This is a guest post
I’ve spent a majority of my adulthood as both a parent and an elementary school teacher. While I’ve learned that no two days are ever the same with children, I can all but guarantee that one thing will always be constant — acting out.
Kids are growing, learning and constantly testing the boundaries of what they can do and get away with. Thankfully, punishments for these acts have evolved over time. Where you’d once hear about spanking and more physical forms of correcting behaviour, many homes have turned to timeouts and other forms of psychological penalties.
But is that evolution really that much of an upgrade?
Essentially, the point of a timeout is to have a child go to a quiet place to contemplate his or her behaviour. Parents expect the child to return after the time-out with a changed mindstate and a plan on how to stay on the right side of the rules.
That almost never happens.
Instead, children use the time-out to only get more angry about the punishment. If your child acts differently after he or she emerges from their room, it’s only because they want to avoid extending the quiet time any further — and not because they learned a lesson.
Besides giving mom and dad a chance to catch their breath and calm down, have you ever thought about what the perfect result is for a timeout or grounding? Can we really expect a child to pivot in their behaviours simply because we cast them away to be alone for a little while?
A decade ago, an inner-city Baltimore school turned its busy detention hall into a Mindful Moment Room. Now, students who would have otherwise received detention use the room to practice pre-taught meditation and breathing techniques before returning to class. The effects are astounding.
Research states that simple, short-term mediation periods improve attention and self-regulation in children better than any other form of punishment. Children diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often use yoga and meditation techniques to achieve benefits at home — things like better sleep patterns and less anxiety — and at school — such as improved concentration and less interpersonal conflict.
Even if your child doesn’t suffer from any of these ailments, meditation and yoga are a tremendous way to relax the mind and teach control to overly competitive children, as well as prepare your kids for a tough challenge or test.
This is because meditation and yoga provide scientifically proven social, emotional and behavioural benefits, the most important of which include increased attention and focus, improved physical and mental health and a greater ability to self-regulate actions and emotions.
And, even better, meditation can be incredibly easy to teach to children and cost parents nothing.
Children are natural meditators since they lack the mental barriers, biases and pre-determined beliefs that inhibit most adults from achieving a pure state of mindfulness.
For children and parents who are just beginning, meditation sessions can be fairly short. Depending on your child’s age, most beginners try to meditate for between three and five minutes. You can extend those sessions to up to 20 minutes as positive effects increase.
A quiet space with no distractions is the only “must” for a successful meditation practice.
Initially, children might struggle to sit upright with eyes closed for their entire practice — and that’s totally Okay.
But keeping the eyes closed will allow for deeper relaxation and fewer distractions. Sitting upright is also optimal, as laying down can be too relaxing and lead to an unexpected nap.
And peeking is fine! It’s hard in the beginning to remain close-eyed the entire practice. Many children might fidget after a few minutes, but encourage them to try their best to sit still with their eyes closed until the time is up.
With practice, everything becomes easier and more beneficial once your child knows what to expect.
Start by directing your child to focus on his or her breathing. Notice as the chest rises and falls. Then, start to encourage long, deep, slow breaths where the belly rises up on the inhale and contracts on the exhale. They can pretend they’re quietly blowing up a balloon or blowing out a candle.
The point isn’t to suddenly become enlightened. Instead, let your child focus on the silence in the room and relax his or her muscles. Practice daily if possible, though many have experienced benefits from practising only twice each week.
The beauty of meditation is that the practices can be done at home, at no cost and, best yet, together. By taking on these new ideas as a group, you and your family can bond over a shared challenge while experiencing a variety of benefits.
Even more, the next time your child challenges you with difficult behaviour, you can practice your own mini-meditation to cool down from the frustration.
Ray FitzGerald holds Bachelor’s degrees in both journalism and education from the University of Florida and St. Leo University. He is a long-time teacher of the gifted in an elementary setting and works with parents, educators and children at RaiseALegend.com and hosts the weekly Raise a Legend Podcast to help them raise a generation of legendary children.
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