending on age and capability of each member. No member of the family is more important or less important than any other.
Integral parenting is parenting from a deeply adult place rather than from wounded or adapted child. Attempting to parent from wounded child is extremely dysfunctional, and children suffer deeply when parents are barely older emotionally than the children. More common is parenting from adapted child – usually either in mostly unconscious conformity or rebellion to how we were parented. Unfortunately, children parented from adapted child are not really seen and responded to for who they are and are becoming. Integral parenting requires adults to do their own work of waking up and growing up, so that they can be responsive to their child as well as to their own needs.
In closing, the structures of integral parenting are gradually emerging in the consciousness of adults who are evolving their own integral development. Parenting from wisdom and compassion is a hallmark of spiritual intelligence in adults who choose this way of life. None of us are perfect at this. We do have the ability to become more and more skillful, more and more grown up in our lives, even as we support our children’s growth and development.
This is our evolutionary journey together in the awesome adventure of conscious, integral parenting.
In his excellent book, INTO THE WILD, John Krakauer tells the true story of a young man who ventures into the wilderness of Alaska woefully unprepared. He didn’t even have a map of the terrain that might have saved his life.
This is unfortunately the situation of many, if not most, stepfamilies starting out. They embark on this amazing and daunting adventure of stepfamily life without guidance or even a map!
The statistics on the breakup of new families that think they have to go it alone and are not coached represent a national tragedy. One out of two new stepfamilies break up within the first two years. In contrast, stepfamilies that are coached and supported have an excellent survival rate. The Stepfamily Association of New York reports an 85% success rate with families that seek out coaching and counseling.
With this in mind, the Relationship Resource Center of Denver wants you to be aware of its ongoing commitment to stepfamilies. For many years we have helped parents and stepparents recognize and resolve the difficult status issues that are part and parcel of stepfamily formation and are not addressed even in the current literature on stepfamilies. (We plan to remedy this soon by publishing our work on status issues). We are breaking new ground in counseling stepfamilies and are excited to share our knowledge and experience with you.
It is important to realize that most stepfamilies starting out have little or no idea of what they are getting into, and they can really benefit from counseling and coaching. Many people who are stuck in pain because they have been floundering and become lost in this difficult territory, possibly for years, can also use wise and compassionate stepfamily counseling. We encourage you to let us be your experienced and caring guides on your stepfamily journey.
It can be very helpful to remember, you are not crazy, even if living in a stepfamily makes you feel like you are at times!
By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker