mother and kids having fun outside

When I wrote the title of this blog, I think I might have been overly ambitious. How DO you raise healthy, happy kids? It’s a question I ponder almost every day and one my readers ask me about frequently.

Because I’m a mom, doctor, and entrepreneur, I’m often asked about my parenting choices, and as you may have noticed in my blog, I pretty much steer clear of anything you might call “mommy blogging,” not because I don’t have plenty to say about the topic but because:

  1. Anything even beginning to resemble parenting advice can push a parent into a shame spiral quicker than you can blink
  2. I want to protect Siena’s privacy
  3. I don’t want to bore you with all too many details of my home life
  4. With fabulous writers like my friend Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery mommy blogging, I have no business even getting in that arena!

Parenting is one of those areas of greatest vulnerability for most of us. From the moment I saw the plus sign on my positive pregnancy test, I just knew I was going to do it all wrong.

Like me, most of you who are parents probably question yourselves all the time. We bumble through life as parents wondering whether we’re feeding our kids the right foods, sending them to the right schools, pushing them hard enough to excel vs. pushing them too hard, disciplining them enough but not too much, loving them well with our limited time and patience, teaching them the right life wisdom, boosting their self esteem enough.

YOU Know Best How To Parent Your Children!

The ways in which you can screw up as parents are endless. Some of you write to me and ask me about my parenting choices, and I’m reluctant to answer you, because ONLY YOU know how to best parent your kid. The choices I make as a mother only apply to my little family- not yours. And I don’t want you to judge yourself- or me- based on the choices I make.

But with that disclaimer, I’m going to dedicate this blog to a few select questions from readers, as long as you promise not to use them as some measuring stick by which you’ll judge anyone, especially yourself. I’m sure you’re doing a great job with your own kids!

1.  From your Facebook posts, Siena seems so self-assured, creative, and spiritual. What have you done to raise such an exceptional child?

Yes, Siena is exceptional. But every child is exceptional. I believe every child is born with an inborn divine spark, and the worst thing we can do as parents is extinguish this natural spark. We do this by trying to impose our will upon our children, by controlling them, by competing with them, by criticizing them, by undermining their natural genius, by dismissing their creativity, by physically harming them, by neglecting them, by manipulating them, and by imposing upon them the limiting beliefs, self-sabotaging behaviors, and patterns we’ve inherited from our own childhoods. We do many of these things unconsciously through habitual behaviors, so the best thing we can do as parents is increase our own awareness through personal growth work aimed at helping us be more conscious, mindful individuals aware that we are all spirits having a human experience.

2. How are you educating your daughter?

Siena attends a private school inspired by Waldorf, not because we have elitest beliefs about public school (Matt and I both attended public schools), but because she attended her school for preschool and we loved the school’s philosophy so much, we chose to keep her there. What I love best is that the school nurtures the spiritual growth of the children without being religious, and it fosters immense creativity, as well as very healthy non-competitive social skills.

3. What do you feed Siena?

Whatever we’re eating. She never gets special food. Even as a baby, we just blended our dinner in a food processor and turned it into baby food. I joke that we’re “raw vegan omnivores” because we eat a lot of raw, vegan foods, but we also eat meat from time to time. Siena loves vegetables, and I’ve taught her how to help me cook, so she’s really proud to eat the stir fry she cut and stirred herself. She adores heirloom tomato soup, which we just made this week from tomatoes we got at the farmer’s market. She won’t drink the green juice Matt and I drink daily, but if we mix it with half apple juice and freeze it into molds, she loves “green apple popsicles.” She also loves my go to smoothie- kale, frozen mango, and coconut water.

The most unhealthy thing she eats is her Annie’s mac & cheese (a Daddy staple when Mama is on the road.) We do let her eat sugar on special occasions, but mostly, fruit is her dessert. She really will eat anything except avocado, olives, and spicy food. Go figure.

4. You talk a lot about how we program the subconscious mind of our children by the time they’re seven. Siena’s seven. What have you done to keep her mind healthy?

I was in the middle of writing Mind Over Medicine when I interviewed Bruce Lipton, and some of what he told me terrified me! I filled in Matt, and because Siena was four, we figured we had a few good years to do some serious reprogramming. The most notable thing we did was work on the limiting belief we had been instilling that you can’t heal yourself. We had been raising her to believe that when she got injured or sick, she needed to go to the “kid factory” to get a new knee or a new nose. She also was learning that getting sick or injured meant that the solution lies in a doctor or a medication.

After talking to Bruce, we started teaching Siena how the body is brilliantly equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms and can heal itself. So now, we’ll put on a Band-aid and say, “This is just to keep your boo boo clean while your body heals itself.” Or we’ll give her cold medicine and say, “This is just to help you feel better until your body heals itself.” She corrects everyone now! “You know your body can heal itself…”

5.  What are you doing to make sure you raise your daughter with a healthy body image?

Siena is exceptionally beautiful in that blue eyed, blond haired California girl way, and from the time she was an infant, modeling agents stopped me in airports to ask if they could represent her. We made a decision early on that we would not be letting her model until she was old enough to make an adult decision about modeling. (I picked the brains of a few supermodels, just to make sure Matt and I were making the right decision!) I just never wanted her growing up thinking that her value lies in her beauty. In fact, we try to discourage people from even mentioning her beauty, encouraging them to focus instead on how kind, creative, smart, and friendly she is. I think it’s very important to be careful what we say about the appearance of our children, even if it’s positive feedback. Because whether it’s positive or negative, if kids build their self worth, or lack thereof, on something external, there can be lasting consequences down the road.

One of the best ways to help a girl grow up with a healthy body image is to model one. I try not to ever critique my body or my weight in front of Siena. A mother with a healthy body image is more likely to raise a child with a healthy body image.

6. Did you vaccinate your daughter?

Yes. I know it’s a controversial topic, but I chose what I thought was best for my child and respect your right to choose what suits you. You can read my thoughts about it here.

7. How do you balance a busy career and motherhood?

That’s the hardest question and could use a blog post all on its own. (In fact, I did write one- about how I chose my daughter over Good Morning America here). But in short, part of how I manage being a mother and a businesswoman is that I have great help. Matt doesn’t work outside the house, and he’s been Siena’s full time caregiver from the time she was born. We also have April, who lives in our guest house, loves and helps care for Siena, and also helps in the kitchen. She helps free up Matt so he can pursue his own passions. Matt and April do most of the school deliveries and tooth-brushing, so I try to make my time with Siena high quality time. We have family dinners whenever I’m home. Siena and I write her books together (she’s on book #3.) We read. We play games. We pick Goddess cards. I teach her Mama Mojo Tips and she teaches me Siena Mojo Tips. We go on family outings and family vacations.

But I’d be lying if I said I don’t constantly beat myself up for not being there enough. Matt is forever reassuring me that Siena is growing up confident, secure, and full of Mama love, but I feel guilty often, and I say no to many opportunities that would benefit my career because they require travel. I love my work and feel very purposeful in my mission, but if I succeed in my mission at the expense of my child’s happiness, I chose wrong. That reality is always in the forefront of my mind.

8. Is Siena involved in any extracurricular activities?

She’s been taking ballet and guitar lessons. But we’re also really encouraging her to be a kid. She plays in the yard a lot with her 2 BFFs. (You can read about her grand adventure here, yikes!) She paints all the time and has had her own art show. She loves to help me cook. She dictates stories to me and I type them and she illustrates them, and we self-publish them on Blurb.com so she can have book signings like Mama. Mostly, she seven, so she does a lot of kid stuff!

9. What’s the most important parenting tip you’d give a parent?

I have two. Love your kid unconditionally, and trust your intuition. Unconditional love- real unconditional love, where you love your children even if they’re not behaving how you want them to- will heal a variety of other goofs. And ignore any parenting advice you hear if it doesn’t resonate with your own instincts. Nobody knows your child better than you.

What Parenting Advice Do YOU Have?

Share your parenting wisdom in the comments below.

Doing the best I can,

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14 Comments

  1. James Maynard

    I chose not to have children, but, wound up being a step-father, grandfather and great-grandfather by marriage. Especially like your comment to trust your instincts.

    Reply
    • patricia rankin

      Lynne, Lissa’s father had stage 4 melanoma too. Your husband must be living “You can heal yourself” to the best possible effect. I pray he lives a long, happy, healthy life to be there for your children. They will learn great life lessons from watching how you both handle this rocky road. Blessings.

      PS. Siena is an amazing child. Really she is. But she is being modeled well by both Lissa and Matt, especially learning through watching them love and accept everyone. My daughter has taught me so much and I’m not sure many parents can say that.

      Reply
      • Lissa_Rankin

        Ah, Mom- thank you! I had an amazing mother as a teacher.

        Love you bunches,
        Lissa

        Reply
  2. Léo Lee

    I smiled as I got to the end. A young man is here to install solar panel on the roof. We were talking about life in general, and he said he worried about parenting (although he and his wife do not have kids yet). I told him exactly what you said at the end: Love them unconditionally, and trust your selves. As you say, every family has different people, what works for one group may or may not work for another. Many people out there like to tell other what to do. But in the end,. just love them deeply and unconditionally, and you can tell what is working and what is not. And we are all human, we all make mistakes. Just accept that, and watch out for those moments and learn from them, that is some good role modeling if nothing else. Good luck to all on the journey.

    Reply
  3. Lynne Newman

    Fantastic Lissa! I resonate with what you’ve said…trusting our instincts and doing what feels right as a family. Aligning our values with our choices. Sometimes we can get sidetracked by guilt and comparing.

    Our conscious choices such as modeling for our children how to BE in the world is what matters. We all do the best we can with the info we have.

    My husband has stage 4 melanoma, since I was pregnant with my first (now 3.5 years old)…and we teach her too that the body can heal itself. And that we love her no matter what, despite sometimes making poor choices! Ooo how they can push our buttons 😉

    All my best

    Reply
  4. T Diaz

    Amen, sistah! I love the discussion of awareness and intuition. When we we follow our mommy (or daddy) gut, all will be well 🙂

    Reply
  5. jacquelynbodeutsch

    Thank you for writing this! I just love everything you wrote. You are a beautiful soul! right on! (:

    Reply
  6. Barb

    Here is my best parenting advice:
    “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
    ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

    It has been a great guide for me.

    Reply
  7. Jenni Hulburt

    really nice wisdom Lissa! thank you. I recently had someone do my Inspire Workouts with their daughter and she thought it turned out as a great way to get them moving together, mind-body-spirit. Thought someone might like the parenting advice I got from her… use the power of exercise and positive thoughts to spend time with your daughter.

    Reply
  8. Gail Cassidy

    I enjoy reading your books and blogs. I agree with “unconditional love” as the basis for raising children and would add one element, “boundaries.” Unconditional love and boundaries are what I consider the basics. Children are not born with an innate ability to understand civility and kindness. Thank you, Lissa, for what you are doing for our medical community.

    Reply
  9. americanreal

    “he’s been Siena’s full time caregiver from the time she was born.” That strikes me as such an odd statement. Isn’t he her FATHER?? Why call him a “caregiver” instead of a parent?

    Reply
    • LP Smith

      We all as humans make some statements that can be perceived by others as “odd”. It’s what makes us each unique and “odd” at times:)

      Reply
  10. lv2terp

    Fantastic post! I really enjoyed reading this, and plan to incorporate #4 into my dialogue with my kids, I feel that way, but realize now that I don’t really verbalize it. Thank you for shedding light on that for me! 🙂 What I wld add from my experience is that respect is HUGE. When I became a mother consistency was on the top of my list, which is crucial yes, but then realized as the kids got older that respect trumped that. Mainly modeling respect to each and every person…strangers, spouse/partner, to them as well, and reinforcing respect to their siblings. In my opinion it has proven to be the most important aspect and cause for them to be the amazing people that they are. 🙂 Thank you again Lissa for your mission, and shining your light/knowing onto the world! 🙂

    Reply

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