Who is the Center of Parenting?

When we talk about parenting, many people might think the children are the center. However, the most effective parenting is centered on the parent(s). In a heart-centered way of being, the heart is at the center – not what the heart serves. For example, the limbs are very important body parts, but the heart must still be at the center in order to effectively support the limbs. When you put your own oxygen mask on first as a parent, then you have something to give to the children. To achieve true balance and harmony in your family, your children must orbit around you like the moon orbits around the earth. When your entire focus and attention goes to the children, it breeds insecurity and self-absorption and perpetuates generations of self-sacrifice in parenting. Self-sacrifice is not heart-centered. In the system of a body, the heart does not sacrifice itself for other parts of the system. It takes care of itself to tend to others.

When we look at family systems, we see they work almost like our own solar system with the Sun as the obvious center. In all family systems there’s also an absolute center to the system, which is always present. However, in many family systems this center is unspoken.  

When the family is working at its heart-centered best, there is a single, defined center. The family system may follow a traditional orbit around the mother, who holds the home together, while the father works and tends to the finances. It may be that the family system is centered around the father, while the mother goes out and works. It may be that the center is shared between the two parents. The parents orbit each other in a shared dance around a central point. The children orbit this system like planets orbit around binary stars. It may be that there is only one parent in the picture and they are the center. Or three parents.  Or two mothers or two fathers. Whatever the situation, there must be one single center.  It is best to have the center clearly and consciously defined.

Looking at the traditional family structure, the key to success is having a mother who is coming from her will, happy, and in balance. For a mother to be at the center of the system, she must have the best interests of the father and the children at heart. If she doesn’t have their best interests at heart, then she is not fit to be the center of the family system until she does. In this case, it would be better for the father to be at the center, assuming the father has the best interests of the mother and the children. Similar analysis holds true for any family system. The clearly defined center must have the best interests of the family at heart.

Family systems start to break down when there is more than one center.  In parallel astronomical terms, the orbit starts to wobble when there are competing gravitational points at the center. This can happen when manipulative children play one parent against the other, when a marriage breaks down and the former partners try to weaponize their children against each other, or when a new adult enters a stable co-parenting situation. 

To stabilize the system, a new center needs to be reached. In modern times, defining a new center often involves the court system, which can often cause as many problems as it solves. In a heart-centered family system, all involved adults need to feel into the complete family and reach an equilibrium, which is best for the entire field of all the parents and children in the system. Their competing egos must be pushed aside for the benefit of everyone.

In the case of a separated family, there are often two centers with one around each parent. The children adapt to the different sets of rules and parameters for each situation. The better coordinated both parents are in the service of the children, the more harmony will exist for the children. Unfortunately, this is not always possible given the reasons the parents have separated usually have to do with some fundamental disagreement or mismatch in values that often persists in the co-parenting dynamic.

Happy Children Orbit Around the Parent

Happy, well-balanced children orbit around their parents, much like the earth orbits around the sun. Children don’t need to be the center of the solar system or family system. In fact, when they are the center, they don’t have enough love or perspective to hold the system together. It literally stresses them out. Developmentally, children are simply not ready for this. In many indigenous tribes, the children simply circle around the parents in this way. It makes life move in a kind of harmony in the family when the children are following the adults. Since the adults are more experienced with living on earth, they should typically be the leaders of the family system. There are many children who may be more mature than their parents though. This is especially true in the case of severely abusive parents or parents who are lost deeply in addictions or some kind of trauma. When this is the case, the children can not be fully happy, but they will lead the system if there’s no leadership there. Oftentimes, the oldest sibling can take on this role. 

Free Yourself from The Parenting Trap

Sacrificing yourself for your children is a time honored tradition in which no one is currently happy, because we sacrifice our life force for the future success of our children. This is a recipe for zero happiness. Children can not be truly happy, if the parents aren’t having fun. And, the children will become future unhappy parents. This is absolutely no fun for anyone! 

You can live for yourself now and support your children. When you live for your own best interest in your parenting, it becomes a radical act of liberation from the shackles of conditioning. It’s all about your mentality! When you believe you have to sacrifice yourself just like your parents did when you were a child, then you will find yourself fulfilling this belief. When you take the approach that you are on an adventure of love and liberation, then you can realize the greatest potential imaginable in parenting. Let’s make parenting the most free-loving activity we could ever engage in! Let’s play with it so fully and completely that we celebrate this act as a revolutionary change in all of human consciousness.

The Orders of Love

In a family system, there’s an order to the way love flows best. When the order is not honored, disharmony is born. In family, or in any relationship, self-love comes first. Unless we put our own oxygen mask on first, how can we love another and have something actually true to give them? Cultivating self-love is a life’s work, not something expected to be an accomplishment in a moment, a month, or a year. However, when tending to yourself and loving yourself is at the center of your life, there’s a quality of ease and peace that enters all your endeavors. 

Next, love your partner or the children’s other parent. After loving yourself, this is the next place for love to flow. A lot of confusion and schisms happen when one parent places the children in front of the other parent. After self-love comes your spouse/partner. 

And, after the spouse/partner, comes the child or children. Often we put our children before our partner or our “self.” This engenders insecure and narcissistic tendencies in the child. Their ego gets an overinflated sense of importance and centrality that sets them up for selfishness. It also will drive a wedge between you and your partner. 

The Importance of Community

It takes a village to raise a child, as the old African saying goes. In other words, a nuclear family is not equipped to raise a child. Surrounding yourself with a supportive team is essential to being successful and staying sane as you journey through parenting. This can include people who give you insight into parenting, provide day care or spend time with your children so you are not constantly with them, or who teach your children specialized skills, which they would not be able to learn from you. The more trusted allies you have to help you on this adventure, the more fun and less burdensome parenting can be. 

Guarding your Time

When you are with your children, who is in charge of your time? How are decisions made about what is done? It’s important that you focus on what is best in all ways for you as the parent and a secondary focus is to take your children’s needs and desires into account. For example, if the children  want to play a card game and you don’t,  then there should be no card game with you playing it. Every little decision must feel right to you. Not right from some selfish sense of defending against the children, but right from the deepest essence and place of your being. Most parents in the U.S. either dedicate most of their time to their children without any regard for themselves, or are neglectful and devote no time to their children and let their children flounder. In a balanced way of parenting, there’s a kind of free range independent ethic cultivated in the children where they can go off and do their thing and are not dependent on the parents for constant encouragement or attention. With that, there’s a genuine desire to spend occasional quality time between the parent and children, resulting in so much love in the family, which fosters a good connection. 

Self Love is the Center

In this radical system of parenting, self-love is at the center of everything we do. We know that we can’t truly love our children if we are not loving our “self.” We have heard the message on the airplane that we must put our own oxygen mask on first before we help another or the biblical message that we must fill our own cup before we fill another’s cup. When we place self-love at the center, then we can give to others out of the love that overflows from our hearts.

One Great Focus for Parenting is Personal Growth

This can seem counterintuitive since parenting is so focused on the child. However, as a parent, when you focus on your own personal growth you have more leverage to affect change. Your parenting becomes more playful and dynamic. You can influence a child’s behavior but if you are truly loving you can’t control them. You can control your own development. It’s completely up to you how fast you grow and learn. 

When you play the game of self-development with your parenting, in the service of your child, you maximize your potential fully. Parenting is hard. There’s no way around this truth. Think of any other activity where you are on for 18 years or more and have to work everyday to pour your energy and time in. But this job you don’t get paid for, you actually pay to be a parent. It takes an enormous amount of energetic and financial resources to be a parent. 

Experience it: Shifting the Focus to You

  1. Notice something that’s going on in the children. And, notice what is coming up for you.
  2. How do you feel about it?
  3. How does it affect you?
  4. Let yourself feel whatever you feel here with acceptance
  5. If you pretend for a moment that children came into your life only to help you grow, what is the lesson here?
  6. Embrace the lesson that is coming through your children right now for you.
  7. Thank them for showing you this about yourself.

Join the Revolution

Adam Bulbulia’s upcoming book, Parenting from the Heart: A Guide to Create a Family Culture that Works for Everyone will be available on Amazon, as are his earlier three books on the topics of nurture being, love, and authenticity. As you continue your exploration of heart-centered principles, we invite you to read other articles on our blog. We also offer parenting coaching, personal coaching, and business consulting.  

To join Heart-Centered Revolutions and make a world that works for everyone, sign up for our mailing list. This act places you firmly at the center of our communication channels. By far, the best way to join this revolution, though, is to practice opening your heart and truly coming from empathy and unconditional love for yourself and everyone around you. 

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