If I could give one piece of parenting advice (not that people are asking in this particular saturated arena), it would be:
Teach your kids to breathe.
I don’t regret much, but one thing I do is that I didn’t learn this until my third child. It’s amazingly simple, and remarkably effective.
Around 10-18 months, sometimes even earlier, kids begin to imitate people. This is usually taken advantage of in the form of games, but I used it to teach Corbin a meditative form of breathing.
Palms up, lift hands slowly, breathe in. Nice and deep, nice and slow.
Palms down, lower hands slowly, breathe out. Slightly pursed lips, gentle blow.
We started just randomly at calm-down times, like bedtime, or even for no reason at all. I’d start by holding his hands and moving them for him, and demonstrating the breathing part. When he knew what the word “breathe” meant, we’d do it together. When he got too excited to talk, or hurt himself, or was getting frustrated about something, or was hyped up and making silly decisions, we could now say to him, “Just breathe.” and start breathing with our hands, and he’d join in. Sometimes we have to remind him to do it slowly because he would hyperventilate and flap his arms up and down to get it out of the way, but once he does it properly he is so much calmer, more able to communicate, and easily able to see what the
problem solution is. So often we just want to get our kid or ourselves out of discomfort, and end up missing an opportunity to teach resilience and coping skills. I sometimes think (perhaps unproductively) about all the fights and fury that I might have avoided, if I had learned this earlier and taught my girls.
It also occasionally lends itself to a funny story.
Corbin came into my room with a very serious face, hands moving up and down, breathing, a little faster and harder than the exercise intends. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, “Calming myself down.” Worried, I asked him what he needed to calm down for. He said, “Because candy canes are too minty!”