Anyone who has raised children knows that helping kids navigate their emotions is a big part of the job. Humans have feelings, and feelings can be hard to manage sometimes. Heck, when a whole mess of adults have a hard time consistently regulating their emotions (as evidenced by countless grownups throwing toddler tantrums in public over being asked to wear a mask, among other things), expecting small children to be able to get a hold of themselves is a tall order.
That's what makes this 6-year-old expertly walking his 4-year-old brother through a breathing exercise to fend off a preschool tantrum pure, golden goodness.
Ashley West, a California mom of three boys, shared a video that's gone viral of her son Noah (6) talking to his brother Cory (4), who was on the verge of throwing a fit. Truly, it's worth the 21 seconds.
The way Noah coaches Cory through taking deep breaths, giving him visual cues with his hands while modeling the breathing himself is perfect. The way he gets his attention when Cory starts ramping up by raising his fingers and calmly saying "Breathe," before continuing to breathe with him is just awesome.
And then the positive reinforcement and pat on the back once he calmed down? Priceless.
It's clear that Noah has seen these techniques modeled for him at home. West told Upworthy that she is studying to become a social worker, so she has a lot of background in social-emotional work. (Yay, social workers! Pay them more!) She says the family also does a lot of yoga together, which helps explain why Noah's efforts seemed almost automatic.
West explained on Twitter that Cory was upset because the Nintendo had just gotten plugged in and wasn't charged enough to play yet—a relatable psychological challenge for a young child. But Noah stepped right in when the meltdown began.
"Y'all would've LOST it had I recorded it from the very beginning," she said. "My baby was all 'I understand the pain, I do, but you just have to wait, it's not done yet."
Gracious. Nothing like a master class in empathy and emotional regulation from a 6-year-old child.
Once you see it, it's clear why this video has gone viral. The world needs more emotionally healthy kids and adults in the world, and we all know it. While West says she's not a perfect parent and doesn't have all the answers, it's clear that she's doing a lot of things right with her kids.
It may seem like a simple thing, but intentional breathing can be an effective calming technique no matter what age you are. According to the University of Michigan, taking deep breaths mimics the way we breathe when we're relaxed, which makes our body tell our brain to calm down, which prompts our brain to sends a message back to our body to relax.
However, when your brain and body are in a heightened state, it can be hard to remind yourself to breathe, so having someone there to guide you through it can be helpful. My son went through a period of having panic attacks when he was younger, and we would do "box breathing" or "square breathing" together. I'd slowly draw an imaginary square in the air with my fingers, and we'd breathe in together as my finger went up one side (about five seconds), hold our breath as it went across the top, breathe out as it went down the other side, and then hold the exhale to complete the square. After a while, I'd just remind him to "box breathe" whenever he'd feel anxious, and he could do the square himself.
Good for Noah for already developing such excellent skills at such a young age, and good for his mom for giving him emotional tools he'll use for the rest of his life.
Now if we could just hire them to go around and teach the adults how to get a hold of themselves when they start pitching a fit, that'd be fabulous.
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