Ride the Waves of Emotions: How to Keep Calm When Your Toddler Throws a Tantrum

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

Freedom: when you go away for a weekend without your kids! Just kidding. But kind of true. 

I adore my two little boys, but life with a 3 and a 5 year old can be emotionally exhausting at times. As a parent, I get attached to how they feel and I react to that. When they giggle, I am filled with joy and want to tickle them and make them laugh even more. When they fight with each other, I feel hurt and frustrated. When they purposely act naughty (by dumping all the Legos onto the floor or throwing all the pillows off the couch) to get my attention, I feel emotions heighten inside my heart. And they feel it, too. They seem to know exactly how to bring out feelings I can typically keep at bay. 

Freedom comes from being detached, not reacting to their antics, and sometimes, not doing anything at all. I often want to “fix” a situation, make things “fair” for each kid - give each of them the same number of toys, the same amount of mommy-time, have them take turns equally, etc. to make them happy. But in doing so, I lose my peace of mind. Some times, one of them needs my attention more than the other. And other times, vice versa. 

The greatest freedom I’ve learned was to let the kids learn for themselves, to let them be. Some lessons cannot be taught; they need to be experienced... even if it means withstanding the storms of whining, crying, and/or throwing themselves on the floor every once in a while. 

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm and not join their chaos. ” - L.R. Knost

So how do we keep calm in the midst of their tantrums? 

When emotions become difficult to handle, we can harness the breath and the mind to surf the wave of emotions until we reach tranquil shores. The mind and the breath are powerful tools, and they are intelligently connected. When you can control the breath, you can control the mind. Prana - life force energy- is carried by breath, so when we can move breath through our bodies in a systematic way, we can regain energy as well. 

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

Stephen Cope, author of Yoga for Emotional Flow, offers a technique he calls “Riding the Wave” to face strong emotions when we are overwhelmed in the moment.

1/ Breathe. 

Bring awareness to nostrils and breathe down to the navel. Bring the palms of your hands to navel and breathe as if your breath could touch the palms of your hands. Notice how your breathing brings your awareness away from the mind and into the body. 

Take 8 breaths - slow, steady, even. In and out like waves. Tune into your body’s natural rhythm, your pace. 

2/ Relax. 

Notice any areas of tension in the body. Where is energy trapped? Is it in your hips? Solar plexus? Chest? Throat? Eyebrows?

Systematically bring awareness and breath to those areas. 

Soften. 

Breath into tightness. 

Imagine water flowing through the rocks in your body. 

3/ Feel. 

Can you feel energetic shift? Does energy flow throughout your body now? What felt dense is now soft, impenetrable now penetrable. 

Can you describe the sensations with tangible words? Are they sharp, dense, hot, large? Are they moving? Do they have colors? Textures?

4/ Watch. 

Watch what happen to the sensations. Let your inner witness focus on the “what” instead of the “why” of the issue. 

There’s nothing to do, nothing to fix.

“Power is the ability to be and let be.” - Aristotle

Let go of mind, focus on energy. 

5/ Allow. 

Let go of any urge to control; surrender to the experience. Notice the freedom from doing anything. Notice the energy to move through your body. 

Allow yourself to fully experience feelings and bear the depth, breadth, and reality of the present moment. Accept all feelings without judgement. Imagine you’re laying on a surf board in the ocean and let the tranquil water carry you to the shore. 

 

With this practice we can become skilled surfers who can ride the waves of emotions from separation to union - of the senses, the body, and the human heart. 

 Photo credit: Yvette Jain

Photo credit: Yvette Jain

How do I teach my children how to calm themselves? By breathing, of course! One tool I use is a toy Hoberman Sphere to demonstrate how the chest expands when they breathe in and how it contacts when they breathe out. After a few times of doing this exercise with them, they learned how breathe deeply when they feel nervous or upset about something. 

He knocked over your tower accidentally? Breathe. He took the toy you were playing with? Breathe. We ran out of your favorite cheese bread snack? Breathe. Daddy ate all the Nutella again? Breathe. 

Freedom: when kids can calm themselves and work things out without us having to intervene.

 Photo credit: Yvette Jain

Photo credit: Yvette Jain

This post is in collaboration with #TheRefinedCollective Series. Be sure to read what FREEDOM means to my sisters: