The Four Agreements©, by Don Miguel Ruiz, was published in 1997 and has sold over 10 million copies in the United States alone. It is one of my absolute favorite books.
In this article, I show how each agreement applies to parenting, because these four agreements encompass the wisdom of conscious parenting fully.
1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
- only say what you mean and mean what you say; so many times we say things to our children to “motivate” them, or to scare them, or to “make a joke” etc. but children take to heart everything we say as the Truth, especially young children, under 7 years old;
- when you promise something, small or big, keep your word NO MATTER WHAT; children build their sense of self- worth from how we treat them on a daily basis; when we break our word (promises), we break their trust in us and more importantly, in themselves- because in their young minds, they translate: “If I were important (if I were worth it) to mom/dad, they would have made the effort”; this translation happens through feelings and perceptions, not language;
- when we do what we say we’ll do, we also model determination, self- respect and self- discipline, which leads to grit.
2. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
- children say a lot of mean things when they are dysregulated (angry, sad, disappointed, scared); most parents I know take these words very personally, unfortunately, and react in self- defense: yelling, punishing, lecturing, and withdrawing affection;
- when we take things personally, we make the situation about US, and lose the capacity to stay present and attuned to the child’s needs in the very moment; as a result, the relationship suffers;
- when connection breaks, it is SOLELY the adult’s responsibility to repair and reconnect; however, that’s impossible if the adult takes the position of the victim (consciously or unconsciously).
3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
- a child’s off-track behavior is very misleading; unfortunately, parents make dangerous assumptions, such as: He/She knows better; He just wants to defy me; She can do it but is lazy; He is not good at math etc.
- parents tend to judge and label children in terms of Good and Bad: good job; good boy; good girl; good grades-bad grades; in reality, nothing is good or bad; this simplistic way of thinking narrows a child’s potential into “you must fit in a culturally dictated box to be loved and accepted”;
- making assumptions shuts down a parent’s ability to stay present and listen.
4. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST
- as parents, we always do our best; we do the best we can with the tools, knowledge and awareness we have at any given moment;
- the question is: Can we do better? What do we need to do better?
- we want to do better, but we can’t; we are tired, overworked, unsupported, and isolated;
- the goal is to NOT give up on wanting to do better every day- by being curious, studying, learning, reading, seeking help and support; by not doing this work alone.