We all make them. Excuses. Especially when it comes to something for ourselves. This is written to my peeps. Yup, I said “peeps.” My tribe. My colleagues in the education industry. My - I’m just swimming enough to keep my head above water - fellow parents of young children.
Things are not easy right now. The daily grind is chaotic. Work is busy. Families are full of energy-because if your weather is anything like the weather here in Western NY, it’s been chilly and rainy for what feels like weeks, which means we are all a bit stir crazy!
BUT this is when we need to tune into ourselves the most. This is when we often have emotional reactions to things that are said to us. In the classroom, if students are short with us or are giving us attitudes, we may find ourselves mirroring a snarky response. When the kids are running in circles whining, “Mama, I want juice!” or “Daddy, I need my crayons!” and we are wondering where our sweet, well-mannered children have disappeared to, the simple tone of our response escalates out of pure annoyance. Or with our partners when they don’t get to unloading the dishes or changing over the laundry like you had asked help with, it’s flipping annoying. But, is the emotional reaction really worth the argument or hurt feelings that would likely follow? This is where the power of restraint - the power of mindful restraint - shines.
How do you cultivate the superpower of recognizing when it’s time to pause, observe, restrain, breathe and respond? Just sit. Everyday. Start with 3 minutes, then treat yourself to 4...5...10 minutes a day. There is no wrong way to give yourself the power of a sit. Focus on your breath, or the sounds around you. Repeat a mantra to calm your mind. Over time, research has proven that your brain will begin physically changing for the better to help you see the big picture more clearly and with more empathy. (For more information on how this is possible, check out this article from Psychology Today)
And before you creatively respond with something along the lines of, “I just don’t have the time right now. The kids have basketball everynight, it's conference and report card time, the holidays are coming...” Pause and think about that response. Is that an emotional reaction to the idea-an anxious reaction? I might have to say so... So, let's regain power. Take emotion out of the excuse and picture yourself sitting in a quiet space. Can you see it? If so, you can do it. Commit to yourself. Commit to your “peeps.” It’s a win for all involved!
“The senses, being the explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge. Our apparatus for educating the senses offers the child a key to guide his explorations of the world…”
~Dr. Maria Montessori
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have searched “mindful classroom rules” on almost every search engine out there this summer. Scrambling to add the finishing touches to the newly designed PreK room for the year, I searched frantically - again - for a set of those mindful classroom rules to print and pop onto the wall. Because, well...why reinvent the wheel if something is already out there. But, what if it isn’t? What if you have to actually be one with your own mind space and create your own. That was the case and what a blessing in disguise it has become. The answer was right there in front of me the whole time! I just needed to be present in my own room for a moment to realize so.
Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting offers the first gateway to understanding the world and the interactions that take place between others. Using the senses to guide agreements, or rules, for student interactions within their environments (home, school, community, etc) can offer a familiar anchor as kiddos enter new stimulating situations. That is why many educators of young learners use senses as the baseline for creating such “classroom rules.” As a PreK teacher of 4 & 5 year olds, I do the same.
In the past, our rules have been the following:
This year’s class agreements are similar, but have much more depth and meaning.
Life experiences all come down to a stimulus and our response to it. So, why not integrate the rules and a mindful pause between the stimulus and response. With that, I dappled in organizing the sense-based rules into two groups (stimulus and response) and tweaked.
This is what I came up with…
I can not even begin to rave about how it has not only anchored my own teaching intentions, but how the students respond to the relatable language. It offers a self-regulatory guide to explorations of the inner and outer worlds that the kiddos are soaking in. It all just makes sense. At least for us…;-)
Teachers, parents, caregivers-please feel free to give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Enjoy the new school year!
Wholehearted (adjective) whole·heart·ed: completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic
Heartfulness (noun) heart·ful·ness: a beneficial state of positive qualities-like kindness, gratitude, and generosity-leading to greater well-being.
Heartfulness is a key support of mindfulness practice. In my opinion, this is where we can begin effective mindfulness practice with our youngest ones. Asking a two year old to practice “intentional sitting” can be tricky all in itself. They will likely just take off in the opposite direction on you -at least that is what my twins do! But that’s where we call in our creative side. Tap into our personal interests and the interests of our child(ren). I’m not suggesting that you have to go all out with this creativity, but rather just use things that you already have around the house. Keep it simple. ;-)
Creating the Space: Imagine creating space in our week to explore all of the people that we love. We can do this in a special seated location, such as on a pillow, blanket or cushion that is made especially for our little one. To keep the toddler hands occupied, add in an object that is special to the child; a toy, stuffed animal, crystal rock, plant or picture. Join your child in the same fashion as you share a few intimate minutes together in this unique, special space made just for you.
We will likely need to model the first few times, but once the habit is rolling, we may just find that it becomes the best part of the week as we savor the sweetness of a child’s heart. Listing the many people that we love, sending happy thoughts to someone that we miss, giving all of the reasons why we love someone on our list... these are the moments that can make our hearts FULL and get us through the more challenging ones.
Ever wonder about the scientific side of things? Emotional regulation is a key benefit of mindfulness. By creating this space in your week for heartfulness practice, you are strengthening the developing amygdala part of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses, as well as the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for making decisions in response to emotions. SOOOO, we are essentially training our child’s brain to pause after getting stepped on by a sibling and swinging back in response. Stimulus-Pause-Response. That’s a win in this house!!
the blog Space
I'm obsessed. This is fabulous. LOVE that you are doing this. The new way of being a student forces us to think outside the box and approach how we teach more dynamically.
~Derek, Father of 2 and Elementary School Principal
Just a girl with a dream to collectively build a healthy mind space for children, while creating a healthier mind space for ourselves.
Copyright Healthy Mind Space 2019