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It's been many years since I was racing to keep up with toddlers. However, I was recently reminded of a time that tested my patience in a big way. When my son was two, he and I had just picked up a $25 cake from the bakery, especially ordered for a friend's surprise birthday celebration. I nestled the square white box on the floor between the two front seats of our van. Arriving in our driveway, I unhooked the quick-release on my son's carseat and headed to the rear of the van to pull out our belongings.
Coming quickly around to take my son's hand, I was shocked to find him sitting on the box with a big grin on his face. With all the sweetness of the freshly squashed cake, he squeaked, "It's a perfect size seat for me, Mom!" He had mistaken the cake box for a booster chair, which he frequently sat on at our kitchen table.
Now, this could have spoiled our day, but I was determined to not allow the innocence of a toddler to unglue me. I decided to shift gears and create a Kodak moment. We gathered as planned, but our birthday feast turned into a totally different experience. We gobbled up the smashed cake with our fingers-a rare event that carved many memories. It was a happy, fun time with my friend and our children.
Often we let a mishap-whether it's a squashed cake, a broken vase, or a dented fender-be more important than the relationship and the feelings of the other person. Not because we want to but because we are triggered unexpectedly. In retrospect we see how we would have liked to have acted, but then it's too late.
One of the most valuable skills we can learn and practice as parents is to lasso our emotions by magnifying our awareness of our values. Like fanning a bonfire at our favorite campsite, our hearts and minds can strengthen our commitment to our guiding ideals. Focusing on what's truly important to us and building a stronger connection to our values does two things. First, it dissipates our need to lash out. And second, it replaces negative emotions and allows us to respond lovingly instead of reacting.
One of my values as a parent has been to strive to seek to understand before responding. Although I have failed many times in this endeavor, I have gotten better over the years. In the smashed cake situation, it would have been easy to react with frustration and anger. By keeping my value in full view, my intention to understand helped me refrain from yelling; then, my son's joy melted the rest of my distress.
A regular practice of mindfulness fortifies our ability to calm ourselves when it really matters. When we rivet our attention on values and amplify their presence with us, negative responses dwindle. Conscious choice makes it possible to safeguard a child's blossoming self-esteem and impart what truly matters in life-each other! And a huge bonus: When we build self-control through mindfulness, we are able to model effectively to our children.
Try it! Turn mishaps to happy memories: Amplify your truest values and minimize a negative situation just by shifting your attention slightly, yet deliberately.
Jennifer Williams' passion lies in helping parents and couples create loving and harmonious homes and communities where everyone can thrive. Jennifer's life mission is to give children and families the support and skills they need to flourish and to help build a society in which all children are loved unconditionally.
She is the founder of the Heartmanity Center and is a highly sought-after relationship expert and behavioral consultant with a proven road map to heal relationships from the inside out. Yet, Jennifer still prides herself most in being the mother of 3 grown children and in a happy marriage of 32 years. To learn how to quickly shift your life and relationships, visit www.Heartmanity.com.
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