Have you ever looked like this lady when you’ve tried to understand why in the world your child was doing a certain something?
I’ve totally been there. Sometimes kids do things that can be downright mystifying. In today’s video, I’m walking you through my exclusive framework for thinking about challenging behavior. Using this framework, you can begin to understand the social-emotional needs driving negative behavior. Understanding the social-emotional needs that a child is trying to meet through negative behavior gives you the power to proactively address those needs BEFORE they turn into problems. Take a look at the video and snag your own copy of the challenging behavior worksheet right here.
Healthy social-emotional development is essential to a child’s ability to form close and secure relationships with adults and peers, to explore the environment and learn, and to develop healthy emotional regulation skills. Sometimes, when a child is having a challenging moment, it can be hard to know just how to respond to promote healthy social-emotional development.
Enter Flip it! The Flip it! method consists of a simple formula:
F – Feelings
L – Limits
I – Inquiries
P – Prompt
Using the Flip it! method helps ensure that a parent meets a child’s need to feel acknowledged and understood before setting limits. By meeting this need first, children are more receptive to the limit setting that follows. Using Flip it! helps a child identify and begin to understand how to utilize emotional regulation skills.
Have you tried the Flip it! method? I’d love to hear your thoughts! What did you think?
Research indicates that mindfulness practice helps children increase their emotional regulation, ability to demonstrate empathy, and ability to focus on an activity. When children practice mindfulness, the part of the brain the controls executive functioning, the prefrontal cortex, is activated. You can think of the prefrontal cortex like the air traffic control center of the brain. This part of our brain helps us to see the big picture, understand cause and effect, make good decisions, and plan. All skills which are essential to leading a happy, successful life and developing meaningful relationships with others.
Introducing the practice of mindfulness to children is one of the best ways that parents can equip children to develop strong executive functioning skills. In some children with ADHD, mindfulness practice is as effective as medication in reducing symptoms. Mindfulness also has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents as well as adults.
So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness refers to the ability to fully present and connected to one’s body in the present moment. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and no one right way. The right way to do anything is always the way that works best for you and your family. One of my favorite ways to introduce mindfulness to children is by using a fun practice called the “Mindfulness Minute.” In the “Mindfulness Minute,” the parent or teacher sets a timer for exactly one minute. During that minute, the parent or teacher and the child take deep breaths and try to focus just on breathing and being fully present. I often use a river analogy with children before setting the timer. It goes something like this:
“Imagine that you are in a beautiful forest. You can see a river running through theforest and there are trees on both sides. Every time a thought comes into your mind, imagine placing the thought gently into the river and watch it float away. Know that you can come back to the thought later, at any time. The thoughts will still be there, in the river. For right now, just notice that the thoughts are there and just allow them to float away.”
Then set the timer. For little ones, even a minute of just breathing is going to be quite tricky at first! That is ok. This is a judgment free zone! Encourage your little one to notice how it feels to be still and quiet and then try again tomorrow. Like so many other things, mindfulness is a practice and the more a child has the opportunity to practice, the better they will get at allowing their mind to be still.
Make space to practice the “Mindfulness Minute” with your children or students on a regular basis. By intentionally practicing these skills during calm times, you can help your child strengthen their ability to access these skills during more challenging moments.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite way to incorporate mindfulness practice into your child’s routine? Leave a comment below or come on over to Facebook and share!
As humans, when we are in a highly emotional state such as anger or sadness, the emotional part of our brain, made up of the brain stem and limbic system, takes over. When this happens, our rational brain, or prefrontal cortex, disengages temporarily. This is what makes it so difficult to rationalize with someone who is super angry. As the body reacts to a highly emotionally charged stimuli, stress hormones take over sending the body into survival mode – what you have probably heard of as fight, flight, or freeze. Keep in mind, the emotional brain is very sensitive and reacts to anything that is perceived to be a threat, whether it is truly a threat or not.
In a healthy adult brain, the rational brain is able to re-engage fairly quickly, allowing the person to cool down and begin to think more logically about the next action steps. However, the rational brain is not mature until approximately the mid-late 20’s. When young children tantrum, it’s important to keep in mind that while the emotional brain is fully mature around age 3, the rational brain is still in the very early stages of development.
Belly breathing helps children learn emotional regulation skills by helping them access executive functioning.
Teaching children to engage and use their executive functioning skills is something that needs to be done intentionally, during happy times, to help them master emotional regulation during challenging times. One of the absolute best ways to do this is to teach your kiddos how to take big, deep breaths into their belly. Belly breathing reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and also increases serotonin levels. Big belly breaths increase blood flow and circulation to the rational brain and help create a pause between an upsetting event and the reaction by allowing the rational brain to be a part of the decision making process. I suggest introducing belly breathing during a calm, pleasant, one-on-one time. Practice with your child every chance you get. Belly breathing is a skill that needs to be practiced frequently when we don’t need it to ensure that we are able to access it readily when we do need it.
There are many ways to introduce belly breathing to your child and lots of techniques that make it fun and engaging. A parent introduced me to this video and I have used it quite a bit lately to introduce little ones to the idea of belly breathing. It’s fun, engaging, and catchy, and let’s be honest, as a parent, you can never have enough Elmo in your life, right? 😉
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