be that way

be that wayNot long ago, we heard Jon Kabat-Zinn speak about mindfulness in education.

One of the things he pointed out is the language teachers often use in speaking to students that can undermine their intent. These are directives that begin with “I want you to —.”  Dr. Kabat-Zinn suggests a simple shift to “Let’s—.”

For example, for a child who is upset, instead of saying “I want you to calm down,” try “let’s calm down.” Rather than “I want you to take some time away,” “let’s take a break from this for a moment.” When “we” are in something together, not only does it serve as a reminder for me (the teacher or parent) to avoid escalating, it short-circuits the power dynamic that often compounds stress with an expectation of compliance or respect.

The goal is to help the child calm down so that she can move on. Full stop.

While our choice of language is important, even more so our disposition and state of mind. As parents, there are times in which we’ve asked children to calm down or stop yelling while, ironically, we ourselves are yelling.

Rather than raise a voice to tell a child to stop yelling, be that calm presence and quiet voice. Slow it down, pull the energy in. In any overwhelming situation, a harbor in the storm is what is needed. The way to provide that for our kids is to be calm and centered ourselves.  When we can successfully provide that harbor, something in both our kids and ourselves – as well as the relationship between us – grows in a positive way. -n&t

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