Even before words like virtual school, pandemic and social distancing became part of our daily lexicon, being a present and patient parent has been a tall order. I may have given birth to two humans, but that fact alone doesn't flip a switch that magically turns me into someone who can be bitten on the rear at a gourmet grocery store by one of those humans (who was denied a cookie) and respond with grace.
No. In fact, in this scenario, there was yelling (once we got outside). There were tears (from both sides). There was definitely a very forceful slam of a car door and a momentary contemplation of dropping the kid off at the fire station and speeding off into the sunset.
I admit it was not one of my finer parenting moments. But it was human. It was the best I could manage at the moment, and from that point forward, I vowed to do better. It was twelve years ago and I'm still making mistakes, managing the best I can at the moment and applying lessons learned for the next time. Am I patient and present? Sometimes. Am I trying to do better? Always.
And that's what this parenting gig is all about. Sure, there's the part where we raise good humans, but at the core of it, we're working on ourselves. We're learning to manage our emotions so that we can teach our children how to manage theirs.
On a recent episode of The Motherly Podcast , Liz Tenety spoke with Suzanne Tucker. Tucker is a positive parenting educator and the founder of Generation Mindful, a line of practical play-based tools and toys and a supportive parenting community. Her approach to navigating tantrums, and teaching both kids and parents to name and manage emotions is one that any caregiver can benefit from. I may not have toddlers any longer but what I've learned from listening to the episode is still incredibly applicable. (Even now that the kid who bit my butt is only five inches shorter than the average NBA player.)
Here are some of my favorite takeaways:
Full disclosure: I taught yoga for over a decade and still bristle at what I've always thought of as "mindfulness." I've always struggled with being still and present, especially when I'm frustrated or challenged. I've declared myself something of a mindfulness failure because I've thought that being cool, calm and collected at every turn was the goal. Tucker, however, lays it out in the most validating and real way I've ever heard. By her definition, "mindfulness is being present to the moment with joy and ease."
"Motherhood is like being on the highway. It's the super highway to personal growth and you can be doing a dance party. You can actually be yelling at your child and be mindful. If you notice you're yelling and you pause— and this is gonna, this is going to freak you out—but you celebrate. You celebrate! You say I'm yelling. I noticed I'm yelling and then you take a deep breath. Then you have some power. You actually have some choice. And you can do something different, but not if you're busy beating yourself up and feeling guilty. We are real. We are working towards present, not perfect, and we are working towards connection over control."
On understanding where your power lives
Whether it's a regular bedtime battle, daily struggles with picky eating habits, or getting out the door on time, at one time or another every parent finds themselves completely stressed out about an ongoing challenge. More than figuring out how to get your little one to fall in line, it's about understanding why this particular situation pushes your buttons and how you can manage your own emotions through the frustration.
Says Tucker, this particular brand of self-awareness "brings you back to where your power lives."
"Your power does not live over changing who your child is. It lives in your thoughts, your words, and your actions. You can shape your child's behavior. You can nurture your child's skills. That's what you have power to do. You cannot control or make your kids, someone they're not. And once we get clear about what we can and cannot do and where our power lives, we can light a fire under transformation and things that were really really hard yesterday can magically feel easy one day later."
On teaching kids to name their emotions
The magic of the toddler stage is watching your baby transform into their own person. A person with opinions (all the opinions), quirks and thoughts on how and when things should be done. This can also make this stage rife with conflict and tantrums and challenge all the things you said you'd never do as a parent. (Hey there bribes, threats and the occasional explosion!) It's okay. It's natural. This part is hard . But if you can teach your kiddo to name their emotions, you're going to set everyone up for success. Through play, the Generation Mindful approach teaches little ones to "name it, feel it, heal it." Using songs, games and motions it's possible to give them the words to identify feelings like anger, sadness, excitement and frustration. Once they can name an emotion, you can work together to help them feel it—even if that means punching a pillow or ripping up paper to get it all out.
"If that was already a game you played, when you weren't explosive, that would be much more likely that the he or she would pause to be that explorer looking to name it. It's kind of like what I told you about growing up in a home that was so calm. Like I was looking for that permission to feel it, to have that embodied experience of like I'm pissed or, or I feel jealous or guilty or whatever I'm feeling. And I think that we are quick to gloss by that embodied experience that it's okay to feel."
On using Generation Mindful's Time In Toolkit
That final step, the "heal it" part? That's where this brilliant set of tools comes into play. Made up of colorful illustrated posters, feelings and strategies cards, the Time In Toolkit can be used by caregivers and educators to flip the script on the traditional "time out." They're designed to be set up in a calming corner, giving little ones not only a defined space to work through their feelings, but providing the words and understanding for the big emotions they're experiencing. This restorative practice builds a foundation for social-emotional wellbeing that to be honest, many of us are still working toward as adults.
If you want to snag your own Time In Toolkit or enroll in Suzanne's online Positive Parenting course, check them out below! And learn more about Generation Mindful by listening to the full episode of The Motherly Podcast .
- 6 illustrated posters to create a Calming Corner (frames not included)
- PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards
- My Feelings Card Deck featuring 32 different feelings (x2 sets of cards)
- Laminated "What Can I Do" Activity Mat with 12 calming strategies cards
- Laminated Time-In Tools (Travel Version)
- Digital Manual with printables
- A 20+ page downloadable workbook
- Six weekly 60+ min course videos, plus weekly emails
- Two live group Q & A calls with Suzanne Tucker
- A printable Mindful Parenting Checklist to help you apply the things you learn
- Lifetime access to course videos
- Membership to Generation Mindful's exclusive graduate parenting forum
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