Every parent has experienced the bewildering moment when a disciplinary action backfires. Isn't time-out supposed to calm a child? Why, then, does the measure often provoke an even bigger tantrum? Or, for older kids, why does it seem that correctional treatment like detention only produces more troubling behavior?
One school in Baltimore may have discovered the solution: meditation for kids who act out. In an inspiring story reported by CNN, Robert W. Coleman Elementary has discovered effective time-out alternatives that focus on self-reflection and encourage positive behavior, as opposed to the traditional methods that discourage negative behavior.
The Case for Meditation for Kids
According to a 2017 study from the European Journal of Education Studies, after-school detention is still the most frequently implemented behavioral correction measure used by teachers. The study goes on to say that since detention is often a delayed punishment, its efficacy is diminished.
The concept of detention and time-out to make kids reflect on their actions is, in theory, solid. It's only in reality that the practice breaks down. The treatment's original purpose is to remove a child from the external stimulation and triggers that upset them in the first place, and this initial move can be very helpful for children. But when adults leave it at that, a mental and emotional void is created. Kids, when left to their own creative devices, use that time to fill the void in their own mischievous ways. So often, instead of de-escalating, this form of punishment intensifies the child's already "big feelings."
Thankfully, simple, age-appropriate meditation techniques are a great way to fill that void.
Practical Time-Out Alternatives Applied
You don't need to be a certified yoga instructor to implement simple meditation for kids who need help managing their moods. In fact, you don't even need to be a school administrator or counselor. These basic applications can get you started.
Conscious breathing. According to the experts at Nemours, breathing slowly and deeply helps kids and teens relax, manage stress, and quash anxiety.
Mindful reflection. As you guide a child through deep, calm breathing, have them close their eyes and intentionally think about every muscle as it relaxes, starting from the tummy outward. Ask them to consider what they hear, smell, and feel, if anything. The result of this simple exercise can be more flexible, adaptive behavior, as noted by a study in Frontiers in Psychology.
Giggly gratitude. Some active, squirmy kids may not enjoy sitting and focusing on mindfulness. Grab a paper and pencil and have your child list six things they're grateful for. Then, have them imagine silly combinations of those things. For example, if a kid is thankful for family members and pets, have them describe or draw what it would look like for family members to be dogs or cats instead of humans.
Junior Yoga. The only thing better than helping a kid stay calm, relaxed, focused, and balanced is teaching them to do it themselves! Yoga is one of the best ways a kid can take control of their own body and mood. The simple poses from Nemours are more than ideas. They're a series of ten exercises a kid can memorize and customize for a personal mind and body regimen.
Don't react to another episode with more controlling or coercing. Equip your youngster with a safe place, a little guidance, and the tools to calm down naturally.
What are your favorite time-out alternatives? Share your ideas with other child wranglers by tweeting @TomsofMaine!
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Why It’s Good
Time-out, detention, and grounding can sometimes be surprisingly ineffective. Instead of trying to control the situation, consider using meditation for kids, a creative way to impart the tools kids need to self-regulate their own big feelings. Not only will your youngster feel better, so will you, having given the gift of mindfulness.