World-class cliff climber Alex Honnold smiled calmly into the 60 Minutes camera as he explained the mindset that helps him conquer thousand-foot sheer cliff faces. Honnold, who has repeatedly smashed world records for free-solo climbing (i.e., climbing without use of ropes or nets), explained that he doesn’t do it for the thrills. “There is no adrenaline rush,” Honnold stated matter-of-factly. “[I]f I get a rush, it means that something has gone horribly wrong, … the whole thing should be pretty slow and controlled.” In fact, Honnold goes on to use the improbable term “mellow” for the whole experience.
Most of us wouldn’t feel very mellow if we found ourselves on a cliff face 2,000 feet in the air, with nothing standing in the way of certain death but our own hands and feet. However, Honnold’s Zen-like attitude towards frightening, near-impossible feats can actually teach us a very important lesson about how to overcome obstacles in everyday parenting.
For instance, while dealing with a grocery store meltdown from your two-year-old is not life threatening, it can seem near-impossible. One mom I know found that taking her three children to the grocery store seemed to always end in tears and anger for all of them, including mom.
When that grocery store meltdown starts, the first thing we can do is take a lesson from Alex, take a deep breath and calm yourself. You need to be calm to calm your children. Using a calm quiet voice, acknowledge your children’s feelings. Then tell them the behavior you expect of them. “I need you to stop crying.”
While dealing with a grocery store meltdown from your two-year-old is not life threatening, it can seem near-impossible.
Meltdowns happen. Stand your ground. When you cave in to a meltdown, you teach your children that a tantrum is an effective way to get what they want. Sometimes when your children cannot get self-control, you may have to leave the store and come back later.
A method you can use to ensure smoother shopping trips is to practice a shopping trip. My friend talked to her children about how grocery store trips seemed to always make everyone unhappy and wouldn’t it be better if trips to the grocery store were fun. So they practiced going to the grocery store and laughing and having fun.
After a few rehearsals at home they went to the store and practiced there. When those trial visits went well, they were ready for opening night. My friend fine-tuned the technique over time, and now they actually look forward to the trips to the grocery store.
Practicing to face stress
Here are a few more of my friend’s tips about making shopping with young people more mellow:
1. Try to go to the store when well-fed and well-rested.
2. Get your children involved. Always use a list and give the children part of the list.
3. Don’t visit every aisle; just the ones you have to. The list helps.
4. Do most of your shopping around the outside aisles. You’ll notice that the least processed foods such as dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat can be found along the walls of the grocery store. Chips, candy, cookies, and crackers are most often found in the center.
When it comes down to it, staying calm is a survival instinct that can benefit us in a variety of situations, whether we’re taking the kids shopping or scaling a thousand-foot cliff. Although some situations involving our kids can seem as intimidating and impossible as climbing a mountain without the aid of ropes, we can take a page from Alex Honnold’s book: Practice doing things right, stay calm when things get tense, and take a creative approach to the situation.
Looking at a problem in new ways can mellow out even the most stressful circumstances. Imagine that!
Laura Mann recently graduated in Emerging Media and Communications from the University of Texas, and writes for The Dallas Observer. Her father Mike Mann is an award-winning storyteller (www.storymann.com), a speaker for the MediaWise Movement, and a father of four, including Laura. The father and daughter collaborate on “Imagine That!”
© Michael Mann, 2012, all rights retained. Printed by permission of the author.