The big idea: Learning to Stop, Drop and Breathe when you start to lose it with your family can help you stay calm, patient and centered.
Whether it’s a 10 year-old who knows just how to get under our skin, or a baby who won’t stop screaming, man, kids can push our buttons.
It’s Called Stop, Drop and Breathe. Here’s How It Works.
As soon as you notice you’re losing it–snapping at your kids, saying something harsh, holding them harder than you need to, swearing, whatever–
- STOP. Pause whatever you’re doing. Your anger or fear has hijacked you at this point, and you’re on autopilot. So if you can just interrupt what you’re doing, that’s a big step.
- DROP your agenda. Step back for a moment from whatever consequences you were about to mete out or lesson you were trying to teach. Just let it go for a second. It may feel like life or death, but it rarely is.
- BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. If you can, just try to feel your breath going in and out of your body. Try to physically unclench. Take a drink of water or run your hands under water.
Now that you’re calmer, try to take a moment to see the situation from your kiddo’s perspective. That simple change in perspective can be really hard in the moment, but it can make a huge difference. Whatever feelings are driving your little one’s actions may be seem ridiculous or even incomprehensible–but they’re so real for her.
Now, take a moment to reconnect with your little one, from a place of compassion.
And then, from that caring place, you can decide what to do next. You can still guide your kiddo’s behavior, or set a limit, but now you can do it with patience and wisdom–which will build your connection, not undermine it.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. Stop Drop and Breathe is a practice. Which means, you have to practice it, a lot.
It seems like nearly every day I have moments when I catch myself reacting to my kids’ behavior exactly the way I promised I wouldn’t–and moments of grace, when I am able to respond with compassion, and I see my kids’ opposition and upset melt away in my arms.
Slowly, slowly, I think I’m learning. Meanwhile, I’m trying to be as patient with myself as I want to be with my kids.
If any of this sounds useful, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Markham’s longer and richer version of this advice.