MINDFULNESS PARENTING – STOP, DROP AND ROLL
Erica Moltz, MA, NCC
Clinical Director and Parent Coach
This is the first in a series about using mindful parenting practices as a way to create and maintain a more peaceful and calm family life. Daniel Hughes and Jonathan Baylin in their ground breaking book, Brain Based Parenting, define mindfulness as “the open acceptance of the here and now experience, focusing on it without judgement, evaluation or efforts to change it”. They clarify that this acceptance helps an individual go deeper into the present moment, trying to understand it more fully and to experience what is unique about it.
What we do matters with our children, as we are the ones who shape and re-shape their maps of relationships and how the world works. Learning mindfulness strategies will help during those really challenging moments that every parent has, when you are stressed out and struggling, feel disconnected from your child, and react rather than respond in a calm and rational way.
Stop, Drop and Roll is an effective technique that will bring you back into connection with yourself; the first step in connecting to your child and being in relationship again. Stopping helps you become aware that you are stuck in thoughts, emotions and body sensations that are not helpful or constructive. For example, perhaps you are picking up your seven year old from an after care program. She is resisting and won’t get into her booster seat. It’s been a long and stressful day at work. She often “melts down” at this time of day, and so, you start to dread what may happen. Your muscles tense in anticipation as you worry that you will be late getting home, dinner will be late, then homework will be late, she will get cranky, and bedtime will be a disaster. You are feeling more and more frustrated. You raise your voice. This is the time to Stop and be a witness to what is happening inside of you with compassion and without judgment. Breathe to bring yourself into the present moment. Keep breathing to de-escalate your body and be in this present moment. Realize that in this present moment, the only thing you can control is yourself and your reactions. Drop into yourself, feel the ground under you, and connect with the calm place inside so that you don’t say or do anything to escalate you or your child. Drop into the present moment so that you are not lost in the experience of what may happen later. Now you can Roll out a new strategy or response from a more thoughtful, intentional and less reactive place. You will have more energy and feel more compassion for her if you are in this moment, right now. You will have at your disposal the curiosity to gather enough data to find out where she is really “coming from” without making assumptions. You can step back and take the time to understand what is behind her behavior and why she doesn’t want to get into the car seat. This will help you stay mindful and remain in the present. From this, mindful, healing responses will unfold: perhaps you might take a few moments with her to walk around the parking lot, or maybe you two will sing together or cuddle in the back seat for a few minutes. You will be back in relationship with your daughter, you can move forward in a positive direction, and most importantly, both of you will feel good about the interaction.