The first person who needs to be calm when a child is having a tantrum is YOU. You’re not alone if you’ve raised your voice to ironically tell your child to “calm down!” We all need that reminder. My Mindful Mat is just as much for the parents as it is for the children. Let’s talk about that as I share a personal story from tonight.

Tonight, right before writing this post, our toddler had a full blown melt down. We’re talking majorly over-tired tantrum. The natural reaction to the chaos was to either yell or throw my hands up and leave our toddler to tantrum themself to sleep. However, I literally posted the above picture to our instagram earlier today. I guess it was really a reminder for myself. So (luckily) here is what went down instead:

1. A Mindful Moment

I took a breath. Breathing, in our modern world, has somehow become cliche. Conscious breathing, however, is one of many mindfulness activities you can do to help yourself jump from system one (emotional) to system two thinking (logical) – read more about that here.

2. Act Instead of React

Once I had myself back to system two thinking, I could be more intentional. Rather than react to our toddler’s tantrum in the “natural” way which was full of frustration, I made a conscious choice to attempt to reach them.

3. Listen with Empathy

Even though we often advise people to take their children to a My Mindful Mat in this scenario, I knew the timing wasn’t right. My toddler needed first to be heard. Ninety percent of the tantrum was surely related to a lack of sleep, but there were real emotions, feelings and thoughts behind it all too. I decided to listen.

Between the gasps for air and the rolling around on the bed, our toddler was able to express that there was an unmet expectation that they would be able to get ready for bed all by themselves. There was a sense of independence our toddler was reaching for that we had overlooked in our rush for bedtime. I know I feel frustrated when I want to do something myself and I can’t either.

4. Serve

I then asked our toddler, “What do you feel like you need right now?” This doesn’t always work, but it has worked much more often than I would expect. “I need help calming down! I want to use My Mindful Mat to calm down!” was the tearful reply. So I walked downstairs, grabbed our mat, and we got it out together. It was amazing to see the quick change. After barely starting one of the activities, our toddler was able to talk with me calmly.

5. Conclude With Love

After wrapping up our My Mindful Mat, our toddler was ready for bed. I expressed love and our toddler (no exaggeration) said “I feel much better now. I’m so glad we have that to help us calm down.” And then we wrapped up bedtime.

Now, full disclosure: This process isn’t magic. Other kids were taken care of by dad. We’ve practiced and studied all of this quite a bit and we’re still so incredibly imperfect. Our toddler is currently sound asleep. It’s possible that we may have had a sleeping child right now had I given up or reacted harshly, but I certainly would have been feeling different emotions than I am now.

Overall, the biggest difference tonight was remembering intentionality: Remembering that I have no control over my toddler, but I do have control over how I am towards my toddler.

Do you have similar experiences? Share them with us on social media or in the comments below!

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