Shaping Our Parenting Behavior?

Parents Behavior Iceberg

Some of you may have seen the image below before? I love it. Talk about “if a picture paints a thousand words”! It’s by Kelly Bartlett.


I think that it offers parents a perfect lens for looking at and helping us understand our children’s behavior. We only see such a little piece of what is really going on and this visual helps remind me that the roots for most of our behaviors are found deep below the surface. However, they influence the small visible part of us in the most profound of ways.

This got me thinking and I started to look at my own behavior through this lens. Hence I crafted a new picture to capture the essence of this perspective.

My behavior as a parent is also like an iceberg. My children only see a very small part of me. A fraction of what is really going on deep inside me.

I might be tired, hungry, mad, overwhelmed, dissatisfied and insecure about something. But my kids don’t know that.

They come into the house after school and my youngest runs up to greet me… the me with all of this going on below.

With my unmet needs, feelings of overwhelm and hunger I demand things of my kids. I focus on what’s not been done. My negative nagging tone and body language say it all. Off I go… until that moment of consciousness rescues me from me going further down this path.

Stop. Pause. Take a deep breath. Slow down. Think. What is going on here?

I ask myself: Do my kids deserve this?

It’s not their fault that I am where I am right now. Not their fault I went to bed late because I couldn’t resist watching another episode of House of Cards. Not their fault Staples hadn’t done my printing on time. Not their fault that I forgot to eat lunch and am now “hangry” (hungry and angry). Not their fault that I am worried about how on earth I’m going to make a work deadline.

The reality is that yes, I’m a busy, working Mum but my kids do not deserve my short fuse because of it. How can I expect them to respond to me well when this is how I communicate with them.

Our internal landscape influences and shapes our behavior and how we interact and communicate more than we will ever know.

How can I shape my behavior more positively?

In order to do this, regularly asking myself questions like the ones in this photograph really helps. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Parents Behavior Iceberg

When I take a moment to decipher my own internal landscape, decode my own thoughts, fears, agenda’s and the likes, the interactions I have with my children are more positive. Doing this allows me to transform potentially tense, highly emotional situations into highly meaningful and deeply connecting ones.

When I manage to get into the conscious mindset before I engage with my children I reap the benefits it brings in strengthening our relationship. Other times, like the one I shared with you earlier, I get caught up in it all – I’m human, I’m a Mum. But, as long as I recognize it and can prevent the total landslide it’s better than not recognizing it at all.

The more conscious I am, the more aware I can be. The more clarity I can get, the more I will understand. The answers to many of these questions in the photo above help me formulate an appropriate conscious response rather than a highly charged, unconscious, in the heat of the moment reaction.

From this conscious place of deep knowing, I am more likely to be able to shape my own behavior to be more mindful, to meet each present moment with a clean slate and meet my children where they are at.

For me, this way of being is a work in progress but it does bring about transformational change. Try it for yourself. Very quickly you will notice fewer moments of conflict in your relationships with your children.

If you would like to learn more about how to be a more conscious parent, please do let me know. I will be running a four part Conscious Parenting workshop in the new year.

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