What happens when you encourage children to meditate instead of punishing them?

-May 14, Jenny Paul, Mind -

It’s world meditation day this week – and while we’re all getting better at carving 5 minutes out of our busy schedules to be calm and quiet, have you ever thought about trying to get your kids to do the same?

What if schools encouraged kids to do that – instead of punishing children, they helped them meditate?

If you ever sat through a detention at school when you were younger, then you’ll know that they do little to deter children from acting up and if anything it’s treated as a bit of a joke, with the other kids all exchanging eye rolls and cheeky in-jokes with each other behind the unfortunate supervising teacher’s back.

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In fact, it’s often the errant child’s parent who gets the bulk of the punishment because not only do they have to adjust an already busy schedule and pick up their wayward youngster from school later than planned, they have to ready themselves to deal with the cringe-worthy chat with the teacher about whatever their little darling has been up to when they were supposed to be learning things – following the initial telephone call from the school secretary.

But a school in Baltimore, MD has come up with a genius way of encouraging their pupils to behave: Instead of punishing them by handing them an after-school detention, if they’re acting up they’re encouraged to go and spend some time meditating in The Mindful Moment Room – which is a pioneering programme which has been set up at the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, in partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation.

The Mindful Moment Room is a soothing space with comfy cushions and beanbags, lit by glowing pink Himalayan salt lamps. Children are taught breathing techniques that one fourth grader says calms her down, “when I have an attitude.”

The initiative has even garnered meditation advocate Oprah Winfrey’s stamp of approval.

Holistic Life Foundation’s co-founder Andres Gonzalez told Oprah Magazine that this is helping parents to be more calm and mindful when they’re spending time with their kids at home, which in turn makes their offspring better behaved at school:

“That’s how you stop the trickle-down effect, when Mom or Pops has a hard day and yells at the kids, and then the kids go to school and yell at their friends,” he says. “We’ve had parents tell us, ‘I came home the other day stressed out, and my daughter said, Hey, Mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe.'”

MORE: I used mindfulness to recover from a serious illness

Holistic Life Foundation is a local nonprofit that offers after-school programs for kids to focus on mindful practices—from meditation to yoga classes. “It’s amazing,” Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, tells Upworthy. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.”

If you’re wondering how to start meditating and practising mindfulness, then we have a couple of handy guides here and here.

Still don’t think it works? Philips says that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary none of the pupils have been suspended from the school since the Mindful Moment Room opened its doors. And, at nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, not only have suspension rates dropped but attendance rates have actually increased.

What do you think of the initiative? Have you tried meditating? Let us know in the comments below… 

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