Reducing Tantrums through Mindfulness Exercises: Stella Rankin
Today I had a tantrum. I screamed at my 4-year-old. It wasn’t for long and it was more of a high pitch screech, but it stops us all in our tracks. My 4-year-old froze in a stunned position, eyes peeled open like a deer in headlights. I too stood still, surprised by the sound that echoed through my ears. The only thing that broke the stillness was my 2-year-old who suddenly screeched too, mimicking her mothers sounds.
I’d totally and completely lost my cool over something silly. I’m not proud, it wasn’t pretty, and the almost violent sound actually scared me too.
I pride myself in being calm. Being mindful and really trying to be present with my kids and within my life. Daily building a life of purpose. But still even with all that focus and attention, I lost my cool. Is it any wonder that children have trouble self-regulating their behaviors? I mean, if I, an almost 40-year-old can lose their cool over something small and scare the very life from her kids, then how is a toddler or child expected to always behave themselves?
Tantrums, being overly fussy, aggressiveness and whining are all not-so-great behaviors that can be helped and reduced. And the fantastic news is that developing skills to calm down instead of acting out are simple lessons that can be taught by any parent or carer.
Here is an easy exercise to uncover your child’s inner angel.
NOTE: When deciding to implement any new mindful lessons with your children, the key is little and often. These little people need consistency, repetition and your patience to develop these skills. So, don’t expect change overnight, like anything good, it takes time.
1. Lie down on the floor with your child. Ask them to feel the floor underneath their backs and legs, arms and heads.
2. Ask them to move their heads. Play around with getting them to move different areas of the body.
3. Ask them to now tense up their faces and hands like a squishy ball and then release. Repeat this a few times.
4. Now, get them to sit up. Talk to them about what feels better, the tight fist and face or the relaxed one. Explain that when they are frustrated or sad or angry the body tenses up – you might want to talk about a recent episode where they were angry and how they felt better when it was over. Ask them how their body feels when they are angry.
*You’re basically try to teach them a simple awareness between the sensations of the body during anger and the sensation of the body during calmness. This is similar to teaching a child the sensations of the need to use the bathroom during potty training. (And remember how long that can take!)
5. Now ask them once more to tense up all their body to the count of 10. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 and release
6. Ask them to take a deep breath to the count of 3, breathing in the beautiful light from the sun.
7. Now tell them to blow out an imaginary candle.
8. Repeat the last two steps a few times.
The last two steps are the imagery I use almost daily with my children. If they are fighting or angry and not listening, I simply say “breath in the light from the sun and blow out your candle.” If it doesn’t work for both of them, it will at least work for one of them and helps them reset.
I can’t say it will eliminate tantrums completely every time, but it certainly has reduced the duration of tantrums, anger and moodiness in our house and strengthened our relationship. It’s something positive we do together in the middle of chaos that helps us return to our day as a team.
Don’t get discouraged if at first it doesn’t work, use the imagery daily and then one day when you’re angry your child will say ‘Mom, breath in the light from the sun and blow out your candle. And, it will melt your heart.