Children, especially the youngest children (those under 10 or 12), have very little control over their lives. They have to wake up and go to sleep when they are told to. They have to leave home and return home on a schedule they didn’t design. They have to learn the things that adults have decided they should know.
Anyone with a two-year-old knows that children are desperate for control over their own life. “No,” is the first word children learn that gives them real control. Of course, parents also find areas of their lives that children can control. “Do you want to wear the dinosaur pajamas tonight or the penguin pajamas?” “Do you want to brush your teeth first or wash your hands first?”
But did you know that by teaching your child mindfulness, you can give them control over almost every interaction they participate in each day? Just like Now Cow teaches her friends in Kelly Caleb’s wonderful children’s books on mindfulness, your child can take control of their lives through mindfulness.
How Mindfulness Gives Children Control
One aspect of a child’s life they often feel they don’t control is their feelings. You’ll hear them say, “Charlie made me mad.” This indicates that Charlie’s actions, not any choice your child made, are what caused the anger. Your child had no control over it.
The same is true of, “You made me so happy, Mommy.” This may sound like a compliment, but do you want to be the sole cause of your child’s happiness? Before you answer this, consider what a full-time job that is. What happens when you have to make an unpopular decision? Is it then impossible for your child to be happy? And is it your fault?
With mindfulness, which is your child being aware of themselves in the current moment, including being aware of their feelings, your child can choose to react to stimuli the way they want. So if something disappointing happens, they can say to themselves, “I am disappointed because X happened. I could choose to react by yelling and screaming, or I could accept that X happened and go on with my day, choosing to focus on what’s positive so I can have more fun.”
In this way, your child controls their reactions. This may not seem like a big deal to them, but imagine this in a setting where a bully is trying to get a reaction out of your child. Maybe they are yelling, “Four eyes!” at your child with glasses. Rather than reacting immediately by crying or yelling back at the bully, which by the way is what the bully wants, your child can use mindfulness.
First, they can name to themselves what they are feeling in the moment. Are they afraid? Are they annoyed? Are they mad? They can also take stock by thinking about what the bully is actually saying. Four eyes? That’s a pretty ridiculous thing to say, since obviously, your child does not have four eyes. If your child takes a few breaths to think about what’s going on, they may just choose to roll their eyes and walk away, frustrating the bully to no end. Now that is the ultimate control.
Children and the Power of Mindfulness
Of course, mindfulness takes practice before your child can get to the point where they can separate themselves from the moment's emotion and look dispassionately at a situation. That’s where you come in. It’s your job to practice mindfulness with your child every day, and extol the benefits of mindfulness. And don’t forget to read books like Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow mindfulness books with them so they can learn how mindfulness benefits them through fun, rhyming stories.
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