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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bacon

2 How meditation for kids is replacing Supernanny’s naughty step

No one said parenting was easy. Over the last century, there have been plenty of people offering advice as to how to discipline and stop a child crying.

Stretching back forty years now, I was not a naughty child. I was, I believe, somewhat crippled by shyness. As such, staying out of the attention of anything was a strategy I relied upon heavily. So, I was very rarely either naughty or disciplined.

However, at the age of four, in my first year at school, my fingers wandered, and I scribbled on my wooden desk. My act of boredom was immediately spotted and elevated to a high crime of vandalism by my school teacher.

She bellowed to the class about my wickedness. And then instructed me to walk to the front of the classroom so that she could hit my hand with a ruler. My walk of shame and the sting of the ruler against my palm, live with me to this day. However, I am of the firm opinion that the shame sits squarely on the shoulders of Miss Nettleton, who inflicted the blows on my tiny, still innocent palm.

That was the eighties, and soon enough, teachers disciplining children corporally was stopped entirely. It wasn’t long after that parents smacking children also became not just a no-no, but illegal if that smack produced a mark or bruise.

Hitting children is not something I have ever agreed with either in principal or logically.

But with that disciplinary tool out the proverbial window, some parents were confused as to how to manage their children’s unruly behavior. The ‘giving children a good talking to’ prevailed. But many parents felt out of their depths, and many just had no idea how to have a peaceful home with happy, kind, loving, and mindful children.

Everyone has kids hoping that it’s going to be hard work but idyllic, but often the reality has no bearing on the dream.

Come the early 2000’s though there was a new philosophy and guidance, courtesy of English nanny Jo Frost.

In the spirit of shows like Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare, the kids that Jo Frost dealt with were the worst of the worst. They were kids entirely out of control and then some.

Bedtime was a farce with kids simply refusing to settle and getting out of bed numerous times to tell their parents they were scum, and they hated them until around midnight. The cases Frost dealt with were kids that ran amok at most everything. Getting them ready and dressed was a Herculean task; taking them anywhere was shameful as they exhibited such appalling behavior. Add to that the children swore, hit, kicked, spat, punched, and bit. They were so unruly and out of control that less fierce siblings became sad, distant, and withdrawn. It was a miracle that many of these kids were even alive as they regularly ran away and in front of traffic.

However, by dealing with these kids with such off the scale behavior, Super Nanny taught parents that they could reclaim control of their household and have happier and better behaved children.

And many of Frost’s methods, routines, and ideas remain in 2020 an excellent cornerstone to good parenting. However, Jo’s way of dealing with a child that has been warned and refuses to comply - the naughty step - is now coming under scrutiny.

You’ve seen it yourself no doubt and implemented it maybe. Frost has had some epic naughty step contests with children that refuse to chill out on the step as insisted.

Time and time again, the tiny tearaway leaves the step and time, and time again, they are returned to complete their timeout. Naughty step battles have lasted hours as Jo refuses to let parents be outdone. And the child simply must complete their timeout. Those are the rules. While it makes for fun viewing, the stress on the parent is there for all to see. The parent verbalizes their stress. And Jo helps them by encouraging them to take control and stick to their guns as kids test boundaries to their limits.

But from the point of view of the child, this method of discipline has it’s good and bad sides. Yes, the child must comply and behave and complete their timeout and apologize. Which is all good. Parents have to be in charge, after all. But on the downside, the child does not, at least in the beginning, calm down at all. And while, yes, you have stopped the child kicking mummy or swearing or whatever the misdemeanor was, by placing the child on the naughty step you have in actual fact started a battle or indeed all out war. It’s a battle that you will win because that’s how it goes. The parent wins. The child loses. Always. The child’s will is broken - that’s the only way to finish the naughty step. From the child’s perspective, having your will broken is not necessarily the best thing.

Meditation has now been touted as a better way for discipling kids. In fact, the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore has been using meditation for kids instead of detention with excellent results. When children have misbehaved, they attend meditation and are given a chance to learn how to breathe and be more mindful. Since introducing these strategies, attendance rates have increased and suspension rates have decreased to zero.

In comparison to the naughty step, meditation for disciplining kids has similarities and differences. Indeed both methods involve children taking ‘timeout,’ and they are requested or made to sit away from the situation and stress.

However, the naughty step is, by definition, the start of a battle whereby the child must comply. That’s like dealing with a peaceful protest with riot gear. A child that misbehaves is often doing so to seek attention because they are unhappy about something, and acting out is a way of expressing themselves. The naughty step takes the rage, anger, and frustration a child feels and does little to quell the emotions. It’s often like pouring on gasoline.

By comparison, sending kids for meditation is to ask them to breathe and release their emotions. Frost’s method is not necessarily about breaking wills, but it does do that to allow the adult to regain control. Meditation is less of a battle and more about allowing the child to calm and mindfully understand and explain their emotions more fully. The meditation method is more so about the parent and child working together peacefully and mindfully to find a solution to the problem, rather than extracting a begrudging apology and acceptance that their behavior was wrong.

Most parents have the naughty step in their arsenal of parenting skills, but how does the meditation method work, exactly?

Just like Frost explains, when the child misbehaves, you should warn them that their behavior is unacceptable. The meditation technique is then used when the child continues past their warning. They can go to their Mindful Moment Place, listen to a meditation track, and calm down. Then sit and talk to your child about what’s going on. Listening and allowing your child to tell you why they are upset can help you get to the root of the problematic behavior. It might be that your child is upset about something that’s happening at school. You can then help your child to accept a situation or help to change it mindfully.

Mindfulness meditation for kids projects are being set up in earnest in schools across the UK and US, with impressive results with the unruliest of children.

Best of luck in implementing the strategy and swapping your naughty step for a Mindful Moment Place!


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