Disciplining our children or even simply redirecting undesired behaviors has been a hot button topic that spans generations and cultures. Our schools are no exception. Mindfulness and yoga are being adopted in schools as contemporary ways to meet the social and emotional needs of students, so why should we not start with those same practices at home? Yoga has been shown to improve self control and help to reduce stress. What if we began instilling the principles of yoga at home through behavior redirection and carefully crafted disciplinary methods? Yogi Jaggi Vasudev, known as Sadhguru, is a huge proponent of using yogic practices within the family to manage behavior as a kind of family culture.
Yoga science speaks for itself. Taking time to practice mindful activities throughout the day is one way you can incorporate yoga into your family’s culture. Discipline is one of those moments where both adults and children have an opportunity to share in a mindful teachable moment.
One afternoon I was sitting on the couch enjoying the beautiful sounds of my two children, Teagan (9) and Aspen (6), playing dolls in the basement. Like a sudden rainstorm, you could feel the sky darken and the sounds turned from laughter to unrecognizable yelling. I don’t know about you, but listening to your children bicker back and forth about whose doll is whose in a language and voice pitch virtually unrecognizable can only last so long before adult intervention is necessary. I chose this moment to use a technique I have used many times as a Kids Yoga instructor but never used it on my own family until that afternoon.
With both girls sitting criss-cross applesauce, tears running down their faces from frustration, I asked them to stare into one another’s eyes for as long as they could without a sound. In an instant, the angry silence was broken when both girls broke out into a thunderous laugh. The laughing turned from sad tears to rolling, belly laugh tears. I allowed this to continue for a few more rounds before asking the girls why they were so upset at each other. Calmly, I received a child’s explanation of what can best be described as “doll” logic. Everyone agreed to not argue about dolls and apologized for not being kind to one another. That was it, the argument had been diffused and the three of us left laughing and giggling.
Not every situation can be resolved with a staring contest and the end result might not be tears of joy. Having some other tools in your mindful tool belt to use as alternative discipline practices can help better prepare the adults in your home for a successful behavior redirection.
For example, if tensions rise or arguments begin, use a bell, chime, or singing bowl, (they have an app for that) and listen to the sound together until the sound is completely gone. The children (or family) should listen closely to the vibration of the sound. Tell them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear it. Taking a break to focus awareness on something other than whatever the argument is, will clear the air for that mindful teachable moment. Introducing a new way of redirecting or disciplining your children can seem a little “whoo-whoo” at first, but like anything new it takes repetition and commitment to change. Similar to our adult yoga practice, mindful discipline is just that: a practice! We are always refining our techniques and that growth rings true for how we support our children on this life journey.
Energy Balls is another beautiful technique that can be used to settle a frustrated mind, clearing the way for a peaceful conversation. Start with both children facing one another. Each child rubs their hands together quickly (like you would if you were cold). Once they have some heat built up, they can put their hands together with palms facing each other, or they can slowly put their own palms together. Slowly, they pull their hands apart, keeping their invisible energy ball steady. The energy connection is authentic and demonstrates the feeling and energy each child has at that moment. Maybe you are diffusing an argument or correcting bad behavior between two siblings. This simple practice teaches your children about the transfer of energy, both positive and negative.
When all else fails and you are at a loss for how to redirect behavior, a good old-fashioned laugh could be just what the yogi ordered! Have your children lay flat on their back, arms and legs stretched out and instruct them to laugh their behinds off. And if the direction to laugh on cue doesn’t work, a good old fart noise gets them laughing every time. After a minute or two of laughing, bring everyone up to criss-cross applesauce and take this moment to insert a few rounds of breathing deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. After three to four rounds of this pranayama, or breath, you are ready to provide some behavior correction or insight into the situation.
Redirecting children’s undesired behaviors can be a source of anxiety and stress for parents, and despite our best intentions, a specific technique might not work every time. Approaching these situations with an open heart and open mind will allow for moments of yoga and mindfulness to enter our family’s culture.
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