Helping children handle their emotions is finally somewhat of a priority in education these days. To meet this goal, there is growing popularity in the practice of mindfulness: active attention on thoughts and feelings in the present, without judgment. Being aware of your emotions in the moment, and learning to stop yourself before reacting is a great first step in strengthening the spiritual muscle of restriction. But the steps that follow are what can create long-term change in children’s behavior—and ultimately in the way they will handle challenges throughout their lives.
In Lesson Number 8, Level 1, of our Spirituality for Kids program, we introduce children to the 4-Step Formula, which is the process we use when a situation triggers a reactive emotion. It goes like this:
STOP (Don’t do anything; pause)
CHILL OUT (Meditate; take 10 deep breaths; listen to music; take a walk…)
ASK (Ask your True Voice to guide you)
SHARE (Find a way to share in the situation)
We can help our kids (and ourselves) to accept and be less judgmental about reactive emotions, by understanding the concept of the Two Voices. As a result, we recognize that constant conflict naturally exists inside each and every one of us. When children get this idea, they no longer feel like “bad” boys or girls, or that something is wrong with them if they feel reactive.
Another important point kids take away from this lesson is that they have the power to choose whether or not to react. They start seeing that these emotions are no longer an inseparable part of them, but rather something they can put on the side, look at, and decide how much power to give them.
The Light I reveal by controlling my reactive behavior, and the insight I gain about myself, and others, by listening intuitively to my True Voice, makes me emotionally stronger. This is the key to resiliency in life.
In the last step of sharing, kids can transform a challenging situation into an opportunity. For example, a common conflict between siblings can be when one is being mean to the other; in most cases the one who is being mean is the one having a bad day or difficult time. We can teach our kids to not immediately take mean behavior personally and react, but also consider the other person and ask, “Is everything ok?” or “Do you need any help?”
Empowering our children to be aware of the processes they are going through, and their options, not based on fear or forced morals, but based on the Universal Spiritual Laws, will help them to make a real and lasting transformation.
Like Albert Einstein said, “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”