When your child is upset -- a frustrated, hurt, tears-streaming-down-the-face type of upset -- your first instinct is often to make it all better. Typically, this sends parents into one of two reactions: either they immediately become problem solvers ("Here's how we can fix this...") or else they focus on calming the crying child ("It'll be OK, sweetie. Relax, take a deep breath..."). But is either one of these methods the most effective in managing a meltdown?
Unfortunately not, according to Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent. During a discussion about conscious parenting with moms and dads on "Oprah's Lifeclass," one parent shares with Dr. Shefali and the group a story of how the conscious parenting approach made a world of difference in her own family one night.
That fateful evening, Janice's 12-year-old daughter was packing for a school trip when she began to have a stress-related meltdown. "She was crying on my bed," Janice recalls. "She started pulling out all the stops."
Janice's instinct was to use logic to help her upset daughter understand that everything would be OK. Instead, she tried something very different. She consciously listened.
"I just kept staying with it," Janice says. "It was actually the easiest thing that I did... just connecting with her and just letting her keep getting it out."
Then, something remarkable happened.
"It was like magic. After a few minutes, she was just like... 'OK, I'm going to go finish packing,'" Janice says. "She did it herself... She found the strength and she somehow found it within herself, just by me being there and comforting her and hugging her. That's all I had to do."
Like Janice's daughter, many children aren't looking for their parents to "fix" what's upsetting them. Even worse, when the parent does attempt to fix it and the child isn't soothed by that effort, this now leaves the parent feeling inadequate. Instead of falling into this negative cycle, Dr. Shefali suggests taking a step back and truly connecting with your child.
"We can only really 'be' when we stay detached from what's happening in our head," Dr. Shefali says. "This is ego, a running tape of everything negative and how we need to intrude and micromanage. So, stepping back and entering the inner space allows us to fully connect."
Also in the interview: Dr. Shefali explains how to make sure your own inner space is baggage-free, with the ability to be in the present.