Remember those embarrassing punishments we used to get as a child in school for disrupting discipline in class or not completing homework or just because… well Karma!!! From being sent outside the class to having our knuckles rapped… we have seen/heard all sorts of behavior correction method used by schools. But there is a new player in the field- a school in Baltimore, US recently garnered attention for replacing detention of its students with meditation. And the result for this so-called non-punishment baffled everyone.
In one word- it worked.
No student in the history of past two years of W. Coleman School in Baltimore has been offered suspension — the same time frame from when they have integrated with Holistic Life Foundation’s program. The plan includes daily meditation, conversations with counselors, and a Mindful Moment Room, where students can go whenever they need some time away — or they can be sent there by a teacher.
How “Holistic Life Foundation” program works?
An interested student needs to become a member of “Mindful Moment Room” and he is assigned to a “Mindfulness Instructor” who might be aware of the challenges or crisis the student is going through in his life. It has been tried and tested that devoting only 5 minutes of frank discussion between student and instructor followed by 15 minutes of practice leads to the soothing of nerves of student and enables him to return to class.
Factors that contribute to the success of Holistic Life are yoga and meditation.
The core of Holistic Life’s effective rests on one particular aspect of yoga and meditation. As Ali Smith (who initiated the program) explained, “Kids get empowered by learning yoga mantras. They see they’re in control of themselves and that no one else has to give them medication or yell at them and scream at them. When they feel — and they’re aware of — anger rising or sadness rising, they can address it…You give them tools to deal with it and they feel happy about it because they’re in control.”
“The mindfulness practice is chosen based on the needs of the student at the time of referral or by student request. Most often students are led through a series of breathing exercises, but some scenarios may call for yoga, “according to the program’s website.
How it will help
Punishment is a short-term solution, it may appear to work but it will not have the desired effect in the long run. A punishment that has no relevance to the problem or does not cause the student to reflect on the effect of their behavior is much less likely to be effective. A scenario where a teacher has a restorative conversation with the student about how things should be improved can be effective. The Mindful Moment Room was put into place with the help of the non-profit organization Holistic Life Foundation.
Just like we adults use meditation to reflect, help manage stress, and keep our mind and body healthy, this program provided options while dealing with restlessness, anger, or even stress. Plus, the school authority says that there have been zero suspensions since the program started over a year ago—can’t argue with that statistic.
Meditation as a remedy
School can be stressful for children no matter the age – it can be psychological, physical, attention/learning based. The academic pressure of juggling various subjects, managing and organizing can take its toll on a student. Children apply their natural skills to discover the world by themselves. Preaching them to think harder, do it better, or be a certain way because it’s good for them is not always advisable. What they need is an open, loving and nurturing environment to unravel their potential.
Meditation can help engage their minds to deepen their awareness. There are no ground rules to be followed when doing meditation – no restriction on the type of clothes or requirement of a specific location. It’s about finding what works with your life. Practitioners suggest that the key is only being regular and if possible schedule it daily.
According to Yoga Journal, the greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of yoga: stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being. Yoga is enjoyed by children because nature has gifted them the unique combination of movement of limbs and being talkative. The mere idea of enacting animals/trees/flowers/warriors encourages them to get involved. Your role is to step back and allow them to experiment. They can also recite ABCs or 123s as they are holding poses. Aided by the auditory dimension of yoga, the experience adds to the ever inquisitiveness of children
The best way for your child to get comfortable with the idea of meditation is to be an example of it yourself. If you’re still learning, you can learn this new skill together and indulge in one-to-one bonding.