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Monday, May 3, 2010

From Impulsiveness to Mindfulness: Learning from our Children

I was speaking to Natha (my 5-year old son) yesterday who continues to be my greatest teacher. He likes to suck his thumb as I did as a child and has a very strong connection with his mom's hair. As soon as she puts bobby pins in her hair he likes to play with her hair and take them out. As he gets older we are making him more aware of this habit and starting to introduce the idea of mindfulness in this context. We spoke as a family about how we have habits or tendencies that we act on and my not even notice we are doing it. Practicing mindfulness is like opening up some space between the habit or tendency and our noticing it. This is simply the process of becoming more conscious. We may still choose the behavior but atleast it is a choice and not something being done entirely without awareness.

It seems that our young people are rarely taught to be aware of their own habits and tendencies. It is a very resiliency skill to be able to notice our own impulsion. The practice of mindfulness is one of noticing our own impulses and then choosing when to indulge them and when to make another choice. My son said with some frustration, " but Daddy I WANT to suck my thumb" and we agreed that was fine but it was important to notice how that felt and even where he felt that "wanting" in his body. Parenting is definitely a work in progress but to share a sense of self-awareness with our children and grand-children may be the greatest gift we can give them. I warn you, however, these young people learn more quickly than we do so once you begin this journey with them we must be willing to accept their tutelage as well. It won't be long before they are reminding you to be mindful in a moment of stress or anxiety. Isn't that perfect! When our children are empowered to be teachers then maybe the teachers can be empowered to be like children.



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