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Mindfulness and the Delicate Art of the Next Time

Take a deep breath, count to three and release the breath audibly. Tell your child as you do, that you are calming your body. Repeat this several times and then say, “WOW! I feel better.” Narrating our actions and then reflecting on our emotions will give our children a better understanding of how we feel. When we practice these “mindful moments” during our day, our children will want to do this as well. Mindfulness is defined as “Attending to the present moment with a kind and curious attitude.” (Shapiro and White). Learning to calm, and self -regulate takes practice, but it is a skill that we need throughout our entire life.

Inevitably our children will test the limits that we set. When they do, we need to be ready. Responding rather than reacting to the test is the key to deflating a power struggle. Even with our best efforts to offer choices within a structure, or to distract our children, struggles will occur. Having ways to calm ourselves and offering those strategies to our children at these times may help. Being mindful of our children’s temperament, and being ready, will often defuse the situation. Here are some situations and suggestions on how to use the art of the “next time” to curtail that struggle. Remember, modeling the behavior you want to see in your children is an important first step.

  • Your child does not want to say thank you to the stranger who just gave him a sticker or toy. You believe in manners and want your child to say thank you. Model what you expect; say thank you to the person and tell you child that you expect they will say it NEXT TIME.

  • Your child hit another child while playing, you want your child to feel remorse and say sorry to the victim, but he refuses. You give all your attention to the child who has been hit, and then you model the correct response. As you say you’re sorry to the victim, you turn to your child and say, “I am sure you will be able to say you’re sorry Next Time someone gets hurt.” Of course there will be a further consequence for his actions, i.e. playing in another area or having a toy taken.

  • You are leaving in 5 minutes and your child doesn’t want to go. After giving him a transition warning and setting up what is next, he still refuses to go. You may need to pick him up and take him, but instead of being angry at that moment you can say, “Today was a tough day for you, but I bet tomorrow you will be able to get ready when it is time.”

Making a child comply when he has refused, can create a power struggle. We have to pick our struggles and remind ourselves of our ultimate goal: cooperation. Our children want to cooperate, but their need for independence and control are getting in the way. If we stop the battle for control, both of us can think better. It becomes a relationship rather than a dictatorship. Rudlolph Dreikers, child psychologist, tells us, “Children misbehave when they can’t find a way through cooperation.” He further states that a consequence is a choice a child makes. We all learn from the choices we make, and the consequences that follow.

Offering your child a way to learn how to express remorse and a feeling of responsibility will help him to learn what it means to feel sorry for negative actions. We take the emotion out of the situation, and demonstrate what we do want, but we don’t give our child a way out… Your expectation is he will learn and do this next time. Mindfulness and daily calming breaths will help you be calm when it is needed. Teaching your child to breath with you will give them a good start as well to calming and learning how to deal with emotions. Remember, you are your child’s first and best teacher; what you do makes all the difference!

Calming the Storm of Emotions

Calming the Storm of Emotions

We could all use help calming down when big emotions overtake us. When we encounter a stressful situation, our body is flooded with physical and emotional responses. As adults we usually can find our way to the “other side” incorporating strategies that have worked in the past. Our children have had less experience and a less mature nervous system, and regulation is more difficult in times of anxiety and stress. Creating a daily calm down routine into our children’s life will serve them well as they grow and encounter more times of turmoil. Modeling your own daily mindful breathing, meditation, yoga or relaxation technique will give them the motivation to try.

Daily Calming Routines for Infants:

Calming routines for infants always include the parent or caregiver. Look for your infant to go through 6 behavioral states throughout the day: quiet alert, active alert, drowsy, crying, and deep and light sleep. ( T. Berry Brazelton) Parents should look for the quiet alert time that happens several times in a day. This is the time for the adults to put away the cell phones, turn off the TV, and turn in to their baby. Use the quiet alert time to engage your baby in massage, reflective communication, or perhaps introduction to music. This is the time to respond and enjoy, allowing the quiet to be relaxing and regenerative. Be present in that moment, and reflect back to your little one what you see and feel. You are learning about her/his cues and they are learning yours! Respond quickly to their cues and build trust. Make it part of your daily routine and soon you will notice how well your baby is self- regulating.

Daily Calming Routines for Toddlers and Preschoolers:

Toddlers are always on the go! Keeping the calming routines in their day is a bit harder than it was when they were infants. But it is more necessary now than ever before. Modeling your routine will be the most effective way to encourage your child to do the same. Our children want to do what we do; they imitate everything … good or bad! Routine is the first strategy to help a child regulate themselves, as structure is much more calming than Chaos. Calming strategies may include:

  • Classical music while quietly looking at books, or coloring

  • Bending and stretching while taking BIG breaths, blowing feathers, cotton balls or scarves into a bucket or back and forth to each other.

  • Fluid movements like dancing to music with ribbons or scarves may be helpful as well; turning the music off and stopping movement, then resuming the dance may encourage better attention and mindfulness (being present in the moment).

  • Creating a sensory space- sand or bean bucket to explore or a jar with water and glitter to shake and watch.

  • Finally using common language at these times can help a child begin to learn how they feel and what works to regulate their bodies.

Each child, just like each adult, will be calmed by different methods. Including reflective language like: “big breaths help me calm down and feel good”, or “music and dancing puts me in a happy Place”, or “It is time for me to stretch I feel frustrated,” gives children information they can begin to use and understand. Labeling how we feel and helping them label their feelings will go a long way to regulating their bodies.

Using these calming routines when a child begins to have big emotions takes the theory into practice. If you and your child have been in the habit of using a calming routine, then incorporating these methods when your child begins to feel dysregulated, (frustrated, anxious or angry), should be doable. Using the common language and reflecting feelings helps the child feel safe and may help him get to the next part of the routine: breathing, stretching, etc….and ultimately calm enough to listen and process his emotions.

References: John Gottman, Gottman Insstitute,

Ellen Galinsky, Mind in The Making, Website

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