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HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT CALM DOWN CORNER

March 4th, 2019 | no comments

When I was preggo with Ayaan, hubby and I had a serious talk about getting on the same page about discipline. 

We agreed time-outs, spanking and shouting were out of the question.

We have been able to hold our ground with no time-outs and spanking but shouting.

Oh boy. We are still working hard on that. 🤦🏽‍♀️ 

I love that so many of my Instagram Mod-Zen mamas wanted more info about calm down corners…

So this one is for you… 

This is such a strong indication of how the consciousness of us mothers is expanding. 

It’s my desire that time-outs as a form of punishment and discipline end with our generation.

Therefore, I’m sooo passionate about sharing how you can start using time-in’s and hopefully this blog will inspire you to create your child’s very own calm down corner too.

So let’s start with some basics.

What’s The Difference Between A Time-In and Time Out?

Time outs are when a child misbehaves they are sent away, to sit alone somewhere (like a chair or facing a wall), for a specific time. During that time parents are suppose to ignore any cries or requests.

We do this because we need our child to calm down or want them to think about their mistake and realize that kind of behavior is not acceptable.

Studies show that timeouts do not actually help children learn to regulate their emotions or help them learn moral values like right from wrong.

It lowers their developing sense of self, and trust of the world.

And many kids feel abandoned, rejected, frightened and confused afterwards.

Which is the total opposite of what we want. 

Often, time outs lead to more power struggles and fractured parent-child relationships.

Some clues that time out is not actually working:

The behavior isn’t stopping and you keep putting them in time-out over and over again for the same thing.

When the child is in time out they repeatedly asks when they can get up. (They aren’t thinking about the lesson, but how to avoid punishment.)

When the child is running away at the mention or threat of time out and now the power struggle becomes about not going in time-out

You get angrier and lose your cool as you struggle to get your child to quiet down so you can start the timer.

–Let me just interject and jump on my soap box for my moment. 🎤

If you have used time-out in the past, and they create more strife and struggle, this post isn’t meant to make you feel guilty at all. You did the very best you could with the knowledge you had at the time.

For some families time-outs work and others they don’t. We sometimes make mistakes but it’s never too late to try something new.  It’s what we decide to do from this moment on that truly matters.

Coz’ like the brilliant Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you can do better. “

{getting off the soap box}

So how are time-in’s different?!

Time-In’s are a positive alternative where the child that is having a big emotion is kindly invited to sit in their calm down corner, with you, to express their feelings and eventually cool down. Once they cool down thats when the teachable moment is talked about.

During the time in,  the first agenda is ALWAYS helping them name the emotion, feel the emotion and show empathy and support as they ride through the feelings.

We don’t have to agree with or understand it but we do have to be a pillar of support to know they are safe and loved despite the way they act.  Sometimes words aren’t even needed, all that is needed is a warm hug to let the storm pass. 

Time-In’s don’t mean that you must let your child continue with a behavior that is inappropriate. 

Absolutely not.

But it’s about having teachable moments, natural/logical consequences and setting personal boundaries of what is acceptable ONLY when their mind is in a receptive state to learn. 

 Reasons Time IN works:

children are likely to feel heard and respected

there can be connection and empathy between parent and child before a teachable moment 

children are given time to properly feel and move through emotions

parents don’t feel out of control or create a power struggle to keep child in the time out.

children don’t feel isolated, shamed or scared

It gives parent and children a chance to talk about the real issue and deeply connect. 

In order to make children feel safe to ride through and release their big emotions, we need to create a calm down corner.

What’s A Calm Down Corner

A calm-down corner is a place for an upset child to go to release their emotions and cool down using age-appropriate calm down strategies. 

This is not a punishment or a place a child is banished to.

Toddlers will most likely need you to sit with them and guide them through the calming strategies. This should be a soothing and inviting space – not at all threatening.

It’s a place where they go freely, {almost} everyday to play and get comfortable with the surroundings even when they aren’t experiencing big emotions.

The items in the space should be calm, familiar and help them process difficult emotions. 

Now, I’ll show you how to make the perfect calm-down corner for your child that you can put together today and start to use right away.

PURPOSE OF THE CALM DOWN CORNER

Teaching kids it’s okay to have big feelings, and what are the appropriate and inappropriate way to express and release emotions in safe space.  

When we are angry, the primitive part of our brain is activated, and we go into  fight, flight, or freeze response aka red brain.

When we are in our primitive brain, we have limited access to logic and reasoning. 

And even saying “take a deep breath” from a supportive place can trigger them to go deeper in their rage.

A great book that gives a more scientific explanation of what happens to a child’s brain when angry is The Whole Brain Child.  

The purpose of the calm-down corner is to get out of fight or flight (or red brain), and turn on their logic mind before you talk about what happened.

Until the anger has subsided, a child can’t really learn the lessons we want to teach about why their behavior is unacceptable and what they should do instead.

**This is important**

(The reason why time-out doesn’t work for many children is because it is perceived as a threat or causes further feelings of anger and fear which just keeps the child locked in their primitive, brain!)

✨To learn how to teach your kids how to self-regulate and build emotional intelligence  click here.

When to Use It

  • During a midst of a meltdown 
  • When a child is being aggressive or disrespectful
  • When they are fighting with siblings
  • When they are showing the beginning signs of anger (whining, clenched jaw, reddening face, raising voice). Teach children to recognize these signs.

WHAT DO YOU PUT IN CALM DOWN CORNER?

MEDDY TEDDY, MODI TOYS, GENERATIONAL MINDFULEveryone’s corner looks a little different because it should be tailored to suit your individual child, but I’ll show you ours!

So though there is no cookie-cutter one-size fits all, calm down corners have a few necessary elements in order for them to be effective.

Here are some of the major components of a great calm-down corner.

Feelings Chart

The feelings posters we use are from Generation Mindful’s Time-In Tool Kit.

Why re-invent the wheel when owner Suzanne Tucker totally got it right!

I HIGHLY recommend this Time-In kit. 

They have great images to build emotions recognition as well as a poster that shares simple calming strategies kids can pick from.

The most important thing you want to help guide your child to do in the calm down corner:

How do you feel right now? (have them point at a picture or tell you)

How dow you want to feel?

What calming tool will you use to help you feel better?

✨If you want to learn the 4 foundational steps to build the skills of identifying feelings and teaching kids mindful breathing, watch this video. 

Comforting Elements:

Comfy place to sit: I used to have meditation cushions for me and Ayaan but I recently upgraded his space and added his Pottery Barn chair and blanket so he has a comfy place when he is taking deep breaths.  But any beanbag, pillows, blankets or cushions on the ground works just as well. 

Sensory: Some children are soothed with sensory activities.

Water: Water helps calm down a impatient mind and body. So  have a little water bottle to help cool down your child when they are heated up.  

I also got a little water feature from 5 Below and I find Ayaan likes the water trickling sound when he is in the calm down corner.

Essential Oils: Soothing smells have a powerful way to calm our nervous system.  You can either put a diffuser in the calm down corner or keep an oil nearby for them to smell.

Of course Lavender is an oldie but goodie but Ayaan is obsessed with my Tara Aromotherapy Stress Relief oil (It’s one of my favs too) so I’ll drop a few oils in his hands and he will take deep breaths.  Or on the rare occasions he lets me, I’ll give him a little foot massage. 

Calming:

Calming Jars are a fantastic way for kids to shake, swirl and stop our mind from stirring. I’ll admit I have one for myself because they really work. Instructions to make a calming jar.

Buddha Board- The idea of Buddha boards is to teach impermanence- just like our emotions. Ayaan draws a picture of his anger and the goal is by the time the water dries up, his anger will go away too. It’s rare that his anger ever lasts longer than that.

Calming tools are meant to shift the mind to something besides the upset, and watching the glitter or drawing on the buddha board brings the child back to the present moment.

Engaging:

Positive Affirmations – help them focus on what is good about them when may feel bad about themselves for making a mistake. Our favorite is The LovePowered Co cards.  

Puzzle – Ayaan has been loving puzzles now that he is close to 4. But we just added this to the calm down corner. 

Yoga/movement- Ayaan puts Meddy Teddy in a yoga pose and then we copy it. Sometimes I do a really crazy one to get him to laugh. Laughter after a meltdown is sooo therapeutic.

Books – We commonly read a mindfulness or feelings book together. Some of our favorites are:

Anh’s Anger

Visiting Feelings

Calm Down And Work Through Anger

Calm Down Time

The Way I Feel

Today I Feel Silly And My Many Moods

Worries Are Not Forever

Stuffed Animals SnuggleBuddies Mindful Kids

SnuggleBuddies From Generation Mindful. This stuffy is great for calm down corners because they have colored emoji’s that match the feelings chart you get in the Time-In toolkit.

My First Buddha (Unfortunately they don’t make this anymore)

Baby Ganesh from my favorite ModiToys

Other ideas are coloring books,  toy cars etc.

Breathing Tools

Kids 2+ here are my favorite breathing tools:

Straws, pinwheels, Hoberman sphere and star breath.

Kids Ages 3-9 you can watch this video to learn 4 essential breathing tools.

✨ You can also check out this article I wrote for Mind Body Green: How to teach meditation to kids (Ages 3+)

AFTER THEY CALM DOWN COMPLETELY… 

Press the Reset Button

I created a little (kinda ghetto) Reset button that both of us use so that we can do a re-do and start again.

Sometimes we actually role-play and do it again other times we apologize and talk about how to solve the problem in the future.

I ask was it a big problem or small problem?

And then we both become solution seekers and brainstorm ideas of what we can do better next time. ** (When I mess up, I do this with him as well to show him that I make mistakes and am always learning and growing as well)

This is when you have the teachable moment and let them know their behavior wasn’t acceptable, why it wasn’t acceptable, and teach the skills they need to do better the next time such a situation arises.

MY BIG AHA!

Many times I wait until bedtime and read a mindfulness book that relates to what happened and then we have the teachable moment then.

There is a misconceived notion that we need to address the bad behavior right away or else our kids will forget, then believe that this behavior okay and become chronic delinquents. (That used to be me 🙋🏽‍♀️)

I’m most successful in having a calm teachable moment with Ayaan when we are both relaxed, enough time has gone by and it’s that intimate bedtime moment. We naturally discuss what was the best part of our day and what is one mistake we made that we can work on.

When Ayaan was 2 I got the series of board books like Hands Are Not For Hitting, Voices Are Not For Yelling and Calm Down Time. Those were my two biggest issues and anytime he did that, we would read this really age-appropriate books during the teachable moment.

MY A’S TO YOUR Q’S

These are the most commonly DM’ed questions I got on Instagram and Facebook from moms about calm down corners…  

What Age Do you Start?

You start creating the space and introducing them to the calming strategies by age 2.

Here is a good rule of thumb, whenever you think your kids are ready for time-outs they are ready for time-ins instead.

By (Age 2.5-4) they should be getting guided to the calm down corner almost every time they have tough emotions and consistently guide them on how to ride through the emotions.

**Please note if you are triggered and feel like you are about to lose it, take your own time-in and take some space from your child instead of guiding them to their calm down corner. You’re more likely going to be impatient if you are working through your own big emotions and red brain moment.

Is it too late if my child is 6 or 7?

It’s never too late or early to teach emotional intelligence and mindful breathing.   When I tell moms to start at 2 the initial fear is OMG my child is 6 or 7 did I miss the boat?

Hellz to the no you didn’t!

My expertise is working with kids ages 3-9 and this is the PRIME age to teach children these tools.

As is the teens, 20’s, 30’s. You get my drift?! It’s never to early or too late to start building emotional intelligence and mindful breathing skills.

Calm down corners as you get older have another word, meditation corners.

Shoot– I have my own calm down corner too! It’s just as necessary for adults as it is for kids.

So don’t use age as an excuse to not do a calming corner.

Do I have to get all these tools at once?

Please don’t get overwhelmed and think you need ALL of these things. Pick a few things that resonate based on your child’s age and what you think will interest them and just start with that. 

Calm down corners aren’t stagnant. They grow and evolve as your kids grow and mature. And whenever possible, engage your child to help you decide what they want to put in their special place.

How many tools do I do with my kids in the corner?

We do usually one or two and by that time Ayaan has calmed down. Each time we go in the corner I let Ayaan guide what calm down strategy he wants to use so it’s a little different each time. I noticed he does have a favorite few activities and books but it has been evolving as he gets older. 

My child doesn’t like the calm-down corner! What do I do?

Don’t use it until the feel comfortable with the space. If it doesn’t feel soothing, it isn’t going to serve its purpose. 

Here’s the thing.

The corner may still feel like a time-out if that is what they are accustomed to. Make sure the child is going to the space everyday to play and get comfortable with it. Color, do a puzzle or read books there. Make it an inviting place.

And remember anywhere there are the open and tender arms of a parent, there is a calm-down corner.

He won’t even use the tools because he’s kicking and screaming!  How do I get him to use it?

If your child is having a “red brain” moment it’s important that they have released whatever emotion that they are feeling without us hijacking their space to do it.

In those moments, either give them space or if they want to be comforted silently hug them. When they start to come down from their meltdown you can guide them to the calm down corner than.

Over time they’ll quickly realize that this is a safe place for me to go when I feel like this. Just be patient.

I have more than one child! I can’t leave all my other children alone while I soothe the angry one for 10 minutes! How do I handle this situation?

There are a few options and no easy answers to this one! You could set up more than one calm-down area for each child and go back and forth. 

You could also sit in the calm down corner together and the other child can look at books while you help the upset child.

Of course there may be times when you just cannot sit and help a child through it at that particular moment, and so you’ll encourage them to sit independently until you are able to assist if they need it.

You can never prepare for every scenerio that will arise ahead of time. A lot of it is being present and rooted in the moment so we can choose the solution that is for the highest good in THAT moment. It just can’t be pre-planned or rehearsed.  

Wait, Isn’t This a Reward for Bad Behavior?

Look at it like this.

Do you know those times when you’re really getting mad and you feel like you’re about to lose your sh*t on your kids so you walk away for a time-out in the bathroom to get yourself under control?

Those few moments in the bathroom aren’t your reward for getting angry, they’re your coping skills for this normal human emotion.

This is teaching children coping skills.

Because their brains are still underdeveloped, they need our help. They need us to be their logical thinking brain that helps them return to calm and reason until they are mature enough to do it themselves. Young children often can’t do it alone.

Remember kids don’t enter the world with bad intentions. They do not come to wear us out, or test our limits, or seek control. They come for love and guidance. Love and empathy don’t drive misbehavior, it helps them grow to their full potential. We give them a safe environment at home to make mistakes so when they enter the sometimes unforgiving world as adults, they will learn from experience and know what to do. 

But how do I introduce and teach each of these tools to my child and in what order?

If you wanna know the right things to say to get your child to the calm down corner.

Parenting scripts to help you be firm yet respectful when setting boundaries and following through with consequences.

And the right way to explain and teach them age appropriate mindful breathing tools…

If you want personalized support, and a no guess-work roadmap email me at tejal@tejalvpatel.com to set up a mindful parenting coaching call. You tell me the ages of your kid(s), the current struggles and I’ll give you pre-made plan of how to infuse mindful breathing and emotional intelligence skills into your kids lives.

Or if you want to learn everything about raising stress resilient, emotionally balanced, mindful kids-  check out my Mindful Kids Masterclass course. 

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