- When parents are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, it can be a teachable moment for children on how to manage emotions.
- Stopping ourselves from being reactionary and impulsive is the first step in being more intentional.
- Connecting with children is a key part of modeling emotional regulation.
If you grew up in the '80s or '90s, you probably remember the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” fire safety campaign. I remember learning it at school, seeing it reinforced on TV, and even practicing it with my friends. Should we catch fire or spontaneously combust, there was only one proper course of action. Stop whatever we were doing (stop catching on fire?), drop to the ground, and roll around until the fire subsided.
Looking back, I have to wonder how many kids spontaneously combusted to make this the public safety campaign of the decade. I assume it was a lot of kids.
The good news is that I never randomly caught on fire. I did become so paranoid about catching on fire that I created an elaborate fire safety survival plan for my entire family that involved a hammer perched next to my bedroom window. I was sure that one day this hammer would help me shatter through my window and survive the house fire that was all but inevitable because it was the '80s and everything was (apparently) catching on fire.
This was a long intro about fire safety, especially for a post that is, in no way whatsoever, about fire safety.
What it is about is how to “stop, drop, and roll” with your kids this summer to be a more positive and less reactive parent. Works for teachers, too, if they tricked or guilted you into teaching summer school this year.
A major child care no-no is being reactionary. When my 4-year-old gets me riled up (and she definitely does), I don’t want my worst impulses to run the show. This is where the “stop” part of my "stop, drop, and roll” remix comes in.
What I’m really after is a kind of mindful pausing. I want to check in with myself and assess how I’m feeling and what those worst impulses are. So I might close my eyes to determine how my frustrating daughter is making me feel (probably frustrated). I can also leave the room to create some physical distance.
Also remember that you’re modeling good behavior here, so feel free to tell your child what you’re doing. “I’m starting to feel upset, so I’m going to go to the living room to try to calm myself down.”
The next step is the “drop” part. But instead of dropping to the ground because you’re on fire, you’re going to drop the overwhelming feelings by doing some calming, connecting exercises.
Get your kid involved here. “I need to calm myself down. Do you want to do the Birthday Cake Hands game with me?” Birthday Cake Hands is my take on the breathing exercise where you pretend your hand is a cake, and you slowly blow out each of your fingers (as if they’re birthday candles) to calm yourself down.
Instead of rolling around on the ground, I’m talking about keeping things rolling with your child. I’m talking about connection.
When it comes to connecting with your child, I love the work of Drs. Tina Payne Bryson and Dan Siegel. They’re the authors of No Drama Discipline, The Yes Brain, and The Whole-Brain Child. The idea behind their positive parenting is that we need to connect with our children when they’re dysregulated (struggling to manage their emotions).
It’s important to connect when you’re feeling dysregulated, too.
Once you’ve both named your feelings and calmed down, it’s time to connect. I might mirror my daughter and do what she does. Physical contact matters. I can bring her in for a hug, tell her that I love her, and remind her what my expectations are or how her behavior has been affecting me.
Honesty is important. When I’m exhausted, I tell her I’m exhausted. I also try to enlist her help at this stage. “Can you help me out by being a good listener? I’m really tired, and bath time isn’t very fun for me when you’re not following the rules.”
Stop, Drop, and Roll
The parenting stop, drop, and roll can help when you’re at your most frustrated and overwhelmed. It can also be a fun way for your child to practice regulating their own emotions. You know, fun for the whole family.
For more ideas on fun exercises that will help you stop, drop, and roll with your children, check out the first three lessons of my book Play Your Way Sane for 30 ways you can become more mindful, calm down, and reconnect through play.
I have a feeling that many of us are going to have some contentious moments with our kids this summer. The next time you do, just remember to “stop, drop, and roll.” It’s your gentle reminder to parent with more intention and not let your worst habits win the day.
The metaphor is a fitting one, because nothing makes my face feel like it’s on fire quite like a young child who’s gone totally rogue. Good luck this summer, parents and teachers. You got this, one fire at a time.
Drinko, C. (2021). Play your way sane: 120 improv-inspired exercises to help you calm down, stop spiraling, and embrace uncertainty. Tiller Press.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2016). No-drama discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child's developing mind. Bantam.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2021). The power of showing up: How parental presence shapes who our kids become and how their brains get wired. Ballantine Books.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child's developing mind. Bantam.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2019). The yes brain: How to cultivate courage, curiosity, and resilience in your child. Bantam.