Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Smell the Flower; Blow Out the Candle. A Simple and Effective Way to Finding and Teaching CALM.

Waking up this morning with another full night of sleep felt heavenly.  All the things on my list of things to do seemed perfectly manageable.  The pre-moving things like researching schools in Asheville, NC, looking for a home, thinking about insurance carriers, and deciding on things I needed to go through to get rid of...these all seemed like reasonable feats.  Even in addition to marathon training, raising three kids and the normal every day things that come with life.  Everything seemed smooth sailing.

Barrel full of FEELINGS
Three Year Old
Woke UP!

It made for quite the morning.  Forget trying to get my daughters out the door with a smile and joke.  I was lucky to be breathing as I huffed out an "I love You" and smacked a kiss on their pretty little cheeks while the sound of tantruming 3 year old came rumbling down the hallway and out the front door.  More effective than any rooster would be in waking up the neighbors.

Now, after calming my son and having him relax next to me with his highlighter and journal while listening to some annoying kid song about feelings,  I'm trying to get my once calm and happy heart to come down to a normal level again instead of feeling like it is going to pop out of my chest.  Writing helps. So does deep breathing. And really, now that my son is calm, and I've had a chance to process and get a few things done around the house, I'm feeing much more CALM.

The things I do to calm myself have been learned over the years.  I know what works for me:

  • Breathing deeply
  • Self Talk..."Okay, Amanda, think before you speak.  You're the best teacher he has right now so model model model."
  • Writing
  • Being productive...just starting to get things done around the house.
  • Talking to others...Feeling HEARD.  
My first response in dealing with my son when he starts acting like a major jerk of a three old is to act like a major jerk of a 34 year old right back.  I want to yell.  I want to send him to his room with no explanation.  I want to have a big fat MOMMY TANTRUM.  And you know, many times I do just that.  More times than I want to admit.  But today I was able to step outside of myself a little and see things from my son's perspective. 

 I reminded myself:
  • He's Three.  
  • Even though throwing a fit about not being able to go to school on a Wednesday (only Tuesdays and Thursdays) seems irrational to me, it is a REAL issue to him. It is also real to him that his sisters were laughing at his ridiculous fit and this made him feel angry.  His feelings are real.  
  • I know how to calm down when I'm angry.  I've learned this over the years.  Kids need to learn this too.  And we can help them.  
  • When I talk about feelings and emotions with my kids and let them know that they are normal and okay to have even though their behavior/actions aren't sometimes, I'm taking steps in helping them to deal with their emotional mood swings without feeling shame.  
  • As hard as this is, it is my job.  
As I just mentioned, one of the ways I calm myself down is by breathing deeply.  

Deep breath in through my nose...
Release it fully from my mouth.  

I repeat this several times until I'm able to feel a calmness and gain some more control over my thoughts and actions.  

If this breathing works for me, surely it would work for my kids.  And it does.  But they needed to learn this.  How?  How can we teach our kids the technique of deep breathing to help them CALM themselves?  

One of the things I've done since my oldest was very little in learning to calm down with breathing is something I call 

Smell the Flower.... Blow Out the Candle.  

And it really works.  I hold my hand up to them and tell them it is a flower.  Then say "Smell the flower" as I model for them what a deep breath through the nose looks like.  Then they try.  Then I tell them that my hand or finger is a candle and I say "blow out the candle" and I model for them what it looks like to blow out through their mouth.  Then they try.  After that, I just repeat "Smell the flower...blow out the candle" until they have done this several times.  It almost always helps them to relax and calm down.  And in the process they are learning the strategy of Deep Breathing in helping them gain control over their emotions.  

On that note, my time here is up.  I'm sure I'll be smelling some flowers and blowing out some candles myself today.  Plenty.  It is just one of those days.  But I'm up for the challenge that motherhood brings.  It's my job and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  The next calming strategy I'll be teaching them someday will be to discover the CALM and FREEDOM of RUNNING.  

How do you find CALM when you are stressed and feeling out of control?  

What are some ways that you help your children learn to calm themselves and communicate their feeling effectively?  



  1. Um love the changes in the header. This post may have seemed so easy for you to write or maybe you were questioning how other people would care (as I often do with my posts) it was like earth shattering for me. Lately I have been surrounded by little and even big messages of validating their feelings. This is so something I need to work on and this little trick is securely tucked in my pocket and will be pulled out very soon. My 4 year old also thinks it is the end of the world to not go to school on Monday when Tuesdays and Thursdays are his day. Whew! But, so true, these are real feelings for them. Thanks, Amanda!

  2. I admit- I wasn't sure where the post was headed when I just read the header but I am so glad I read it. I love how you made it simple for kids. My 6 year old son often overreacts BIG TIME to to many situations and I have been struggling with how to get him to calm down and relax before he responds. I am going to try this simple method out next time. LOVE IT!

  3. I love this, Amanda. What a great way to illustrate the art of "deep breathing" to a little one (or a big one, like myself!) to help get calm. I have tried telling them to take deep breaths but I love the flower/candle analogy.

    By the way, I let my girls play with their play doh this morning and I didn't even care that they mixed the colors all together. Just made me think about our talk last night and how I can let the littlest things bother me sometimes. Learning to let go... :)

  4. I've found yoga was invaluable last year when I felt like the world was spiralling out of control. And it's because of the breathing! Breathing in deeply and letting it go helped get rid of all the anxiety. Plus you're focussing on holding a pose so it take your mind to another place away from the stressor. I wish I'd found it years ago.

  5. I'm full of empathy for you today!! My youngest son was a daily delight when he was 3 (not a good type of delight). We struggled and I struggled to remain calm and try not to act like a 3 year old (I saved that for evenings when my husband was home and I would cry about the day!). Like you said, their feelings are very real even though there is pretty much no rhyme or reason to them!
    I don't have a lot of help (pretty sure I blocked some of the more negative/traumatic days!) but I know you will make it and both of you will be stronger for it!!!
    Hang in there!

  6. THANK YOU for this post. The school teacher in me in rejoicing. I, too, smell the flower and blow out the candle. Another thing I am big on when I am ready to blow a gasket is to force myself to make eye contact. Children need to learn that eye contact is essential in communicating. No matter how mad I am, I look my students straight in the eyes and THINK before I speak. (Um, this is what I TRY to do, but like you, I also fail more times than I'd like to admit.) Sometimes that eye contact reminds them that you are a person, too, and that care about them, as it is a sign of respect. It has always helped me difuse hostility and get me (and the child) prepared to have a discussion about behavior, or whatever issue is on the table.

  7. I love it! I have to remember this one day (hopefully soon!!) when we are blessed with kids. What a great way to teach deep breathing. And hold up, you're moving across the country?? To Asheville? I love Asheville! I grew up in Knoxville, TN, which is nearby and we would go there often to escape. I wish you the very best of luck :) ~Leigh

  8. I can totally relate to you! My kids love to test me, especially when we are rushing to get out the door! Sometimes, we have to just breathe. So true!

  9. I tried to comment on this this morning, but it didn't work from my IPAD. I love this post. About a week ago I saw the author of "peaceful parents, happy kids" speak and it is TRANSFORMING the way I parent. Listening to her just spoke to my heart and just what I knew my oldest needed. It is all about emotion coaching, NO yelling - and helping children unpack all their emotions that they 'stick in the backpack' all day... I am one week in and haven't yelled in 7 days (which considering where I have been lately, is HUGE). I just love the idea of being more empathetic to my child and instead of getting caught in a power struggle, actually connecting with her... i think you would like this book too... :-)

  10. I tried the flower/candle tip with my kids today... it definitely worked for my 4 year old son (SO THANK YOU!) but my 2 year old daughter looked at me like I was crazy and asked where the flower was? Haha!
    In all seriousness, thank you for the tip. Keep more mothering tips coming... I need em!