As a parent, you want your children to be successful. But often we force our personal definition of success onto them and find vicarious pleasures in pushing them in that direction.
Society correlates success with financial wealth or fame and thats the value we try and ingrain in our children. But the society of tomorrow needs children who are mindful, community-minded and compassionate.
Parenting with this in mind is not easy; given that we are living in a society which expects us to push ourselves to exhausation. We live in overdrive mode constantly trying to have less holidays, work more hours and achieve more. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to break this cycle for your children. To help you mold mindful and compassionate children, try out these four simple and fun exercises.
Use the popular mindfulness acronym S.T.O.P. to introduce mindfulness in your household.
Use the video above to introduce the concept. Simply speaking the acronym represents the following:
S: Stop. Ask your children to drop whatever they are doing.
T: Take three deep breaths. Ask the children to take a few deep, breaths. Inhale and exhale with your belly.
O: Observe. Ask your children to get more aware and observant of their surroundings. Ask them to be tune in with their own feelings and emotions.
P: Proceed. Ask them to move on with their work.
Ask your children to help you create a few S.T.O.P. signs to place around the house. Family members can agree to S.T.O.P. when they run across the sign. Every week or so, move the signs to keep family members on their toes.
2. Sit Like a Frog
Mindfulness instructor Eline Snel offers several exercises for teaching meditation and mindfulness to children. One of the exercises is inviting a child to be like a frog. This exercise is adapted from Sitting Still Like a Frog:
See if you can pretend to be a frog sitting very, very still on a lily pad. While you sit on that lily pad, Mr. Frog, you breathe. If you move too much, your lily pad will tip over, and you’ll wind up in the water. So, you just sit still as your green frog tummy goes in and out. Although you can leap high into to the sky, you can also sit still like a statue, like you are now. Because you’re a frog, you just watch what’s happening all around you and within you, and you don’t jump into action right away. You simply sit still and breathe on that lily pad, storing up your energy. Notice how your tummy in and out, Mr. Frog. In and out.
3. Do the "Hugging" Loving-Kindness Exercise
Remember to teach them about loving themselves and being kind to others. Spend each day asking them to hug themselves. Ask them to hug their sibling/parent. Ask them to say, "You are awesome". Ask the sibling/parent to say it back to them.
Ask them to remember a friend and say, "May you be happy, (insert friend's name)
Ask them to send loving thoughts to everyone in their friends circle, extended family.
4. Use Compassion and Kindness Reminders
Make compassion a part of your family’s everyday life by using reminders to make kindness habitual. You can speak with your children about compassion and explain that everyone could use help in some way. When you take action and help a person, you are being compassionate. You can watch this video to talk about being compassionate.
Another tool to help your kids remember to be compassionate every day is the COMPASSION IT wristband; it’s a simple tool that encourages your children to seek out ways to offer compassion. The wristband is a different color on each side, so you can use one side to remind yourself to give compassion, and flip to the other side when you’ve succeeded.
Do you wonder how much easier life would have been if you had learned mindfulness skills at an early age? The bullying of middle school, the agony of junior high, and the storms that accompany life might have been easier to weather by being more mindful of emotional responses. You have the opportunity to help prevent your children from getting carried away by the pain that accompanies life. By teaching mindfulness and compassion, you can set them up for success.