Pause Patrol: How My Apple Watch Helps Me Avoid Fights with My Stubborn Child

If you are a lawyer, you may be the kind of person who doesn’t back down from a fight. I am such a lawyer and not just because I am a litigator. Rather, I think I was drawn to litigation because I am one of the most pigheaded and stubborn people to ever walk the earth. I have to qualify this claim, of course, because I now have children. Having shared my genes with them, I also shared my stubbornness.

My six-year-old, in particular, will fight me about literally everything. She will fight about putting on her shoes, or eating her dinner, or going to bed, or brushing her teeth. She will cry and scream and yell and just become a general nightmare of a human being. Even worse, the more you try to encourage her to remain calm and make good choices, the angrier she gets.

As a lawyer, it’s not like I am not accustomed to outbursts of this nature. Of course, I have seen uncalled for and unjustified outbursts. Of course I have learned how to stay calm and not always react. Still, there is no way around the fact that it is exhausting and frustrating to have every request of the person you are trying to care for and raise into a responsible, productive citizen greeted with a tantrum.

So, what can you do? This is where the lawyer part of my brain had to learn to relax and let the meditation teacher part take over. The lawyer part of my brain wants to establish rules, monitor for compliance, and take immediate action to achieve my objective. I tried this lots of times and the meditation teacher part of my brain watched, smirked, and said “how’s that working out for you?” Eventually, the lawyer part of my brain got disgusted when her reasonable requests devolved into arguments and yelling and told the meditation teacher part “I’m done. You give it a shot.”

What did meditation teacher brain come up with? She told me to use available tools and leave a space. In a stroke of genius one day when my beautiful, darling girl was transformed into a vicious troll when I asked her to finish up her lunch instead of running around the kitchen, I heard myself say “I’m going to set a timer on my watch for 5 minutes. I want you to finish your lunch. I am not going to fight with you or say anything else. But if your lunch is not finished in that time there will be consequences.”

Now, the lawyer brain was shocked when I said this. She was like, “are you kidding me? That will never work. She’s already had 30 minutes to eat. What good will another 5 do?” At first, it seemed like she was right. My little one raged and cried and complained for about 30 seconds. Meditation teacher me sat like patience on a monument and said nothing. She just watched. Then, without prompting and almost as if by magic, the little one stopped complaining, sat down, ate, and even cleaned up her plate by herself. Lawyer brain and meditation teacher brain joined in unison to tell her good job.

Maybe you are thinking that this is just a fluke. At first, I thought so too. But my study has been tried and tested and replicated. The pattern is always the same: I give a command, my child resists, I set a timer and reiterate my command, she resists even harder, I don’t react, and she complies. The pattern is so predictable that I can actually laugh a little to myself while the comedy unfolds. She hates the timer, but it works so well and the irony is now just part of the fun.

So why does this work? Because my little one is not a bad girl. Despite all outward appearances, she’s not even trying to drive me crazy. Instead, she’s just got big emotions and big reactions and wants to do things her way. Go figure. She’s my child. I want things to go my way too. I, too, have big emotions and big reactions. So, when we both have them at the same time in opposite directions, it just leads to a fight.

As much as my daughter claims to hate it, the timer on my watch is good for both of us because it creates a space. This space lets her have her reaction without interruption or prompting from me to focus on the goal. Once she’s reacted and gotten it out of her system, she can focus again and do what she needs to do.

Let’s be honest here. Who isn’t like this? Who doesn’t occasionally need the chance just to say “ugh!” while raising one’s hands to the sky in frustration before they accomplish a task they don’t like? We all need this sometimes. To allow for it, the best thing we can do is pause to create a safe space for it to happen. Thankfully, the handy little timer on my Apple Watch is there to help me take a pause when dealing with my stubborn girl.

Has mindfulness helped you with your kids? Leave us a comment to tell us how.

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How to Teach Your Kids about Meditation

Over the last year, we’ve had to figure out how to do many things with our kids around, including our jobs. I’ve already covered ways to find quiet so you can meditate on your own. But another way to address the issue is to bring the kids into your meditation practice. The question inevitably arises, though, as to how one might actually do that.

Kids aren’t exactly known for sitting still and being quiet. I mean, when I wrote the post about “finding” quiet, I had my own noisy and fidgety kids in mind the whole time. For my own part, though, I know that I wish I had learned to meditate sooner since it has offered me so many benefits and helped make my life happier and richer. So, even though it may be a challenge to share mindfulness with our kids, it may be worth it. With that in mind, here are my tips if you want to start sharing mediation with your kids.

1. Be What You Want to See.

I don’t want to brag but my kids actually eat vegetables. It’s not because I have forced them to eat them (though I am not necessarily always immune from dinnertime battles) or have extolled their nutritional benefits. The reason my kids eat vegetables is because I really enjoy food. By that, I mean I love to cook. I get a lot of joy from making different things and experimenting and playing in the kitchen. When I do that, the girls automatically come in and want to help or steal veggies from the counter as I work. Meditation can be the same way. If you enjoy it and have fun with it, your kids are more likely to want to do the same. Let them see you meditate. Let them know you meditate and how it helps you. When they show interest, answer their questions and let them try it. If you push or demand or lecture, this will never happen. Meditation usually works best when someone chooses it for themselves so give your kids the same gift. In other words, just doing what is best for you is a great way to offer the best to your kids.

2. Meditate with them.

When your kids show interest, another great way to encourage them to pick up meditation is to try it with them. You can make this a routine by meditating for a few minutes before bed. Many meditation apps have meditations made just for kids and you can just play one after the bedtime stories or goodnight hugs. That may actually be a good way to help them get ready to sleep. You could also try a meditation break with them in times of stress. When my youngest was small, she refused to take a breath if I told her to do it because she thought it meant she was in trouble. But, if I did the breath with her, I got a totally different response. While you may not think of a few deep breaths as meditation, these building blocks for little kids can grow over time and serve as the foundation for a practice later on, not to mention that they are just good coping strategies to have.

3. Make it fun.

Play is essential to any good meditation practice and that is doubly true for kids. If your kids show an interest in meditation, try to make it fun. Explore guided meditations with imaginative visualizations. Keep your approach light and energized as you talk to them about their experience. For little kids, it may even help them to have them sit in your lap while you practice together. Meditation doesn’t have to be intense to be powerful. Helping them have fun as they explore their inner life bit by bit will serve as a good foundation for a healthy practice later.

4. Keep it simple and short.

It is no surprise that kids can’t sit very long. Don’t make the practice complex and don’t make it too long. It is unlikely that most kids younger than 10 can sit for more than five minutes straight and young kids may struggle to be silent. Start where you kids are. This may mean starting with one or two breaths. Later on you may advance to having your child name her experience. Though this may not seem like mindfulness to you, it is powerful for kids to begin to understand their inner lives. And, as always, their abilities and practice can grow over time.

5. Talking might actually help.

Some kids may not like the feeling of being alone when they meditate. Little kids may lack the ability to avoid talking. That’s just life. You can make meditation a bit easier for these kiddos by talking them through the process. For example, if a guided meditation tells you to envision yourself on a cozy cloud, you might watch your child and see how they react. If they fidget or make a funny face, you could say “what kind of cloud are you seeing?” or “how does the cloud make you feel?” With these questions, you are asking the child to focus on their direct experience so it is mindfulness but it may be easier for them since they have your support in the process. You may also enjoy this since the answers can range from insightful to hilarious and you may learn some surprising things about your kids.

If you want to try meditating with your kids, give this one a try. It’s a simple body scan but I was inspired by the many times I have found my daughters covered in paint or marker or crayon or whatever. Apparently, kids enjoy coloring on or painting themselves. With this meditation, they can do that and make a mess in their minds but there’s no mess at the end for you to clean up. If only craft time was so simple . . .

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, which is available on Amazon.

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