4 Ways To Calm A Baby Dragon

Our morning started out a little rough today. My youngest came into my room this morning before I was even out of bed and asked for a hard boiled egg. I told him they were all gone. He said, “I already took one.” I said, “You didn’t try to crack it open did you?” He said, “Yes. It’s all over the table and chair.” So before I even had my morning coffee, I had to wipe up a slimy egg mess. I didn’t react,I just wiped it up. He had even tried to wipe it himself with a towel, which I sort of appreciated, but it really wasn’t helpful.

We put that mess behind us and somehow became distracted looking at toy dragons on Amazon together and lost track of time. He was becoming over hungry and overstimulated from looking at my computer screen and I could tell it was going to be a downhill slide. When he starts to unravel he becomes like a fierce, fire-breathing baby dragon. I put some food in front of him to hopefully stop his emotional spiral.

He ate breakfast and then came into my bedroom very upset and dysregulated. He needed to calm his little body. For some reason I decided to sit in a meditation pose and quieted my own body first. He was still angry and started crawling under my bed. I started tapping and he yelled, “Stop moving!” I went back to my still meditation pose. I took a deep breath, and in my mind I said, “Breathe in love”. As I exhaled a deep breath out, I said to myself, “Breathe out stress.” After a few minutes I started to do some yoga poses and then ended in a child’s pose. I was feeling calm and relaxed, even with a baby dragon under my bed.

Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

After just a few minutes my baby dragon slowly came out from under the bed. I stayed in my child’s pose as he grabbed pillows from my bed and laid them on top of me. After he piled 6 pillows on and around my body he climbed on top of me too. I now understand how pressure and weight can be calming, not to mention the darkness from being buried under the pillows. I could feel his small, warm hand touch mine. I grabbed it and held on.

His anger had completely disappeared in a matter of minutes. He wasn’t a baby dragon anymore. He was a happy little boy again. He asked, “Want to play?” I said, ” Sure.” So I had him lay down and put the pillows on top of him with some added pressure from my body. When he said stop, I stopped. He emerged from the pile of pillows and they scattered around us. We snuggled up in the dragon nest and just laid there together for a while breathing in this calm, quiet moment of connection.

My son is very sensitive, like myself. We take in all the commotion around us and seem to be hyper-aware of the energy of others. This little experiment was a great demonstration of the law of attraction. When you feel calm and loving your child will attract towards you with the same feelings. Your child needs you to be present and hold space for them when they are struggling. This will help them feel safe and regulate.

When you are disconnected, stressed, and not present, your child will feel the same. When he is in a state of dysregulation and then feels your stress on top of it, even if you are not aware of it, he will go into fight or flight. So, it’s really pretty simple. If you can change your energy level to a calm, positive, present state you can change your outcome to the same.

Four Steps To Calm Your BABY Dragon:

  1. BE Quiet
  2. BE STILL
  3. BE PRESENT
  4. Breathe in love

I was reading a story this afternoon with my son. It was called What Makes You Happy? It talked about all kinds of silly things that might make a kid happy. I asked my son, “What makes YOU happy?” I was shocked by his wise answer. I thought he was going to tell me riding his bike or watching his favorite show. His profound answer for a 5 year-old was, “Getting love.” Kids don’t want to make our lives hard, they just want love.

~Do Better & Shine

Love Is Not Perfect

After a stressful school day that just happened to occur on Valentine’s Day, my teen daughter suddenly announced that she hates holidays. Every holiday. Even Christmas…and Valentine’s Day, which appeared her current source of grief. Personally, I have fond memories of Valentine’s Day as a child, but I also know love isn’t perfect, so I guess I shouldn’t expect Valentine’s Day to be perfect either. Our kids’ struggle with holidays is nothing new, but it seems like every year we hope things will change, but there were some other factors making this particular Valentine’s Day a rough one.

First of all, to really make things challenging, I have the flu, so just surviving the day with a preschooler home for the entire day was a huge accomplishment for me. My husband helped out by taking him off my hands for a few hours, and then picked up the kids after their sports practices. This is when everything really started to go down hill.

It’s hard when mom is sick and routines are thrown off. The stress must have been brewing in the van ride home. Sitting and waiting for 45 minutes for my daughter to come out of practice is not ideal with a preschooler tagging along. A Happy Valentine’s Day greeting from my youngest turned quickly into a spitting episode. Then there was fighting and arguing between the older kids. When my older son finally arrived home and entered the kitchen he was steaming mad about the interactions on the horrible car ride home.

In my flu-altered state of mind I was lucky to just get the oven preheated for the take-and-bake pizza. To continue the chaos my youngest thought he would try to be helpful and transfer our homemade Valentine’s cake from the counter to the table without asking. In the process he dropped it and it flopped smack on the floor, breaking into pieces. All I could hear was the sound of my husband’s loud groan, and my little one’s crying. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My husband picked up Valentine’s heart pizzas for dinner. I made the not-so- smart decision to cook them together so they would be done at the same time. Well, the one on the bottom came out burnt and the one on the top came out soggy. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

As we sat down to eat I saw a not-so-nice snap chat conversation on my daughter’s smartphone. She was embarrassed. She could see my disappointment, as it brought up my fear of who she is outside our home. She was mostly silent all through dinner, then took her cake dessert to her room. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My son was unable to join us because he continued to be so irritated by the simplest comments his younger brother would make, such as, “I get the first piece of cake!” He must have had a rough day too, because he just couldn’t seem to tolerate anything or anyone today. He ate his pizza by himself when everyone was out of the kitchen and opened his cards without a thank-you (so far). Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

We ate our soggy, burnt pizza. We ate our broken cake. It must have tasted fine because there were no complaints. We continued on and exchanged cards and gifts with each other, and slowly, the tension began to soften. Hearts were warming. There were tears of emotion for kind words written, and thoughtful gifts. There were moments of excitement, joy and gratitude. These are the moments I will hang on to; the rest I will let go.

Included in the evening was a discussion about what makes holidays hard, and one heart-felt reason, offered by my daughter, was the people who were missing. This is a common struggle for adopted children. There was a discussion about emotions and fears. There were apologies and more tears. There were long, strong hugs where you could really feel the love. Then I thought, this is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a lesson to be learned. Love is not perfect, it’s messy. That doesn’t mean give up; it just means that growth is on the other side.

I hope my daughter will someday learn to be more at ease with holidays, which might come with a full understanding of why these special days can be hard for some people. Everyone comes to the table with their own backpack of “stuff” from the day, and personal experiences, accumulated over the years. Once we are finally able to unpack it all, we will clearly see that all that is left…is love.

Do Better & Shine

Flexibility

There is nothing more frustrating and exhausting than a child who is inflexible. I have a four-year old. I know we can all have our moments of inflexibility, but preschoolers can take it to a whole new level of insanity and make life extra hard. Consider yourself lucky if you only had to deal with the terrible twos or the tantrum threes.

When behaviors continue past a certain point you wonder what in the world is going on. Fear takes over and you decide its finally time to get some professional help. Once you have a better understanding of your child’s lagging skills you can more confidently make a plan and pray the craziness will soon come to an end.

The kids definition of flexible in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “possible or easy to bend” or “easily changed.” When you have a strong-willed child every interaction can feel impossible because the child completely refuses to bend. I wish I knew what it was like to easily switch from one activity to another with him, but transitions are hard every single time.

Something drastic finally needed to be done, so I decided no more outings. Every outing ended in a meltdown, which was his way of telling me the world was too big right now, I just needed to pay attention and meet him where he was at. When I stopped putting him in the same situations that kept triggering meltdowns I could see his body start to calm after a few days. He began to enjoy the safety of home as he had more time to relax and less reason to get upset. Surprisingly he also started to initiate play with us and even alone, which was a new skill for him. It’s amazing how fast the brain can change and grow when it is not always recovering from a state of stress.

After a full week of practicing strategies at home to help teach him how to be more flexible and seeing such great progress, I was ready to attempt to take him out in the world again. I decided on a quick run to Target. There was nothing important on my list so I was ready to walk out if I needed to. I told him my expectations from the start and he was warned that we would leave if there was a problem.

Right away he noticed the colorful candies on display. Some shiny red packages caught his eye and he said he wanted to look at them. As I walked on by I told him we would come back and look at those in a little bit. He was too tempted by the shiny packages and slowly walked away from me and towards the display. I motioned with my finger for him to come back and surprisingly he did. I was impressed that he actually came back and said, “Thank-you for being a listener.” He smiled and said, “You mean thank-you for being FLEXIBLE?” I just stopped and stared at him with big eyes. It was the first time he ever used the word flexible. I began to think everything was finally starting to sink in.

This whole week made me think about the children’s book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. The story is about a little lion who can’t seem to do all the things his friends are doing. The father can’t stop worrying about it, but the mother is not too concerned. Of course in his own sweet time he does bloom and learn to do everything his father feared he wouldn’t. Leo proclaims, “I made it!”

Every child will go through a challenge at some point in their life. It might be potty training, eating, sleeping, reading, writing, math, making friends, difficult behavior or something else. Parents don’t like watching their kids struggle, but it will likely be the struggle that will make them the amazing person they become. Be grateful for the struggle because it will help you learn and grow, even though it might be hard in the moment.

Remember that flowers bloom and close and bloom again. Blooming is a lifelong process, it’s not something that we ever arrive at, but something we keep working towards. My son had an encouraging week, but he still has a long way to go. Of course there will be more meltdowns and more struggles in the future. At the end of the story the little lion says, “I made it.” I don’t think we ever make it. We are all a work in progress. Our goal is to keep doing better and keep blooming.

If you are struggling with your child in any area don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Sometimes just having a better understanding of the problem can help you approach it from a place of love instead of a place of fear. This will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Frustration

We all want to start our day off on a positive note. Our hope each morning is to start fresh and have a good day. I try to get myself into a good head space every morning before the hustle and bustle getting ready for school begins. It helps when you have a few quiet moments just for you. You need to take care of your own soul first before you can be present for others. That is the goal anyway.

Life in a family means you have to deal with the energy of other people. Kids often have trouble nurturing their own souls in the morning and will need you to help them. All it takes is for one person to rock the boat a little too hard. If one person lets their frustration fly it is automatically absorbed by the rest of the family. It is a constant daily battle to get everyone out the door without any chaos taking place.

My daughter couldn’t find her basketball uniform this morning in the midst of a floor full of dirty clothes. She quickly became stressed and frantic as it was already time to leave for school. Her anxious energy oozed into the pores of everyone else in the house. It’s amazing how this energy can linger in the air, even after the frustrated person is out of the house. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much it has affected you, but you know it doesn’t feel good and it wasn’t your energy to begin with.

The best way for me to get rid of too much energy from someone else is to wash it away. I decided to go take a quick shower while my youngest son colored at the kitchen table. Before I even had a chance to get in the shower I came back into the kitchen and noticed a large container of colored pencils dumped all over the table and onto the floor. Sometimes I forget that little ones need to find a way to get rid of their energy too. They often can’t do it alone and my son uses behaviors instead of words to get my attention. Spilled pencils everywhere got my attention.

At this point I am already frustrated from dealing with child one and now moving onto dealing with child 2. I asked him what happened but he felt my tension and told me he didn’t know. I angrily cleaned the pencils up and told him he was no longer allowed to use colored pencils. Ever. I brought him into the bathroom with me so we could both sit and calm down. After we both had a few minutes to sit quietly and take a deep breath he told me that he was frustrated because he started coloring his picture earlier and then he couldn’t find the same colored pencil to make it match.

I know how sensitive he can be and how stress affects kids as much as it affects adults. Understanding where his frustration was coming from, especially since I was feeling the same way allowed me to be compassionate and spend time reconnecting. As we sat and talked he asked me why his sister didn’t ask anyone to help her find her uniform. Surprised that he noticed this very important detail, I told him that was a very good question. I said, “Sometimes we just get so angry and frustrated that we don’t have the words.”

So many things can happen in our day to make us “flip our lids”. It is pretty much a given that it will happen, we just don’t know how or when. When it does happen, our brains go straight to fight, flight, or freeze. First we feel the stress (ours or someone else’s), then we get scared, then the behaviors show themselves. The stress made my daughter yell and not ask for help. The stress made my youngest son dump all the pencils out, also not asking for help. The stress made me want to run away and take a shower, when I new it was not the best time.

There are lots of things we can do to try and fix the situations above, but the reality is that frustration will keep happening on a daily basis, especially in a family. The scenarios will change, but the reactions will often stay the same. We need to be conscious of what is happening and try to stay present so we can work our way through it.

Tomorrow is a new day and once again we will start over. I will do what I need to fill my cup and take care of my soul first so I can be the presence that the rest of my family needs. This does not guarantee perfection, not even close, but after many years of searching for answers, it is the best way I have found to start making progress.

Do Better & Shine

Practice Stillness

It’s what everyone is looking for, yet sometimes it’s hard to slow down and find it. I am talking about complete stillness with nothing else going on in the background. When is the last time you were completely still? No music, no phone, no Youtube, just YOU!

If we want to practice stillness, one of our best teachers is our pets. I have a dog that can do this for hours a day. Can you imagine how relaxing that would be? She just finds a cozy spot, usually right in my bed, maybe even on my pillow and curls up. I don’t think she has any other thoughts rushing through her mind, she is just enjoying the quiet, warmth, and stillness. She is so good at taking deep breaths. Your dog can teach you how to do this too. All you have to do is be still and listen.

If you want to practice, wait until your dog is in a quiet restful state and go snuggle up and get close. Put your ear to your dog’s heart and listen. You will hear long, deep, slow breaths. Try to follow along. Be still, close your eyes and just breathe. Stay in this place for one minute, or as long as you like. Ahhh.

I know your days are busy, but whenever you have a moment, remember this feeling of being still and try to come back to it. Visualize yourself cozied up with your warm pup, remember the sound of your pups deep breaths and pretend you are back in this warm, soft place. As you imagine this picture in your mind take a long deep breath in and let that same long breath out.

This is such an amazing, full sensory experience that your mind should be able to recreate it in any moment . When life is feeling crazy and your body is craving some peace, no matter where you are, take your mind back to this experience and just breathe and be still. Ahhh.

Do Better & Shine

Lizard Brain

I am thrilled that my youngest son has a teacher that specifically teaches classes in mindfulness. It is probably not practiced enough, but I am happy to know that it does exist. I wish I had more knowledge of exactly what is being taught, but for now I am going by what my four-year old tells me.

He has shown me different breaths he has learned to calm his body. His favorite is called the “Volcano Breath”. When I was doing Yoga at home the other day he heard the instructor say, “Lion’s Breath” and he told me he learned that breath in school. He said I was doing it wrong and showed me how to do it correctly, letting out a big lion roar. I was also surprised when he told me he had a “Lizard Brain”. He could not put into words what it meant, but when I told him how his “lizard brain” keeps him safe, he understood. He also told me his teacher had a lizard puppet.

So last night after two very long weeks of winter break, lots of traveling, and probably not enough sleep, I decided my youngest should take a bath before bed to be ready for school the next day. He was already being pretty bossy, so I should have known this might not go well. When it came time to wash hair he insisted on doing it himself. When he didn’t get his hair quite wet enough, I took it upon myself to pour a cup of water over his head when he wasn’t expecting it.

His “lizard brain” went into full effect! His first response is to fight! So he takes his hands and give me three big splashes, soaking my clothes. I was not happy, but I also did not react. I could feel myself going into “lizard brain” mode too, but after years of practice, I am finally able to recognize it and move on. His next response is to tell me he doesn’t love me. He knows exactly what to say to stab my heart and get revenge. At this point the option of washing his hair was over unless I was going to go into full on battle with him. He was mad. I was very frustrated. We both needed to calm down. I helped him out of the tub, but I was in no mood to help him with anything else.

He went downstairs and sat in his rocking chair wrapped up in blankets. I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. Once I regained some composure and compassion, yet still damp from being splashed, I went into the fridge and brought him a slice of cake for a bedtime snack. He ate half the cake, too tired to be completely happy about it. I helped him get his pajamas on, he brushed his teeth and hopped straight into bed. I asked if I could snuggle with him and he said, “No, I hate you.” I said, “Maybe tomorrow.” I told him, just like I told my older kids when they were little, “I love you always and forever and no matter what.” He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When I came into the kitchen this morning he was eating his cereal. I asked if I could sit down beside him. After thinking about it for a moment he said, “Yes.” I asked him if he still loved me today and he said, “Yes, I do.” We talked about what happened last night. I know he felt bad for splashing me and I told him that it wasn’t really him that splashed me, it was his “lizard brain.” Sometimes our emotions completely take over and our lizard gets out of his cage. Even though it is not a life or death situation, sometimes our brain does not take that into consideration and just goes right to fight or flight. Some kids are super sensitive and go here more easily than others.

Everyone has a “lizard brain”, we just need to learn to recognize it. I told my son we need to try to keep our lizard in its cage when we don’t really need it. A little water over our head is not the same as having to survive if we are drowning. If it comes out of the cage by mistake, we can practice our volcano breaths or our lion breaths to put it back where it belongs. We can snuggle up in our blanket and rock. We can get a good night’s sleep, or do whatever else helps calm our brain and body.

This takes years of practice. Many adults still don’t even recognize their lizard brain and why their lizard charged out of its cage in a particular moment. You are way ahead of the game learning this at age four. We will keep practicing. The more we practice the more we understand our emotions and are able to have a little more control over them. You did all the right things to get yourself back on track. Sometimes we just need to sleep on it too. Everything looks better in the morning!

~DO BETTER & Shine

Blog Intro

When I first decided to start this blog, it came out of the idea of developing curriculum for teachers. As I thought about what kind of curriculum sparked something inside of me, I decided that I wanted to create curriculum that allowed ALL students to feel successful. As a former special education teacher and a mom of three very different children- all with their own unique gifts and challenges, I wanted to create something that allowed all students to SHINE.

After lots of scribbling in notebooks and jotting down tidbits of thoughts here and there, I decided to start blogging publicly so someday my kids can gain some insight from my writing in a more organized fashion that might actually make some sense. Even though I try to teach them everyday, I know their brains will only take what they need today and learn the rest over time. My hope is that they will read this someday, be inspired by their own gifts and gain more insight into themselves and the world around them.

My soul was telling me to start. Just start even though I don’t know where this path will lead. I love to learn and I plan to share inspiration and ideas I discover on a daily basis, usually just within the chaos and challenges of family life. Writing helps me better understand and process my own world. I hope reading this helps you process yours a bit too. I’m sure this blog will evolve as I continue to learn and grow, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

~Do Better & Shine