“I saw major changes when I started using ‘Stop, Drop, and Breathe.’ The pause button keeps me from saying things I’ll be sorry for, and lets me phrase things so my kids will be more likely to listen. I think it helps my kids take a breath and decide to behave better, too." - Daniel, father of four year old and eight year old.
You read these posts, so I know you try hard to be the best parent you can be. The times you mess up? I'm betting those are times when you're stressed, distracted, overloaded, at the end of your rope. Then your child—predictably—acts like a child! Before you know it, you're saying something you would never say if you were calm, in a tone that you would never use if you were feeling centered and emotionally generous. Those are the times when we do things we regret.
I can't promise that you won't get stressed or overloaded—modern life makes that all too likely, even when there isn't a pandemic. And your child will definitely act childish—that's in their job description. But there IS a tool for those tough moments, that can keep you from doing and saying things that you'll be sorry about later. Every parent needs this tool in their back pocket for daily use.
This tool is your PAUSE Button. Once you pause, you can make the choice to shift gears. The more you practice, the better you get at it.
Here's how. Sometime this week, you will feel annoyance, irritation, resentment, anger, or even rage in reaction to your child’s behavior. You will feel an urgent need to set your child straight.
Unless someone is in physical danger, ignore that urge—that’s a sign that you’re in “fight” mode. Your intervention will be more successful if you calm down first.
Instead, as soon as you notice that you’re getting irritated, turn away from your child and shift into Step 1. (You might want to post these five steps on your refrigerator so you have them handy.)
Step 1: Use your Pause Button: Stop, Drop, and Breathe
Stop. Just stop. Stop everything you’re doing. Close your mouth.
Drop your agenda. Just for now, let it go. Step away from the fight.
Breathe. Take three deep breaths to calm yourself, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you need more breaths, take ten. Becoming conscious of your breath stops your slide down the slippery slope toward losing it and lets you choose how to respond.
Step 2: Choose Love
The hardest part of calming down is choosing to calm down. When we’re in the grip of anger, we want to lash out, not calm down. Make a conscious choice to let the anger go.
Step 3: Change Your Mind
Interrupt the rush of "emergency" neurotransmitters by consciously using a mental antidote—an image or thought to reassure your worried mind. This will make you feel more calm and emotionally generous. You might try "He's acting like a child because he IS a child" or "He's showing me he needs my help" or "It's not an emergency."
Step 4: Calm Your Body
Notice the sensations in your body. That's where emotions get stuck and swamp us. Breathe into the tight places. Shift those sensations by meeting them with compassion—try hugging yourself. Move your body to release the contraction—rub your arms soothingly, shake out your hands, splash water on your face.
Step 5: Once you’re calm
Go back to your child. Initiate a Do-Over. Set whatever limit is necessary or talk about what happened.
"I'm sorry I raised my voice. I was pretty frustrated. Here's what I meant to say. I'm worried we'll be late if we don't leave in five minutes. I need you to put your shoes on now. I'll help you. Let's work together."
That's it. Five simple steps that keep you from saying and doing things that you'll be sorry about later. Simple, but not easy, especially in the beginning. But you can do hard things, if you give yourself support. (We all need support. Scroll through some of these recent blog posts to see what kinds of support might help you.)
Every time you use your Pause button and Choose Love, you're rewiring your brain, so it gets easier. Before you know it, you won't remember the last time you raised your voice. Gradually, your child will learn from your role-modeling, and your whole family will feel more peaceful.
Simple. Less drama. More love. What do you have to lose?