10 seconds is both a very long time and a very short time. 10 seconds while you’re late for work, waiting for a light to change from red to green can seem like an eternity. Then again, it might only take you 10 seconds to embarrass yourself with a stupid statement or a glib comment. When you’re a parent, 10 seconds can absolutely make or break your response to a situation.

Let’s say your daughter is running around the house chasing the dog. She rounds a corner, bumps into a bookshelf and knocks over a picture frame, shattering glass everywhere.


The next 10 seconds can determine a lot. If you’re like most people, your first instinct is probably to get mad and yell. But what if that’s not what you did? In the 10 seconds it takes you to yell, you might scare her. Make her cry. Hurt her feelings. Whatever the case, it’s not going to end well.

What if, instead, you took 10 seconds to count backwards in your head? You let your anger go and instead, breathe deep. Instead of yelling, you calmly say, “daughter, this is why we don’t run in the house.” You make sure she’s okay. You clean up the glass. You realize that she’s just a kid and the picture frame is just a picture frame.

Your brain can do a lot in 10 seconds. It can defuse your anger and put perspective on a situation. But you need to give it 10 seconds to react! Emotions travel faster than mindfulness. You can give into your anger and frustration in two seconds, or you can give your mind 10 seconds to catch up. Think about the outcomes. Isn’t that 10 seconds worth it for all the grief you save yourself in the aftermath of an outburst?

Learning to give myself 10 seconds before reacting has had a profound effect on the way I handle things—not just as a parent, but in my everyday life as a whole. I find myself getting angry less. Yelling less. Instead, I’m teaching myself to find constructive solutions to situations, instead of jumping on emotional outbursts.

Learning mindfulness takes time. In the beginning, that 10 seconds seems like an eternity. When you’re mad and just want to yell, counting backwards from 10 seems like counting backwards from 100. But eventually you get to zero and you realize you feel better. Then, the next time you count backwards, it goes a little quicker. And so on. These days, 10 seconds flies by and with it comes a brand-new perspective. I feel better about being rational and mindful, and I make better decisions as a result.

They say being a parent is a learning experience and something you never truly master. But what I’ll say is that taking 10 seconds to react mindfully to stressful situations has made me feel like a master over my emotions and at defusing a situation.