The amazing power of our own thoughts is a resource we all possess yet often under utilize. Educators around the world are recognizing the importance of teaching our children how to think rather than simply what to think.
Based upon Nancy’s book, Mind Power for Children, and the work of other leaders in Mindfulness studies, the M.E. Program introduces a system of highly successful techniques to help children experience:
- Increased self awareness.
- Ability to focus attention; set and realize goals.
- Develop problem solving strategies.
- Enhanced understanding of emotions and ability to express feelings cleanly and effectively.
- Reduce their stress and cultivate compassion for themselves and others.
Why Mindfulness Education for Children?
The M.E. Program
Thoughts and feelings are the most powerful forces in a child’s universe. How children think and feel each day influences every aspect of their lives. Their attitudes, choices, personality, and who they ultimately become as individuals, are all products of their cognitive and emotional experience.
I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want their children to do well in school, have lots of friends, make wise choices and feel positive about themselves. I have sat across from countless moms and dads at parent-teacher interviews who told me, with trembling voices and teary eyes, that all they really wanted was for their children to be happy. Truly, it’s what most parents want and it’s also where we feel the most powerless. No matter what we do, we can never make our children be happy. However, what we can do is learn how to be happier ourselves and then, in turn, teach our children those skills.
How to think with purpose and clarity is a skill that needs to be taught to children as early as possible. The same applies to learning how to identify, feel and express emotions effectively.
Over the past ten years, small pockets of innovative educators throughout North America have been developing programs that focus on specific mindfulness practices. Through symposiums and conferences hosted by institutes such as Fetzer, Garrison and Mind and Life, as well as the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), these incredibly valuable programs are discovering one another. We’re banding together to collaborate on research projects, sharing our skills and resources to propel this movement forward in a systematic and far reaching way.
All of the programs and techniques presented in the M.E. Program curriculum have been taught to thousands of young children and the results have been remarkable and lasting. Early indications from the first research pilot in Vancouver schools, (April 2005) suggest significant increases in positive self- concept, optimism and endorsement of pro-social behavior amongst students studied in grades 4-7.
I believe our job as parents and educators is to support our children’s academic and social education with programs that encourage self reflection and mindful awareness. We need to teach children how to think, rather than what to think, and how to understand and express their emotions, rather than simply manage them.
“It’s a mind shift that needs to happen. It is the concept of inner-preparedness. I’m talking about what would we need in the core of our beings, to be innerly prepared for the complex world… It has a lot to do with the training of the mind, and the opening of the heart, and the welcoming of the soul.” – Linda Lantieri – Founder of Project Renewal NYC in response to 9-11)
The Power of Thought
Until recently, little was known or understood about science of the mind in popular culture. This is changing quickly. As we move into the 21st century, mindfulness practices are becoming highly regarded and used daily by millions of people in a variety of arenas. Contemporary media, whether it be TV documentaries or mass circulation magazines, like Newsweek , National Geographic and Time, abound in material extolling the virtues of training the mind. Sports icons such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan share how mental training complements their physical workouts, with impressive results. Entertainment celebrities like Goldie Hawn and Jim Carey credit their successful careers to their ability to focus their minds. It has become almost common knowledge that mindfulness techniques such as quieting the mind and focused attention, practiced regularly, dramatically increase performance and sense of well-being.
Even with all this attention, however, many parents, educators and psychologists continue to underestimate the power that each and every child possesses in their own mind. The assumption has been that learning to focus the mind was an adult practice that young children are unable to understand or “think” in this way. Fortunately, ground breaking research in the area of education and positive psychology is showing us that what has worked so effectively with adults can be adapted and successfully taught to children. As it turns out children not only learn quickly and take easily to mindfulness practices, they thrive using these techniques.
Exciting studies of neuroplasticity, including that of Canadian Dr. Helen Neville at the University of Oregon, indicate that the cellular structure of the brain actually transforms with training and experience, both in adults and children. Dr. Martin Seligman, who coined the phrase, “positive psychology” tells us that despite each child’s genetic disposition to being either an optimist or pessimist, the ability to develop a positive attitude towards life, can be learned.
My goal for this work was to develop simple and effective ways of teaching our children how to know themselves from the inside out; to embrace a sense of personal responsibility for their experience of life, regardless of their circumstances and through that process, cultivate a compassionate attitude towards themselves and others.
Nancy (Fischer) Mortifee