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Mindfulness Matters: Re-defining time-outs

As a parent or caretaker, have you found that traditional time outs aren’t working?  We’ve all been there—an overtired child acts out and is put in “time out” to calm down and think about their behavior.  In my experience, as a mother of two girls, most time outs in my family did not accomplish either […]


As a parent or caretaker, have you found that traditional time outs aren’t working?  We’ve all been there—an overtired child acts out and is put in “time out” to calm down and think about their behavior.  In my experience, as a mother of two girls, most time outs in my family did not accomplish either goal.  If anything, my children became more upset.

It’s time to re-define time outs into a learning experience.

A more empowering method is to talk with our children about how it is important for all of us to come up with strategies to use when we are feeling mad, sad, scared, or challenged in some way.  Then brainstorm with your child when they are feeling good, and create a list of activities to be used to shift their energy and thoughts when they act out.  Different emotions may call for different strategies and kids may sooth themselves in different ways.

The first strategy would be to try to head off a sense of overwhelm before it occurs by having the child listen to a Yoga Nidra or other guided meditation.  Yoga Nidra is an ancient form of meditation, done while laying down. It incorporates a sequence of mindfulness techniques that relax the body and quiet the mind.  In just 15-30 minutes, your mind stops racing and your body becomes relaxed.  After practicing Yoga Nidra, your children will be recharged and ready for the rest of their day.

Other mindfulness tools such as simple yoga postures and breathing techniques can be fun and calming.  Cat and cow pose done while making sound effects is a great way to introduce children to yoga postures.  When done silently, coordinating the breath with the movement between cat and cow, this gentle flow relieves stress and helps to quiet the mind.   “Dandelion breath” or straw sheetali breath is a breathing technique in which the child inhales slowly through the nose then exhales slowly through the mouth as if they are blowing the seeds of a dried dandelion or through a small straw.  According to the Amrit Yoga Institute, “this breath is particularly calming for kids and teaches them how to breathe deeply.”  It is “good for tiredness, crankiness, blood sugar spikes and drops.” 

If the point of no return is reached, then it is time to reach for the menu of activities that have been discussed ahead of time.  Five possible activities to include on the menu:

  1. Drawing or coloring to let your child express their feelings
  2. Blowing bubbles to encourage deep breathing which calms the body
  3. Enjoy a soothing bubble bath
  4. “Dance it out!” like Cristina and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy

Share a fun activity and teach important lessons at the same time by creating a unique menu of activities with your child. Let’s re-define time outs and teach our children mindfulness techniques that will serve them throughout their lives. 

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