As fall approaches, many of us think toward the new school year and the ending of summer. Long, relaxing afternoons along the Yuba River will fade to gearing up for school activities. Sometimes the hustle bustle of the school year can bring with it a busy-ness that makes it easy to forget that our children live in the moment. The multitasking of the school year– getting breakfast on the table, lunches made, and backpacks checked, and getting everyone out the door in the mornings, for example—can make us forget to slow down with our children. The slower, more relaxed parenting of summer can quickly disappear and “scary Mommy”, as one mom described herself at her worst, can step in. Who wants a year of scary Mommy or angry Daddy running the show? No one.
Okay, so now what? Here is where waterfalls and mindful parenting come in. Because if we don’t want to get swept away in the hustle bustle, we need some ways to stay mindfully grounded. Here is a story about what one mom did to help keep her center. During the course of a parenting workshop Mom realized that she was losing control at home and saying and doing things she regretted. Whether it was letting the expletives rip, losing her temper and yelling to communicate, or throwing up her hands and giving up on gaining her child’s cooperation, she realized she gave up her center, her self-control, and her ability to take charge as a parent. Mom started to see that the calmer she was with her child, the more responsive her child was with her. Neuroscientist, Dr. M. Hofer, and researcher Dr. T. Field, have advanced the idea that relationships are regulators, suggesting that relationships help regulate optimal arousal. This means that to calm our children, we must first calm ourselves. In working with hundreds of parents, I think this is the single most important factor for parents to learn in order to enjoy their relationships with their children.
I asked the mom who was having trouble staying calm, what might be a power word and image to help her manifest herself as she wants to be. She closed her eyes and thought for a minute. Before too long, she opened her eyes and said, “waterfall”. I didn’t know why this was particularly meaningful to her and that didn’t matter. What mattered, and we could both feel it, was that this would be her powerful word/image that would give her strength to be who she wanted to be during times of stress.
Through advances in neuroscience, we know that our brains have plasticity. This means that if we practice self-calming and keep at it, we can train our brains to respond in new ways. This is hopeful for those of us in a bad rut. As far as the mom using the power word “waterfall”, she practiced using it to stay grounded and strong.
What is your power word? Find it.