Monday, November 11, 2013


With so much transition to manage currently, at times I feel like I am running on fumes.  That is to say, I haven't had the usual surplus of patience and understanding.  Recognizing this and wanting to correct it, I recently started setting the intention each morning to remain calm and present, and to not raise my voice with my daughter.  Easier said than done!  But totally worth the effort, as the more I succeed with it, I notice the energy between her and I is lighter, she is more cooperative, and I don't have ammo to beat myself up with.  How am I doing it?  These three things are keeping me focused.

Recognizing my part in it.  With our recent 1000-mile move and all that goes into establishing a new life, I'm taxed physically and emotionally right now!  By recognizing what I am bringing to the situation, I am able to stay present and be less reactive because I'm acknowledging to myself that THIS IS HARD.  I'm giving myself permission to allow things to be what they are and just by dropping the struggle, the struggle disappears.

Recognizing where she is.  Children NEED to hit up against the limits we set to define their safety zone. My daughter also has her own feelings that don't always reflect mine, or what I think they "should" be, or what mine would have been at her age, etc.  Remembering this helps me stay calm when I have to say "No" to the same request 12 times.

Recognizing the big picture.  The innocence of these years is truly PRECIOUS and TEMPORARY.  I want to develop a safe, trusting relationship with my daughter and I want her to know and experience me as reasonable and fair.  Knee-jerking out of frustration sabotages this intention.

So set your intention.  Keep it real and keep it doable.  Notice what's different a week from now and then keep it going!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Containment vs. Control

Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t know which choice to make or how to respond to our children. Other times, we knee-jerk without thinking! We want to say yes to our children so they may develop a sense of empowerment that will take them into the world with confidence and optimism. However, we also need to establish and hold boundaries so that they are safe and well adjusted. Allowing children to fully express themselves and make their own choices and mistakes are all areas of challenge for many parents.  

Q: How do we steer away from powerstruggle and punishment mode and respond to our children in a way that effectively teaches and guides?  

Over-controlling parental behavior can shape a child's personality toward extremes, toward either a rebellious or codependent approach to relationships later. Permissive parenting is no better. We need to respond, but how? Below are some concepts and questions to help us determine whether our response is containing or controlling.  

CONTAINMENT -- Taking control without overpowering; teaching, leading and guiding; holding boundaries firmly but respectfully and consistently.

  • Address safety issues Is my child's (or someone else's) physical safety at risk?
  • Provide a safe place to experience & express emotions, wishes & thoughts, even when they differ from ours (i.e., designating a quiet place for the child to calm the upset; breathing together, having a calming ritual)
  • Seek to understand the unmet need your child's behavior is expressing. (i.e., using inquiry, active listening, patience, intuition, acceptance)
  • Deliver the message with a loving energy and a tone that conveys respect and unconditional acceptance of your child, while being direct and clear about what is expected.

CONTROL -- Comes out of the notion that we can control other’s behavior, and with the underlying belief that our children’s behavior is a direct reflection to the world of our effectiveness as a parent (this is nearly universal).   Control is where our unresolved pain manifests. Control is:

  • Reactive - An impulsive and often aggravated response delivered with frustration.  Often unconscious and directly rooted in unresolved childhood (or other) trauma.
  • Programmed in Childhood. For this reason, it is usually accompanied by a visceral reaction. Pay attention to your body's cues. 
  • Fear Based - Control urges us to focus outside of ourselves in an effort to calm the inner chaos, which is backward. When we focus on ourselves, we instantly regain control.
*Tip: Tune into the ticker-tape of thoughts, beliefs and reactions running through your head, especially when upset.  Identify the fear-based thought or belief, and argue against it.  Pretend you are an attorney presenting your case.  Come up with 3-5 pieces of hard evidence to support your case against the poisonous thought.

Containment vs. Control

Win/Win vs. Win/Lose
Love vs. Fear
Flexibility vs. Rigidity
Acceptance of what is vs. Focus on what “should” be
In-control vs. Out-of-control
Self Awareness & Self Control vs. Other Focus & Other Control
Adult's Approach to Conflict vs. Child's Approach to Conflict
Loving Guidance vs. Domination

A: Be a model of the characteristics you want your children to develop.  
Invest your time and energy in creating positive connection with your children.
Lead communication toward a win/win solution and a new agreement.  
Keep your eye on the big picture - this too shall pass.
Get support when you need it.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Parenting Selves

Parenting from the Child Self Parenting from the Adult Self

Reactive   Responsive
Knee-jerk Mindful
Resentful Wise
Dependent Interdependent
Fear-Based Love-Based
Aware of short term desires Aware of Big Picture
Unconscious Decisions Conscious Decisions
Powerstruggle Driven Win/Win Strategy Driven
Chaotic Structured/Routined
Inconsistent Consistent
Victim Survivor/Leader
Inappropriate Appropriate
Blames Others Takes Responsibility
Dramatic Reasonable
Tantrums Remains in control of self
Feels Out of Control Feels In Control

No doubt, the vast majority of us reading these two lists can relate to both, hopefully with an increasing sense of familiarity with the right side.  :)

Knowing “which side of the isle” we are operating from can be tremendously helpful with developing a sense of control  over ourselves and by extension, over the situation.    That’s right, when the house is coming down, and we’re in the middle of that parenting hell moment, our first order of business is gaining control of ourselves.

How can parents create a laser focus on remaining in control of their own emotions first?  
We start right where we are;  we start with our breath.

Focusing on each breath
Following the inhale
Following the exhale
Bringing Monkey Mind back to the breath when it jumps away
Following the inhale
Following the exhale
5 Minutes each day
Your choice, AM or PM?

When we’re upset, our bodies become constricted.  Muscles tighten and a sense of pressure mounts.   Deep breaths get things flowing again, like blood to our brains so we can think rationally about what needs to happen next. :)  

Deep breathing also brings us back into our bodies and back into the moment.  Usually when upset is triggered, our minds are bouncing all over the place, pulling evidence together to support the upset -- and it reaches all across the continuum of time from past upsets to the current perceived injustice.  To stop and redirect that freight train of emotion requires a tremendous amount of effort and energy!  We need a place to redirect it! Focus back to the breath:  always there, always available, always giving us a place to start again.

Brooke Miller Coaching

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Choose Not To.

The next time you say to yourself “I can’t...”, catch yourself and replace it with “I choose not to...”.  There are several important reasons to make this small but powerful shift in awareness and communication.  

First, “I can’t” is powerless.  It embodies surrender.  The more we say to ourselves “I can’t...”, the more we find ourselves stagnant, hopelessly stuck, and vulnerable to external factors.  

“I choose not to...”, however, embodies power and strength.  It is genuine, clear, and honors both self and other.  These are elements of healthy and effective communication.    

Second, “I can’t...” is lazy.  It shirks responsibility shamelessly, like a self-absorbed teenager.  When we chose to act from our adult self, we can own our choices and not feel compelled to ask the world for permission or forgiveness.

“I choose not to...” is forthright, and respect-worthy.  It is assertive and actively accepts responsibility.  How Empowering!

Lastly, “I can’t...” is incorrect.  We are always making choices, even when we are choosing not to choose.  Procrastinating and allowing the default choice is also a choice.  There is always a choice to be made, even if it’s a choice to start by accepting the present moment.

“I choose not to...” reaffirms our innate free-will.  It shows respect for self and respect for others.  It also gives permission to others to care for themselves, as we serve as a model for self care.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When I think about the most difficult times I have as a parent, it usually centers around CONTROL.  Either my daughter is resisting my request because it runs counter to her agenda, OR I'm feeling controlled by a request that runs counter to my agenda.  Because I am often trying to decipher whether her resistance is need-based or control-based (while working to keep myself calm), at times it can get pretty mucky.  Add hunger, exhaustion, time crunch or illness to the equation and someone is likely to end up frustrated and in tears.

That's when I start breathing.

I'm slow to process.  For whatever reason, it takes me longer than some others to decide how I feel about things and how to proceed.  Perhaps it's because I'm analytical, and I really strive to be consistent whenever possible.  I, like most parents, also want to do the very best job I can with my child to guide her to become an empathic, strong, responsible, independent, confident and capable adult.  The challenge is that, to develop these characteristics, she will need for me to be all of those things myself, AND to be patient with her process over the years as she develops them.  This also requires me to disconnect from my own fears and ideas about what "should" be happening in the moment.

No one ever learned what "HOT" is simply by listening to their parents telling them not to touch the pan on the stove.  As humans, we all learn by experience.  Furthermore, depending on the child's learning style or developmental stage, many will need to see, experience or hear things multiple times before the lesson is integrated.  All of this can be a common cause of frustration for parents who have an expectation that children simply obey -- because they're tired of repeating themselves, because they have to get to work, or because they themselves obeyed as children under threat of punishment.

What if we were to look at this dynamic from a different angle?  Children don't listen for many reasons, some of which are absolutely valid if we observe with some objectivity.  Consider...

  • Most children have very little control over the direction of their day to day lives; this runs completely counter to their innate need for some sense of control
  • Children's feelings and needs can be unintentionally overlooked in the busyness of modern life 
  • Children may not be truly heard by the adults in their lives, therefore they may not be truly understood by the adults in their lives.
  • Many children are not getting adequate sleep, nutrition and/or exercise
  • Children today have fewer quality moments with parents and are over-stimulated from outside influences -- media, advertisers, peers etc.
  • Children spend roughly 36 times more time interacting with a screen than with their parents/caregivers (by conservative estimates).  

American/Western families are less connected than ever in history -- and I would argue that with the pace of modern family life, we ALL need connection now more than ever!

Demands on families are great -- financial pressures, competing priorities and the frenzied pace of urban/suburban life can easily keep us maxed out physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually with little to no room for error.  What are parents to do?  There's no magic bullet, however integrating mindfulness into our daily lives can be a good place to start.


It's simple but not easy.  Mindfulness is being present with what is happening in the moment, without judgment.

Developing in-the-moment awareness takes practice.  Shifting our judgment to observation also takes practice.  Neither of these is easy.  What would motivate you to begin developing these practices?  Ask yourself what more of the same will look like in 1- 5- or 10 years from now. 


STEP ONE:  Check in with yourself.  Ask:  How am I feeling?  What am I needing right now?  Notice where in your body you tend to experience feelings like anger, fear/worry/stress and even peace; this will help you to more quickly identify what is true for you in the moment and to choose a healthy response.

STEP TWO:  Tune into your inner dialogue.  Challenge thoughts that are negative and self-deprecating; remind yourself what you're doing and what's going RIGHT.  Create a mantra or affirmation that you can view and/or repeat daily.

STEP THREE:  Build in downtime for yourself -- relax with a book or schedule a date with your partner; reach out to a friend or do something just for yourself.  Resist doing "one more thing" before you give yourself permission to sit down and be.  Remember, the housework will never really be DONE, but if you don't balance out your responsibilities with even a little recreation, your reserves and your patience WILL be DONE.

STEP FOUR:  Build in special time with your child(ren) every day.  Even if it's only 5 minutes, look into your child's eyes and connect.  Inquire and listen to your child with the desire to understand his or her world.  Make plans you can look forward to and follow through.  Children don't need expensive toys and entertainment, they need to feel a sense of belonging and unconditional love with their parents/caregivers.  Remember, this is all temporary, and WE DON'T GET THESE YEARS BACK!  Another reminder:  we are now sowing the seeds that we will later reap in adolescence.  Lay a foundation that is stabilized with the trust and connection you create in your relationship now and you will both be much better off for it.


If I had my child to raise over again:

I'd build self-esteem first and the house later
I'd finger paint more and point the finger less
I would do less correcting and more connecting
I'd take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes
I would care to know less and know to care more
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars
I'd do more hugging and less tugging
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often 
I would be firm less often and affirm much more
I'd model less about the love of power
And more about the power of love.

~Diane Loomans

Monday, February 11, 2013

MINDFUL PARENT/happycalmchild

HARMONY and BALANCE ARE possible.   Learn how to begin INCREASING THE PEACE in your family in just TWO SHORT HOURS! Parents and children will be in separate, adjacent rooms. Kids aged 3-12 welcome!

For Parents... Mindful Parenting can decrease stress and increase your sense of empowerment as a parent.  This workshop will also help you to..

  • Add yourself back into the equation
  • Gain new parenting strategies and perspectives
  • Replace REACTING with RESPONDING through mindfulness
  • Increase your understanding of yourself & your child(ren)

For Kids...  happycalmchild teaches children tools that they can use on their own….
  • To Focus (in school, for tests, in sports, studying dance or music, etc.)
  • To gain Confidence and practice Compassion
  • To Relax and find Balance in their life now and in years to come
(These tools are taught through Games, Creative Movement, BreathWork, Yoga and Core Strength Exercises)

Join us on one of these dates!
SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2013 from 10AM - NOON in Montclair  SATURDAY, APRIL 27th from 10AM - NOON @ in Claremont

Cost is $40 for 1 parent & 1 child; $15 per additional parent or child
happycalmchild Eye Pillows are highly recommended for the children's portion of the workshop.  Registered workshop attendees can purchase them for $12.00 (regularly $14.99).  Please order when registering.

Space is limited to 15 adults and 15 children, so reserve your spot today!
                                  Contact Michele @ or 909-560-0635
To learn more about the workshop facilitators, visit

Thursday, January 3, 2013


What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness” is a state of being; it is experiential.  Simply put, mindfulness is being present in the moment, without judgment.  When we are mindful, we are making conscious choices about where we focus our awareness (here, now), and what we do with that awareness.  Notice there are a couple of things going on here:  we are directing our attention to what is happening here and now, as well as creating some space and objectivity from whatever negativity arises.  

Why Practice Mindfulness?
The past and the future -- where many of us spend most of our time -- do not exist!  All we have to work with is now and here.  This nowhere (now-here) moment is best utilized when we bring to it our full attention, all of our faculties, and an open and spacious mind.  

Mindfulness practice helps us to create space in our lives.  In that space that is created, there is stillness -- a peace to counterbalance the frenzied pace of modern life.  There is also quiet -- where we can hear the subtler messages that bubble up from our minds and bodies; and there is emptiness -- clear, open space that offers room to receive what we have been asking for (a cluttered or scattered mind does not have enough room to hold what we desire!). 

Techniques for Incorporating Mindfulness Every Day
Throw Yourself into the Moment    
Tune into your body.  Where are you tense and where are you relaxed?  Notice what is happening with each of your 5 senses. Focus all of your attention and energy on the task at hand and notice how that is for you.

Check in with yourself  
Ask yourself:  What am I feeling right now?  What am I needing or wanting right now?  What is the cause?  Give yourself ample time to answer.   

At least once a day, make time to simply focus on your breath.  Pay attention to each inhale and each exhale.  Deepen and lengthen your breath.  Whenever your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to your breath.  Practice disconnecting from the storyline and redirect your focus on your breathing -- you can worry/fret/plan/address those things later.  Just be in this moment with this breath.

Create a trigger to remind you to incorporate these practices into your routine.  Start a morning meditation ritual or a pm journaling ritual; incorporate transition breathing into your day (e.g., every time you get in the car, every time you transition from one activity or environment to another, etc...). Times that we notice shallow breathing or tension in our bodies are also good reminders to stop, check in and breathe.  If all else fails, set an alarm!

Replace Judgment with Observation
This is not easy, but it is a habit worth developing.  Judgment is so automatic, and unfavorable for ourselves and for others!  Our thoughts, which are often little more than automatic self-talk, are the food we feed our minds.  The garbage in/garbage out model applies here.  The bottom line is that we want to be conscious of our thoughts, and addressing automatic judgments is a good place to start. 

The next time you notice a judgment (e.g., “I shouldn’t have said that, they’ll think I’m dumb”; “Here he goes again!...”; “She’s so negative.”), change the statement to an observation (e.g., “I am feeling self-conscious about what I said”; “He is repeating a pattern”; “She is having a hard time seeing anything good or finding any hope in her situation”).  This takes practice, however the energetic shift that happens when we begin to turn the mind has immediate benefits.  And, it gets easier with practice!

Replace Judgment with Curiosity
When we notice we are getting particularly stuck in judgment, shift to curiosity.  Wonder about it with childlike innocence instead of diving into the deep end of the negativity pool.  We can also be curious about our own process by asking, “Why is it so hard to disconnect from this situation/feeling/thought?  What is here for me to learn?”  

Replacing judgment with observation and curiosity helps us to cut through the storyline to the bottom line -- what IS, here and now.  These practices also get us closer to our compassionate nature, where separation from ourselves and others dissolves, and fresh perspectives, opportunities and creative solutions are born.