There’s recently been a clip, I think from Radio 4, posted around Facebook of children (6 and 7 year olds) trying to describe what mindfulness is all about when they have been taught it in school. However, it appears from this clip that these young children were being taught mindfulness largely as a tool enabling them to work better, although the words ‘relaxed’ and ‘calm’ were mentioned too. I personally think this is a very precarious school of thought, after all the essence of mindfulness involves no aims or goals.
I know that some people are wary of mindfulness because they have deduced (wrongly) that it disempowers people (employees especially), that it’s almost a form of subtle mind control – they might think that the attitude of acceptance means resignation; they might imagine that the attitude of trust means blind faith; they might think that the attitude of non-judgement means that they have to be completely passive when things are not going well. But again this is all very far from what mindfulness is all about. And I think it’s worrying that this seems to be running alongside the notion outlined above that mindfulness can be used in order to get children to work.
There is a great quote that I often regurgitate in my training session on working with children. It’s from www.thegreatergood.berkeley.edu:
“Although it may be tempting to use mindfulness as a disciplinary tool, it should not be used to demand a certain behaviour. It inherently includes the quality of acceptance.”
In other words, mindfulness should not be used as a way to get children to be quiet and get on with their work (especially when they’re perhaps still very young as the children in the video clip were). Instead, it accepts where the child is, in their own experience, right now, with all that that entails. And sometimes that’s not easy to deal with. They might be feeling upset, bewildered, frightened or conversely excited, full of energy, even hyperactive.
There have also been articles and video clips of schools in America using mindfulness sessions as an alternative to detentions. This again, I believe, is approaching things from completely the wrong angle. Mindfulness should ideally be taught when things are going right, not when things go wrong.
Yes, of course, I believe mindfulness should be an essential part of school life and it could be a game changer in allowing children to understand how their minds work, observing their thought processes and their reactions to situations. It also enables them to be more creative, observant, compassionate and resilient. But this all comes as a natural by-product, as does the ability to concentrate more successfully on the work they are expected to complete. As such, of course it should be an integral part of school life. But it should not, in my opinion, be utilised as that disciplinary tool. Mindfulness is so much more than that.
As a tutor for Mindfulness Now, Rachel shares a range of different techniques for teaching mindfulness to children and teenagers. For more information please visit the Mindfulness Now website
She also uses mindfulness strategies, along with hypnotherapy and coaching, with children and teenagers and their families, as well as adults in a private clinical therapy setting. For more information, please get in touch:
07733 839 591 – Rachel’s mobile
0121 444 1110 - Central England Therapy Centre, Kings Heath