What is Wholistic Parenting?

Updated: Feb 1

I’ve been a therapist for a long time, and for the length of my entire career, my focus has been working with families. When I became a mother myself, I applied what I had learned as a therapist to my role as a mom. Essentially, I was making sure that I was “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk.” That was important to me. Not because I wanted to make sure my children were successful or because I knew these techniques worked, but because I firmly believed that whatever I asked of my clients, I had to be willing to do myself.

Over the years, I received fabulous mentorship from amazing marriage & family therapists, I worked closely with those who specialized in family dynamics and human connection, and I watched as what I learned transformed lives. Then, I used the same techniques for my own family, and I got to enjoy the fruits of that hard labor as my own children (though still small) received compliment after compliment, and acknowledgement after acknowledgement for their behavior. And not just for their behavior, for their kindness, their compassion towards others, and for their bright personalities and sunny dispositions. Of course, they make mistakes. By no means are they perfect… no one is! It’s about how they handle their errors and grow from them that really makes them shine.

So, what’s the secret? What is it that I learned from experts, taught to my clients, and practiced with my own children that made all the difference?

The reality is that it’s not magic (but you knew that already), and it’s not a special kind of disciplinary technique that you apply or specific way you talk to your kids, or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are useful and do help, but this is a bigger, broader thing we are going to talk about.

See, parenting is incredibly hard. Not just because it’s a 24/7 kind of gig, but because it’s incredibly complex. It’s like an onion in many ways, with layers after layers of things you have to keep in mind all the time. I liken it to spinning plates. Have you ever seen an image like that? A guy spinning a bunch of plates on sticks… parenting is just like that. And here’s why….

Each plate is a component to the parenting gig that you have to keep in mind. But you have to keep every single plate in mind 100% of the time. If you don’t, that’s how you accidentally drop one. And when one falls, another one is likely to drop too. That’s parenting in a nutshell!

This is why there are hundreds (even thousands) of parenting books out there and none of them solve every family’s problem. It’s not because those books aren’t helpful or because they’re wrong. In fact, many of those books are incredibly helpful and spot on! I recommend many of them in my work with families.

The reason why is because each of those books are only looking at one of those spinning plates, maybe even a few of those plates, but certainly not all of them. What’s more, those books aren’t helping parents learn what all of those spinning plates even are!

Think about it… how can you keep track of something when you aren’t even aware that it exists? How are you going to be held responsible for something when no one told you that was one of your responsibilities?

Parenting is more than just a slew of parenting techniques or knowing how to talk to your kids. Each one of those things is a layer to the onion or one of those spinning plates. And you can be a master at those things and still find your family struggling!

So, what do you do? How do you figure this out? You want to be a good parent, right? We all do! But where do you even start?

Well… you start by gaining awareness.

Awareness to Wholistic Parenting

The term “wholistic” (or “holistic”) shouldn’t be new to anyone. If you googled this term, you’d end up with the following definition from grammarist.com:

Wholistic is the philosophy that all parts of a thing are interconnected. In medicine, wholistic treatment is the treatment of a person as a whole, mind, body and social factors.”

This is the missing link. This is the piece that I spent so many years observing, so many years teaching, and now practice in my own home. It’s this idea of being wholistic, of taking into account the mind, body, and social environment of my family and shaping my parenting to those factors. Those are the spinning plates, the multiple layers that impact your ability to be an effective parent. It’s what I’ve come to call Wholistic Parenting.

When you become a Wholistic Parent, you become knowledgeable of each one of those spinning plates. And because you have this knowledge, you are able to seek out and acquire parenting techniques that make sense for you and your family. You are able to adapt different techniques to make them fit your parenting needs, and you are able to take life’s curve balls with more grace and calm. This is the value of taking a Wholistic Parenting approach.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to Wholistic Parenting by mapping out all of those pieces that comprise of the mind, body, and environment for you and your family. Essentially, I’m going to help you see each of those layers on that onion, each of those spinning plates, so you have a greater awareness of what being a parent is really all about.

Breaking Down Wholistic Parenting

I would be lying if I were to say that Wholistic Parenting is easy- it isn’t. There are so many parts that it can feel a little overwhelming. To help us better capture what Wholistic Parenting is all about, I created a map to reference as we break down all the layers.