By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
You are your child's first and most important teacher and always will be. Maybe you'll teach your child to ride a bike or hit a baseball this summer. It could be that you'll teach how to manage time, set priorities, mow the lawn, or manage a lemonade stand. Teaching how to use a map at an amusement park, how to swim, or how to be a gracious winner of an athletic event would also be worthwhile choices.
Another area, one that is often overlooked by parents, is that of mind management. We teach children how to manage time, money, clothes, cleanliness and social interactions. Rarely do we teach them how to manage their own minds to create a desired attitude or result. Following are five mind skills that your children from tots to teens could learn and practice this summer.
1. Looking for the Doughnut
Learning to use your mind to "look for the doughnut" is about purposefully looking for what is there in the situation before you, rather than looking for what is not there.
Many people spend their lives looking for the hole rather than for the doughnut. Guess what they usually find? That's right, holes. If you look for holes, you find them. If you look for pieces of the doughnut, you find them as well.
The point is this: you can make a conscious choice to look for the doughnut or to look for the hole. Whatever choice you make will affect what you see. And what you see is what you get. To change what you get, change what you look for.
Be on the alert this summer for opportunities to help your children learn and use this mind skill.
"Sounds like you are upset about playing second base. Are you looking for the hole or the doughnut here? What are the positives about that new position?"
"Having a family yard sale does take a lot of time and effort. The negatives here are easy to see. What could we see if we were looking for pieces of the doughnut?"
"The picnic has been cancelled because of the rain. If we decided not to look at the downside of that and looked for pieces of the doughnut instead, what might we see?"
"What did you notice about that movie? Was that a hole or a piece of the doughnut?"
2. Turn the Page
Turn the Page is another mind skill that helps children tune into their own power and use it effectively in their lives. Turn the Page is a symbolic demonstration that re-minds them that the past is over and the present is where their power lies.
"As you know from last weekend, things didn't go well with Carmen, the babysitter. Both of you were disappointed. I was disappointed. Carmen was disappointed. Together, you and I have just spent an hour going over what went wrong and how we could improve that situation. We have most of that recorded on the chart paper on the table. Now watch what happens and tell me what you see."
This parent then turned the paper over and asked, "What do you see now?"
"Nothing," one of the kids answered.
"That's right," the parent replied. "There is nothing there. We now have an empty page, a clean slate. We have just turned the page on an unpleasant experience. Think of turning the page as leaving the past behind. There is nothing any of us can do about what happened last weekend. We have learned what we can from it. Now it is over. Carmen will be here in about an hour. Let's see how you do with a new page."
3. Shake It Off
Arturo Gomez did just that as he was driving his wife and two children across the state to a family reunion. When he noticed the two girls in the back seat were getting restless, he pulled into a rest stop.
"Everyone please get out and follow me," he announced. "I see that some of you are having trouble staying in your own space. I'm feeling a bit tired. Let's all do what I do when I drive long distances alone and I'm feeling tired. I stop the car, get out, and shake it off."
This father then demonstrated by shaking all over, moving every part of his body. His children started to giggle but followed his model and shook off their restlessness. Upon conclusion of the 45-second activity, the children were invited to use the bathroom facilities and return to the car. A peaceful remainder of the trip followed.
Help your children learn that Shake It Off can be done mentally as well as physically. Stuck on a homework problem? Shake it off in your mind and move on. Get thrown out on a close play at first base? Shake it off in your head as you return to the dugout. Worried about how you’ll do on the test? Use this mind skill and internally shake off the worries before you begin.
Shake It Off is one more valuable mind skill you could teach your children this summer.
4. Let It Go
"You each have two sheets of toilet paper," Brenda Watson explained to her two boys. "With a pen, I want you to write a sentence describing some incident that happened this summer that you would like to forget."
"Perhaps it was your spill on your dirt bike during the big race. Maybe it was the time you struck out with the bases loaded. Perhaps it was when you asked Jessica to meet you at the roller rink and she turned you down. Take a minute and record the incident on your toilet paper. I'll do one, too."
When she and both boys had finished writing, this mother invited them into the bathroom where they deposited their writings in the toilet.
"Watch what happens," she instructed as she flushed the toilet. As you would expect, a swirl of water swept the papers away and out of sight as the boys looked on with interest.
After the children had returned to the kitchen table, Brenda inductively coaxed from them the messages the activity they had just participated in was intended to deliver, which included:
If you don't like what's happening in your life, you can flush it.
What's done is done. Let it go.
Get rid of bad feelings.
Writing it down and throwing it away helps you get rid of it.
Don't hang on to negative thoughts.
Let It Go is the mind skill this mother was demonstrating with the toilet paper activity. Again, this is a mind skill that can be carried out physically, using the toilet, or done with a mental flush.
Symbolic gestures and imagery help mind skills stick in the consciousness. Let It Go can be done mentally, visualizing balloons ascending in your imagination. Resentments from the past can be burned or buried, flushed, or sent away mentally on balloons. They can be ripped up and thrown in the wastebasket.
5. Make a BE Choice
Making a BE choice is different from making a DO choice. Children make DO choices all the time. They read a book, play a video game, apologize to their grandmother, bring in the groceries, go for a bike ride. These decisions are made routinely without much thought.
Not as often do we or our children make a BE choice: how we are going to BE when we DO whatever it is that we DO. How you choose to BE when you talk to your teen about her report card has more impact than what you choose to DO. How you choose to BE when you read a bedtime story to your toddler will greatly modify her experience of that story.
You can teach your children to make a BE choice. "We're getting ready to go into the restaurant. Remember, this is not a fast food place. Let's all decide how we want to BE during this dinner. Later, we can talk about how with did with that choice."
Many children are not aware that they are actually choosing to be bored, worried, excited, friendly, happy, annoyed, interested, or many other states of being. Help them improve their sense of personal power by reminding them that they are at choice.
"I understand you are asking your teacher to let you take a retest. How do you want to BE during that conversation?"
"Billy is coming over in a few minutes to play. How do you want to BE when he is here?"
"Mom is exhausted from a rough week. How could we choose to BE that would help her out tonight?"
Teach your children these mind skills this summer to help them get in touch with the power they have over how they perceive, feel, think and act. Once they learn how to use these new skills, they can use them to re-mind themselves to access more of their personal power.
When you read this article, did you intentionally look for the doughnut?
If not, you might want to turn the page and start over.
Feeling unconfident about teaching these skills? Go for a walk and shake it off.
Let go of any negative thoughts.
Choose to BE appreciative, excited, eager or confident.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials: How to Talk to Kids about Divorce, Sex, Money, School and Being Responsible in Today’s World. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish free parent and educator newsletters. To subscribe to the newsletters or obtain information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites today: www.thomashaller.com and www.chickmoorman.com