I wanted to share this comment I received from a reader. Thank you Mackenzie for allowing me to share your thoughts with our readers.
“I’m a parent of a mostly happy seven month old daughter. I’m also an adult educator who helps parents understand the important difference between reacting (when we let our immediate emotions decide how to react to a child’s behavior) and responding (when take a moment to stop and think about how we actually want to respond to our child’s behavior). One simple way to remember this difference is to tell yourself to “Stop. Breathe. Talk.” It sounds so simple, right? And most people assume I must get it right every time, but that is NOT true… In my head I know that my daughter feels things intensely (like her momma does) and responds with the same intensity because she doesn’t have the skills to cope appropriately yet. And still, in the heat of an overwhelming moment, I definitely have to take that second to think to myself, “Stop. Breathe. Talk”.
“Like last night, my teething daughter was up for the second time in the middle of night (a phase I thought we had finally made it through). I picked her up from her crib and tried to soothe her back to sleep for a few minutes. When she calmed down, I set her back into the crib and headed back to bed. Seconds after I get back under the covers, I hear the crying start again. It’s the middle of the night, I’m tired. I start to huff back to her crib irritated. As I walk I’m saying to myself, “Just sleep! Why won’t you sleep? I’m so sick of this!” I walk up to her crib… “Wait,” I think to myself. “She isn’t doing this to you. She is having a hard time and needs her momma to help her through this.” So I stop. I walk into the hallway. I take a deep breath. I walk back up to her crib. In a calm voice I say, “I know, sweet girl. Getting teeth is hard work. Mommy is here.” I pick her up and rub her back. Her body relaxes and after a few minutes, I set her down in her crib, totally asleep.”
“Even as someone who teaches these skills to fellow parents, I know I don’t get it right every time. But in the moments where I remind myself to “Stop. Breathe. Talk”, I do better. That extra second gives me the chance to consider my emotions and reaction, and change it into the kind of response I want to have. ”
Consider one of the last frustrating interacting you had with your child. Would it have ended differently if you had chosen to Stop. Breathe. Talk.? Comment and tell us about a time when this strategy has worked for you! We’d love to hear from you!”
Research shows that physical punishment and yelling is harmful.
So what can we do instead?
As we wind down our conversations on guidance & discipline it becomes important to just step back and focus on 3 simple steps. At any age and in any situation we can help ourselves by remembering to take a moment to stop, take a breath and use a calm voice as we talk to our child about our expectations.
No matter what age our children are, we can stop, breathe and talk. Even a crying infant can be comforted by our slowed breathing and calm reassuring voice. Toddlers can see our calm demeanor and notice our quieter voice. The elementary and middle school child notices that we are role-modeling actions for them to mirror.
Talk doesn’t mean lecture. It can be as simple as, “I hear you” or “I see that you are upset right now”. Allowing children a safe place to express their strong feelings while we model a calm, cool and collected approach, is the best kind of guidance and discipline we can give our child.
As we come into the busy-ness of the holiday season, we asked a special guest blogger (Kristi Cooper) with expertise in stress relieving techniques, to help us share some thoughts with you on how to breathe more through the next couple of months.
I remember being so frustrated at not being able to calm a crying baby that I walked outside and around the house several times before I was calm! Stress levels rise for parents and children for a variety of reasons. Children take their cues from parents and when parents’ are feeling out of control, children will sense the stress and respond with clinginess, crying, and other comfort seeking behaviors. As a young parent, I knew that removing myself and calming down was important. I just wish I had had a few more self-calming tools in my repertoire at the time!
Now I know that some very simple breathing techniques can lower my heart rate and take the stress down a notch! To calm yourself and a child, start by noticing your heart beat. It is probably racing like your child’s! Now take a deep cleansing breath and pay attention to each inhale and exhale, slowing down each exchange for about 10 breaths. To help you pay attention you can silently count to 4 on each inhale and count to 6 on each exhale. This will slow down your breathing and heart rate and bring down your child’s anxiety level at the same time. You can teach your child this technique as well, asking them to imagine their belly as a balloon blowing it up gently on each inhale. On the exhale, they can imagine blowing a cloud across the sky. Pinwheels or blowing bubbles are also good ways for a child to regulate their breath, thus reducing the stress response.
Breathing . . .