This article first appeared in North Star Family Matters Magazine
It’s 4 am and you awaken with a jolt from a dream you are thoroughly enjoying having something to do with relaxing with your spouse on a tranquil beach. You soon confirm that the sound that roused you is not that of a speedboat interrupting your sunbathing but that of your 4 year old infant wailing after another nightmare.
Do you: (a) roll over and nudge your significant other out of bed, (b) run into your child’s room and spend the next hour consoling your little one, (c) cover your ears and hope for the best or (d) apply a round or two of EFT and get back to bed in under 5 minutes flat?
If you are one of the lucky parents who has familiarized yourself with this simple and effective tool known as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) then the answer to how to deal with a screaming infant in the middle of the night would be the same one as if your child is throwing a tantrum about the way you cut his sandwich at lunch earlier.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a universal healing modality that is easy enough for my 8 year old to learn on his own but is powerful enough to assist people with everything from debilitating phobias to serious health conditions. By using a gentle tapping procedure that engages the same energy system as acupuncture, EFT rapidly balances the body and eases the emotions in sometimes very dramatic ways.
Gary Craig, founder of Emotional Freedom Techniques, feels that this indispensable method of dispelling negative emotions should be available to all and has contributed to the betterment of the earth by making the method easily available on line at www.emofree.com.
10,000 people download the free manual, which has been translated into 14 different languages, each month. As a mother of two and an EFT practitioner, I pull this incredible tool off my shelf to use with my children daily.
When my daughter comes home from school in tears that she has had an upsetting event happen, I use EFT on her. When my son starts to cry because we had to change the plans for the day and he can’t see his best friend instead, I use EFT. When a long loved pet (or a relatively newly rescued tadpole) suddenly dies and everyone is in tears, I use EFT. At the beginning of a new situation where my kids don’t feel safe or the times where we are all too exhausted to be very cooperative or happy, I use EFT. Tears dry up, smiles come back, and anger vanishes like magic.
I recommend that you download and read the entire 79 page manual available on Gary’s site but I will lay out the basic shortcut version here. A word of caution before you start: although I use this same technique on clients from everything from cancer to bedwetting I am not, nor is the founder of EFT, a doctor or therapist. You should seek the guidance of your health care provider before you begin using EFT on problems that you have been seeking medical and psychological advice on. It is also recommended that if you have a history of epilepsy or psychotic episodes that should refrain from using EFT unless you have the permission of a doctor.
Let’s use the nightmare example from above to illustrate how this works. Step one is The Setup: Try to identify the emotion by asking your child. Is it fear or something else? If your infant is crying hysterically and this is a recurring theme then assume its fear; most parents intuitively know what their child is experiencing. Begin by tapping on the side of your child’s hand on the outside edge between the pinkie and the base of the hand. Either hand will do and for this set phase of the tapping you will be using three or four fingers to tap.
I tell my phone clients that they want to be tapping at a quick pace with the same firmness you would use on a push button phone whose numbers are sticky. In other words not so hard that it causes discomfort but not so softly that it is barely felt. While tapping say the following affirmation statement three times, “Even though I am afraid of the hairy monster, I deeply and completely accept myself”. If your child will repeat your words ask them to but I find this isn’t necessary and that if the child is very upset they generally can’t.
Step two: Begin the tapping. Tap the following points approximately 7 times. It doesn’t matter which side of the face and upper body you start with and you may alternate sides if it is easier for you to reach the points. The points are eyebrow, side of eye, under eye, under nose, chin point, collarbone, under arm and under breast.
The eyebrow point is located on the start of the eyebrow above and to the side of the bridge of the nose. The side of eye point is just outside the socket on the bone; the temple is too far back. The under eye point is again on the bone just below the center of the eye outside the socket. The nose point is midway between the bottom of the nose and the top of the upper lip. The chin point is just above the chin where most people have an indent or line. Collarbone point is on the indent just below where the collarbones protrude near the base of the neck. The under arm point is along the side of the body in approximately 2-4 inches below the armpit of a small child. The under breast point is located about 1 inch directly below the nipple.
Using your middle and index fingers tap those points while saying a reminder phrase to keep the mind focused on the problem. In the case above you could say this fear. Use the statement “this _______” filling in the blank with the emotion.
Step 3 is just to assess improvements and continue if necessary. Measure the progress your infant is making towards feeling better by having him use his/her hands. Demonstrate that wide arms and hands means you feel a big negative emotion while hands closer together means the problem feels smaller.
For an infant or toddler you just need to look at their reaction to the tapping. A baby who was just minutes before screeching and is now at peace is obviously over the negative emotion. I like to use images children can relate to when measuring progress, “You were made as a lion before are you as calm as a wee bitty mouse now?”
If the problem is still present continue starting with the first step but change the setup and reminder phrases to include the word remaining; “Even though I still have some remaining fear, I deeply and completely accept myself” and the reminder phrase would be “this remaining fear”.
Some aspect of the problem may appear after a round or two. Aspects are different components of the broader problem. Let’s say that your infant says he is really scared of the big hairy monster’s razor teeth, then you would tap on the aspect of the teeth for example, “Even though I am afraid of the monster’s big razor teeth, I deeply and completely accept myself’ and the reminder phrase would be ” this fear.”
Here are some examples of situations and the appropriate wording to use for each: Your child is angry because her sibling took a toy from her then you’d say “Even though I am angry with Timmy for stealing my toy, I deeply and completely accept myself” and the reminder phrase would be “this anger”.
If your child doesn’t want you to leave him with a babysitter you could use, “Even though I am afraid to be away from Mommy, I deeply and completely accept myself” and the reminder phrase would be “this fear”.
All these steps will become second nature to you after you have practiced on yourself and your child a few times. To nurture a peaceful loving family culture, take the time to tap on yourself as well as your child; we all know that our children are particularly good at pushing our buttons. Many times have I witnessed changes in an infant the moment we change how the parents are feeling about the child’s behavior.