We tend to think that our emotions reside in our brain. And they do, but they also spring from our bodies. In fact, when you realize that you’re anxious, your body has already known that for a while—your shoulders are tight, your jaw is clenched, your stomach might be churning. So, one way we can change our emotional states is by moving our bodies. When your child is having a hard time or acting difficult, one quick trick to try is to get them to move their bodies in a different way. You might grab a big ball and begin a game of catch. Turning on music and dancing together can quickly shift things for both of you when frustrations are running high. You can also have them do a few yoga-type stretches by asking them to show you how an alligator snaps its jaws (have them lie on their belly, arms stretched out far in front of them, with their palms together), or how a bear would climb a tree, or any other type of animal doing some sort of movement. This can be a surprisingly quick way to move moods in a better direction.
It works for older kids, too, by the way. I told my nine-year-old’s Little League coach about this principle, and he ended up having the boys jump up and down in the dugout when they got discouraged after giving up a few runs during the championship. Their movement brought a shift of excitement and new energy into their bodies and brains, and they eventually came back and won the game. (Chalk up another victory for neuroscience!)