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Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children

We've been working incredibly hard with Sunshine to help her pause and calm herself before responding inappropriately to situations around her.

This has been quite challenging as Sunshine has a very low frustration tolerance.  When she becomes upset aggression is her go to coping mechanism, despite how inappropriate and harmful it may be.

When we're able to observe Sunshine is becoming upset we immediately use the following four prompts to encourage mindfulness.  These work extremely well when she is stable.  They have saved us from many unnecessary behavior issues.

These four steps were something that I came up with in the moment, trying to calm Sunshine a several months back.  She responded so well we continued to use them.

Though I have not tested these prompts on other children besides my own, I can only guess that they can promote mindfulness in all children.

Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children

Here's how this works!


When Sunshine becomes agitated she immediately starts moving.  Most often this can result in a lack of safety awareness followed by someone getting hurt.  As soon as I see Sunshine reaching this point, my immediate response is,


It's short and simple, loud enough so she can hear me clearly and is accompanied by a hand signal that she knows means stop.  

Not only does Sunshine receive an auditory prompt, but also a visual one.  

When she is stable, Sunshine is very quick to make her body still.


Once Sunshine is still, I prompt her to breathe.  I do this by using the one word command.  I then inhale slowly, raising my hand starting below my torso and lifting it above my head slowly, encouraging a very long inhale.

After I have observed that Sunshine has inhaled as well, we pause for a second and then exhale together slowly, pushing the air out as I bring my hand down slowly.


The next step is to help Sunshine become present.  I do this by prompting her to look at me.  

Now this does not mean that I expect full eye contact.  What it does mean is that her body and eyes are facing my direction and I know she's not distracted by something else.

As I prompt her using the word look, I also bring two fingers to my eyes.  Once again this provides both auditory and visual prompts which is extremely important.  Just one of those prompts often isn't enough.


It's only after Sunshine has followed the commands to stop, breathe and look, that I point to my ear and give the last command to listen.  Most often Sunshine shows me she is ready for this next step by pointing to her ear too.

It's at this point that I can communicate with her, knowing she's looking for understanding and has a sincere desire to follow directions and be her best self.

Nine times out of ten this method helps Sunshine calm down and become mindful of herself and others, as well as her surroundings when she is stable.

Why the Prompts Work

I love this method because it's simple and direct.  Too many words can cause confusion and an increase in negative behaviors.  

I also love the prompts because they help Sunshine remain in control.  There are no power struggles over using the word no, taking things away, touching her or giving negative consequences.  

The main goal is to bring Sunshine back to the present and calmly speak to her to help her better understand a situation before it gets out of hand.

By the time the four prompts are completed both parties are calm and rational, despite any negative emotions and energy that might have been there before.

Another aspect of the four prompts I really like is that I know very quickly if they're going to work, or if Sunshine is past the point of calming down.  

The entire process takes less than a minute to complete.  If things go well I can enjoy a fabulous conversation where we both can express emotions and better understand what's going on. 

When I notice she's unable to follow the prompts I can immediately move forward with making sure everyone stays safe.

It has been amazing to see how these four prompts have helped Sunshine remain calm in so many difficult situations.  She immediately recognizes the first prompt and knows exactly what to do.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.  They include other behavioral strategies that we have used in the past and still use now.

4 Steps to Managing Aggressive BehaviorsOne Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions5 Lessons to Teach Kids About Balancing Emotions

Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children

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