"The best manuals on parenting can sometimes serve as useful references, giving us new ways of seeing situations, and reassuring us, especially in the early years of parenting, or when we are dealing with special problems, that there are various ways to handle things and that we are not alone.
But what these books often do not address is the inner experience of parenting. What do we do with our own mind, for instance? How do we avoid getting swallowed up and overwhelmed by our doubts, our insecurities, by the real problems we face in our lives, by the times when we feel inwardly in conflict, and the times when we are in conflict with others, including our children? Nor do they indicate how we might develop greater sensitivity and appreciation for our children's inner experience.
To parent consciously requires that we engage in an inner work on ourselves as well as in the outer work of nurturing and caring for our children. The "how-to" advice that we can draw upon from books to help us with the outer work has to be complemented by an inner authority that we can only cultivate within ourselves through our own experience. Such inner authority only develops when we realize that, in spite of all of the things that happen to us that are outside of our control, through our choices in response to such events and through what we initate ourselves, we are still, in large measure, "authoring" our own lives. In the process, we find our own ways to be in this world, drawing on what is deepest and best and most creative in us. Realizing this, we may come to see the importance for our children and for ourselves of taking responsibility for the ways in which we live our lives and for the consequences of the choices we make.
Inner authority and authenticity can be developed to an extraordinary degree if we do that inner work. Our authenticity and our wisdom grow when we purposely bring awareness to our own experience as it unfolds. Over time, we can learn to see more deeply into who our children are and what they need, and take the initiative in finding appropriate ways to nourish them and further their growth and development. We can also learn to interpret their many different, sometimes puzzling signals and to trust our ability to find a way to respond appropriately. Continual attention, examination, and thoughtfulness are essential even to know what we are facing as parents, much less how we might act effectively to help our children to grow in healthy ways.
Parenting is above all uniquely personal. Ultimately, it has to come from deep inside ourselves. Someone else's way of doing things will never do. We each have to find a way that is our own, learning from all useful sources along the way. We have to learn to trust our own instincts and to nourish and refine them."