DO YOUR KIDS AND TEENS do things they know they shouldn’t? Do they not do things they know they should? The difference is discipline. We ask ourselves what’s the best form of disciple to prevent these reoccurring behaviours. The answer is not to discipline their behaviour afterwards, but to develop the characteristic of discipline beforehand. It’s the development of this mental strength that allows for integrity and the foundation for living a calm, balanced, successful and happy life. It is never too early to start a yoga and meditation practice to develop discipline with your children or in your classes, and the gifts you give will last a lifetime. Below are three steps to help you begin.
Aim for consistency
This is true of any discipline, that to be a discipline we practice consistently and therein lies the power and the effect. When children and teens attend a yoga class once a week, I see behaviour, moods and attitudes shift slowly over a term. When they receive ‘homework’, like practicing the pose of the week, or doing a breathing exercise before bed, or following a meditation every morning, children feel calmer, happier and more peaceful in a week.
A nine-year-old boy came to see me because he was behaving badly at school. He was often in fights with the other students and was verbally abusive during class. After four weeks of a consistent yoga and breathing practice that took him ten minutes every day, he became calmer, less aggressive and happier in himself and toward his classmates.
It is the power of a consistent yoga practice that sets new habits, redirects the emotions, finds new potential, and connects children back to who they truly are.
Action 1: Select 3-5 poses that you will practice daily with your children or teens.
Push your limits
Aiming for a consistent practice isn’t enough; you must also keep challenging yourself. In his book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin calls this ‘deliberate practice’. He notes, “It is designed speci cally to improve performance; … it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally; and it isn’t much fun.”
Every yoga class constitutes deliberate practice and the secret to an effective class for children is also to create and facilitate a fun and enjoyable experience.
Action 2: Each time you practice the poses, hold them slightly longer, do more repetitions or if they have become easy, choose a more challenging pose. Remember to make it fun by turning it into a story, adding music, making it a special event or even having a reward at the end of your practice.
Develop a ‘Yes I Can’ Attitude
Following steps 1 and 2 will automatically lead you here. By doing something consistently—especially when you didn’t think you could—generates a belief in yourself. When you think of someone who you consider disciplined, you will often find it’s their mindset and attitude that sets them apart.
A standout example of this is five-year-old Billy who, due to behaviour and temperament issues, was on a path to be placed in special classes at school. We gave him a specialised daily practice, which he followed impeccably for three months. I told Billy that if he did his yoga every day for a month, he could have a new program. He saw this as a reward and it inspired him. Three months later, he was a new child with a completely different mindset. He could regulate his own emotions and behaviour and settled well into classes at school. It’s now two years on and Billy has not needed special classes.