Reframing Punishment With Mindfulness

Punishment towards children on behalf of their parents, schoolteachers, and adult authority figures is taking a change. Traditional disciplinary actions such as spanking, yelling, and other forms of punishment are being seen as abusive and harmful rather than effective. Most parental forms of discipline include shaming. Shaming, as much psychological research shows, does not act in the same way constructive criticism does. Rather, it acts more like plain criticism. Psychologically, a child is not equipped with the brain power or the knowledge they need to comprehend what it is they’ve done wrong. Thus, when they are met with abusive, disciplinary shame, they are only being told that they are wrong; however, without any idea as to what would be the right way to be or act. Rarely does an authority figure say “this is what could have been different” and ask the child to reflect on the situation. Most often, parents ridicule children with statements like “do you know what you did wrong?” and then send them to “time out” to come up with an idea. Not only does the child receive no direction, they are left with overwhelming emotions they have no ability to process.

Some elementary school communities are seeking to change this dynamic. In Baltimore, the Holistic Life Foundation has transformed traditional detention rooms to Mindful Moment Rooms. The rooms, lushly decorated and stocked with mats, meditation pillows, and more, seeks to let kids calm down and find their center after an altercation.

Taking a mindful moment is not exclusively reserved for children facing discipline. Stress can be somatized, or psychosomatic- often, frustration from home, or difficulty in the classroom is expressed through headaches or stomach aches. Children with these symptoms are also sent to the Mindful Moment Room to spend twenty minutes with a dedicated mindfulness instructor.

As far as the school authorities are considered, the program is working. Children report acting more mindfully in situations both school-based and outside of school. Testimonies include comments about being present in a moment and remembering to breathe, slow down, or center, before continuing to act.

Mindfulness and Recovery
A majority of people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction faced trauma within their lifetimes, either by parents or other circumstances in their lives. Overcoming the shame and overwhelming emotions that come up is part of the therapeutic recovery process. Rather than continuing to act without the ability to cope, mindfulness helps recovering addicts respond instead of react.