How to Break the Cycle of Reactive Parenting

This podcast will focus on breaking the cycle of reactive parenting so that we don’t get derailed by everyday challenges, irritations, and frustrations while parenting. Hunter-Clarke-Fields provides specific strategies for all parents to use so that we can bring more calm and peace into our daily lives.

Guest Expert: Hunter Clarke-Fields, MSAE

Many parents might look at the challenges, irritations and frustrations of parenting and blame the child—thinking; “if I can fix my child, these issues will disappear.” But what if we didn’t blame the child or ourselves, and instead looked at our temporary failures and our stressors as teachers—so that we can calm our stress responses in the most stressful moments and have a better relationship both with ourselves, and our children? My next guest believes that’s the perfect place to start in order to break the cycle of reactive parenting and raise kind, confident kids.

Hunter Clarke-Fields, MSAE, RYT , is a mindful mama mentor. Hunter is the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, host of the Mindful Mama podcast and widely-followed author of Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids. She helps parents bring more calm and peace into their daily lives. Hunter has over twenty years of experience in meditation practices and has taught mindfulness to thousands worldwide.

Important Messages:

  • Transform generational patterns: We can see that our parents had suffering and our grandparents did, and, and they’ve passed on seeds to us. We now have this amazing opportunity when we become parents to, to transform those and to create an evolution in the way that we parent. And I really think that this can transform so many people suffering and create stronger relationships for life.
  • Awareness that comes from paying attention on purpose and without judgment
  • In tough moments, our nervous system is perceiving our child as a threat. We would love to just be able to like respond calmly and rationally and thoughtfully, but in the brain, the amygdala, which is the alarm bells of the brain– the threat response. It’s bypassing all the other parts of the brain. What’s cool about mindfulness is once we start to understand the brain—it can help!
  • Johns Hopkins found 47 different studies that show that mindfulness meditation practice can reduce anxiety, reduce depression, increase feelings of wellbeing, increase health responses in medical situations, and increase your quality of sleep. But what’s really, really interesting and important for us as parents to realize is that it really increases our impulse control.
  • With mindfulness, there’s zero side effects and it’s an amazing superpower.
  • What are your common triggers? We want to be calm and think and pause. What’s going on? What need is my child trying to meet right now? What is a better response here?
  • Mindfulness- you’re building a muscle. It changes your brain! Studies show in before and after- amygdala becomes less dense. Connection with amygdala weakens. Your anxieties come up with practicing- but helps you to be more nonreactive.
  • Steps. Understand brain. You can’t just tell yourself to be calm. Acknowledge what’s happening in the moment. Helping calming. And modeling for our kids. “I’m starting to get really frustrating here.” Stress response taking over. Take Breaths. Take a moment. “I need a break right now, I need to breath.”
  • With mindfulness, sometimes the body leads the mind and other times the mind leads the body. Body leads mind: Taking breaths. Mind leading body: “There is no threat present, it’s ok, this is a stressful moment.”
  • Mantras: “I’m a ninja mom” “I’m helping my child” “This is not an emergency.”
  • Hunter Tip: Own your feelings. Rehearse and then use: “I am so angry right now.” Then take the break.
  • Dr. Robyn Tip: Parenting Out Loud. “I’m so angry right now. I need to go and take a deep breath to calm down so I’m going to go do that right now.” Modeling the language and the action.
  • Compassion practice. Understand selves. See selves more fully, Our own moments of suffering.
  • We weren’t really taught how to take care of difficult feelings.
  • Tara Brock teaches a lot about RAIN. Rain stands for Recognize, Accept or allow, Investigate and Nurture or Nourish with self-compassion.
  • Recognize: Body: What is happening in my body? In my hands? In my jaw?
  • Name: I am feeling anxiety right now.
  • Talk to the feeling. “Hello anxiety, my old friend.” Accept it, it lets go.
  • Give self-compassion.
  • Message to those parents and teachers- more challenging situations: Need more resources. Calming the nervous system. More compassion to responses to our children who have larger challenges. “This is hard.” “I’m doing what I can.”
  • We do tend to talk to kids in this kind of like a really rude way that we don’t talk to other people in the regular population. We have to teach our kids life skills- but need to also be aware of our own language and tone. “Hey honey, looks like you forgot your cereal bowl. Would you mind cleaning that up before you go upstairs? Thanks.” How would you say it to your Aunt Sally? No threats or punishment.
  • Sibling rivalry. Are your shoulders by your ears? Might be telling yur body about an impending threat. I would sit your kids down in a neutral moment and talk about how this behavior is making you feel and also how it’s affecting your life. And I would avoid using the word constantly like or always or never. They’re not accurate words.
  • Translate for the siblings. Sportscaster. “So you want this and that and he wants this and that.”
  • Also, ask how they want it handled. Do you want me to step in when you start to ramp up?
  • Make sure you debrief after it’s settled too.
  • Remember to take time for you. What works for you? Take a walk, a bath, listen to music. Breathe.

Notable Quotables:

  • “Being mindful has zero side effects and is an amazing superpower!”
  • “When you are working on mindfulness, you’re building a muscle. You are building a muscle of non-reactivity.”
  • “With mindfulness, sometimes the body leads the mind and other times the mind leads the body.”
  • “When you are triggered and you notice that you’re getting really frustrated, name it to tame it. It can be really helpful to tell yourself, ‘this is not an emergency.’”
  • “It’s hard to be a human being on Earth. There’s a lot to handle! When we try to look a bit more objectively at ourselves, be nonjudgmental and more curious, we give ourselves a soft landing and allow ourselves to grow from inevitable mistakes.
  • When we allow the feeling, when we make space for it, there’s less of like gripping and less of a running away.
  • “We can’t give, what we do not have. Our kids sense our, our inner state. That’s what makes this inner work so important and what needs to happen before we get to the communication piece.”
  • “When talking about your child’s behavior, avoid using ‘constantly,’ ‘always’ or ‘never.’ They are not accurate words.”