Is Meditation a Replacement for Student Discipline?

We’ve already outlawed the ineffective and inhumane practice of beating students as a form of punishment for bad behavior. Should detention be dismissed as a “lesson in behavior” as well? It seems that schools that are implementing meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are reporting boosted grades and better behaviors. Let’s explore their success…

Social Media Following

A short video on Facebook highlighting the benefits of meditation practice at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been circulating as of late. The trending video is not brand new, but the message may be for many. The West Baltimore school is one of many around the country utilizing meditation and yoga to help students monitor their own behavior.

At Coleman, all the students practice deep breathing and yoga in the morning. It centers them and gets them ready to do schoolwork. It also helps them focus and reset, allowing them to shed negativity they could be bringing in from their lives outside of school.

A Good Form of Discipline

When two students have an altercation, instead of sending them to the principal’s office, they are sent to a “mindful” room. In some schools there are counselors in the spaces set up specifically for kids who are angry or having a hard time. Going to the special room allows them to “blow off steam” and get calm. (The room can have distinctive lighting, beanbags, blankets, soothing music, colorful walls, trace scents of essential oils—anything to invoke serenity in the environment.) Once the students are calm, they are more apt to explore and discuss their feelings. They are encouraged to look at better ways of handling challenges and frustrations.

Schools implementing meditation practices report fewer office referrals, fewer or zero suspensions, and overall improved school environments. Mindfulness has also shown to help students attend better and perform more proficiently on tests. The main bonus is that the child learns that he/she has the ability to attain calmness and make better behavioral choices.

Is Meditation a Form of Religion?

The most concise answer is that practicing meditation is not a religion. There are certain religions that advocate meditation and yoga as tools to center oneself. But in and of itself, the practice of deep breathing, stretching, and bringing awareness to the body and mind is not a religious thing. It may actually be more rooted in science.

Mindful Meditation

Any child (or adult) can reap benefits from yoga and meditation, regardless of his or her faith. JAMA Internal Medicine published a study reporting that mindfulness meditation can help decrease stress. School is a huge stressor for kids. The research also revealed that meditation can not only ease anxiety, but depression, and actual physical pain as well.

Other benefits of meditation for students:

– It removes the feeling of competition. The practice is about getting to know yourself; you win when you learn about you.

– You don’t have to have any athletic ability; anyone can do it.

– It improves self-image. Kids are very self-conscious, especially about their bodies. Positive self-image improves overall health.

– It increases respect for the body.

– It improves posture.

– It improves the ability to manage stress and the ability to respond more appropriately.


A mental health professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health had a beautifully articulate talking point about the introduction of yoga and meditation into schools. She said this about deep breathing, “When we sit with pain or discomfort rather than act on it, we learn that feelings and sensations come and go. We don’t necessarily need to act on them all. We have a chance to pause and make a thoughtful choice about how to respond.”

It’s this type of statement that can help us to understand that detention or other forms of punishment many not be as effective as once thought.

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Want to Take a Break from Alcohol? Ways to Make Changes and Still Have Fun!

Been a bit sluggish or fuzzy—for like, three…to, maybe, …fifteen years? Do you hear a little voice whisper almost every morning, “Hey, today’s the day we don’t have a glass or eight of wine.” These are just a couple of reasons you might want some tips on how to wean yourself off of habitual alcohol partaking.

Easy Dose It

Other reasons for needing to cut back (or cut yourself off) are for medical-related conditions. Perhaps your new religion, new potential spouse, or old friends and family frown upon your indulgent-enjoyment of libations.

Maybe you’re simply ready for a move towards a healthier lifestyle. Judgment-free of motive, cutting-down or complete avoidance of drinking can be a positive, healthy choice.

Take A Break

Reducing the amount and occasions you drink (as opposed to quitting cold-turkey) can be an easier path for many. Unless you’ve been ordered by a court, can’t remember your last birthday, or are at-risk of liver, pancreatic, or kidney failure, you may just want to wean yourself off, little by little. In doing so, you may find the journey informative and rewarding.

Change It Up

Replace behavior: If you normally go to happy hour with or without coworkers, other stay-at-home moms, or a 5pm wine-pouring alarm going off, try replacing those events with something else that doesn’t require or thrive well with alcohol.

Experts will suggest a physical activity. Instead, commit to a 5pm Zumba/salsa/ballet/ Pilates class that lasts for four hours (kidding on the last part.) Basically, find an enjoyable outlet that provides exercise and personal enjoyment to replace the primary drinking hour(s).

Reward Yourself

Reward behavior: Instead of spending money on alcohol, save it and treat yourself to something else that makes you feel equally content or even happier. In a very short time, you’ll see that the saved dollars normally spent on drinks will add up as a nice side bonus.

Spend the money right away on healthy drinks like smoothies, or save up until the end of the month and buy something new to wear. Side note: Chances are if you’ve given up drinking for a month, your clothing size will probably have gone down 

The Bennies

Reap benefits: Cutting down on the grog and spirits will become noticeable in your brain and your body. Your thinking will be sharpened as well as your looks. You’ll probably lose weight, your skin will glow, and you’ll have more natural energy.

Being mindful (even though it’s a trendy buzzword these days) is still wildly and truly applicable, especially within the realm of this topic. Alcohol consumption does not have to be harmful.

As we are aware, many wines and legal elixirs can be health-beneficial when ingested in small-to-medium doses. It’s the overconsumption that breeds danger. Stick to your choice, be kind to yourself, and enlist a buddy to join you if that will make it easier and more fun.

Can Blood Be a Treatment for an Ailing Brain?

A recent study has opened a new dialogue about how blood interacts with the brain. Blood from human umbilical cords may not be the key to preventing or reversing dementia in people, but it worked for lab mice.

Three Brainy Mice

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine experimented with giving human plasma to mice. Specifically, they gave very young blood, from umbilical cords. The mice that received the plasma were old.

The original study was conducted by infusing young mouse blood into older mice. The results showed interesting promise in the area of the brain. The older mice showed improvements in memory and learning.

So this time around, the scientists wanted to see if the same results would occur if they infused human blood. Indeed, the findings were just as successful. The elderly mice could build nests with more intricacy and navigate mazes more successfully.

The most improvement in the mental acuity of the aged mice was from infusions of umbilical cord blood. Plasma from human young adults had a very small effect. Blood from the elderly had absolutely no valuable effect on the brain of the elderly mice.

From Mice to Men?

It’s pretty remarkable that they’ve discovered a link from blood to brain. But before anyone thinks a cure to Alzheimer’s has been found, we will need to think again. There are several variables that scientists need to take into consideration.

First off, just because human umbilical blood transferred to elderly mice reaped successful results, does not necessarily mean that similar results would transpire infusing elderly humans. Secondly, the elderly mice in the study did not have dementia. They simply had an old brain. Who’s to say if the blood infusion would have worked if the mice had a disease or disorder?

Nonetheless, the study may open a new line of research for potential dementia-treatment drugs. Currently, the medications available for, let’s say, Alzheimer’s, can help a bit, but the disease still progresses. It will be amazing when a discovery is made that can halt the progression of dementia.

Signs of an Ailing Brain (Dementia)

  • loss of memory (especially short-term)
  • faulty reasoning
  • increased paranoia
  • inappropriate behavior
  • difficulty with abstract thinking

In the Meanwhile…

While those who are affected by dementia wait for a medication or a “fix-it” treatment, there are several actions to take that may help. Making a few lifestyle choices in a positive direction certainly cant hurt. Some examples are:

Eat Fresh – a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fish provide natural sources of omega-3s. Colorful fruits are wealthy with antioxidants. Avoid refined sugars, processed foods, and meat, which contribute to inflammation (even in your brain.)

Sleep Well – During a deep sleep of eight hours or more, it’s believed that the brain shifts memories from temporary to longer-term storage. Besides consolidating information, your brain actually absorbs new info while you sleep. Reading or practicing a new skill before bed enhances retention. Sleep well, and you’ll have better focus and remember more.

Exercise – Aerobic exercise on a regular basis enhances retention of new (and old) information. MRI brain scans show that vigorous exercise expands the hippocampus, which is the area involved in learning and memory. Exercise also reduces stress (which can impede good recall.)

For more information on up-to-date research on health care, check out


Are Insecticides Creating Behavioral Disorders in Children?

The number of children diagnosed with neurological and behavior disorders has increased exponentially over the years. There are so many chemical-based products in existence that it’s tough to pinpoint which ones may be toxic. In the meanwhile, a new French study hones in on one potentially dangerous element—insecticides.

Flying Under the Radar

A recent study suggests there is a direct link between insecticides and “abnormal” behavior in children. There is a commonly used group of insecticides called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are mostly used on crops, but they are evident in some mosquito repellents as well as shampoo for lice. These chemicals work on insects by damaging nerves.

Even low exposure to pyrethroids appears to create toxic effects. This particular study out of France shows an association between exposure and behavioral disorders in children. Additionally, a pyrethroid-linked chemical found in the urine of pregnant women suggested their children presented certain psychosocial negative behaviors.

Pyrethroids may affect signals in the human brain, just as they affect the neurochemical signaling in insects.

Rumors Buzzing

Of course, there will be naysayers in regards to the recent evidence presented in the publication Journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. There is big business in insecticides, and those companies using pyrethroids do not want their product names’ tarnished. Nonetheless, when something is toxic, especially to children, we shouldn’t disregard warnings.

Personal Alternatives

Although we may be unable to control what farmers or the governments are using, at home we can opt for less toxic solutions or remedies. Here are some natural preparation examples:

  • Killing head lice. First, rinse hair with apple cider vinegar. Then, coat the hair thoroughly with coconut or olive oil, and then put on a shower cap. It takes over eight hours to “suffocate” them, but you can do it. Finally, you have to comb them out and rinse out the oil. Repeat this procedure once a week for three weeks.
  • Killing fleas. (On your pet) – Wash your pet with Dawn dish soap (don’t let it near their eyes.) As you work up a lather, add a stream of vinegar and massage in. Add plain water and let the mixture stay for about 10 minutes, if possible. Rinse out the soap and vinegar with water. Do not towel dry your pet. The smell of vinegar repels new fleas that may want to invade.
  • Repelling Mosquitoes. For your body, you can make a mixture of 1-part lemon eucalyptus oil to 10-parts of sunflower oil or witch hazel. Mosquitoes don’t like essential oils (like tea tree, clove, lavender, etc.), but always use a safe base like almond or sunflower oil if placing on the skin. Citronella is a collection of herbs used to repel the buggers also. It’s often found in candles.

With the prevalence of children diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and Autism, why risk adding to the inflated numbers? Not everyone will choose the safer, natural route. It’s a personal choice. What choice will you make?

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6 Parenting Tips to Manage Discipline Successfully

The word discipline may have a negative connotation, but it’s actually something useful and necessary. Great outcomes can emerge from effective discipline. Parents often become overwhelmed by the prospect of disciplining their children. Fret no more! Below are 6 simple tips to help manage your child’s behavior successfully.

When parenting, it makes sense that our goal is to increase our children’s positive behavior. At the same time, we want to deter or decrease negative behavior.

When observing and defining behavior, take care to be specific. Saying your kid is “acting like a brat” is general, subjective, and won’t help you to best invoke your disciplining skills. Defining the action, such as your son is “teasing his sister” or “breaking his toys”—those are specifics behaviors that can be targeted for improvement or extinction

1. Explain What’s Expected

You’re not a mind reader and neither is your child. It’s very important that you communicate expectations. If you want your kids to take off their shoes at the front door, let them know. You can write it down and let them read it. You can tell them. Just make sure when you are giving direction that you do it face-to-face. Children get distracted easily—make sure your child actually heard you. If you’d like, you can always ask him to repeat back to you what he heard you say.

2. Practice Do-Overs

When your kid comes running into the house with muddy boots (and she’s been told to take them off at the door), help her practice the rule. Instead of screaming, calmly bring the child back to the front door. Remind her of the rule. Now give her another chance to be successful. Thank her when she takes off the boots. Reiterate that next time, this is the behavior you’d prefer.

3. Be Clear What’s Happening Next

As adults, we make schedules and are the managers of our own time. But we’re also in charge of when our children will be doing something. Give your kids fair warning. If you’re leaving the house in 10 minutes, let them know they need to start wrapping up what’s they’re in the middle of. Giving youngsters notice of upcoming expectations eases their anxiety.

The majority of negative-behavior displays often originate from a child’s anxiety level. (Other sources are lack of sleep and hunger.)

4. Ignore Bad Behavior

Although this sounds absurd (and impossible), it’s not. When your kid is doing something she’s knows she’s not suppose to, it’s mostly to get your attention. If you give her attention by yelling at her, you’ve now reinforced that bad behavior gets noticed. That’s not something you want.

If you look away, don’t respond, don’t freak out, more often than not, the child will cease the behavior. Once she stops, immediately give positive reinforcement by offering attention. She will learn that when she behaves nicely and properly, you are happy to spend time together.

Do NOT actively ignore if your child is hurting herself or another. Use this tip only for annoying behaviors (like incessant talking, tapping you on the arm 800 times, not cleaning up, etc.). Also, do not ignore destructive behavior.

5. Keep Consequences Realistic, Deliverable, and Proportionate

After you’ve told your child he would be receiving consequences for continuing negative behavior, make sure he knows what it’s going to be, beforehand. This gives him the opportunity to stop the bad behavior or accept the consequences.

If he makes the choice to continue with his behavior, don’t overact. Keep your emotions in tact. Clearly, deliver the punishment and briefly remind him why he’s receiving it. There’s no need to yell. That’s won’t help the child learn. He will, however, learn that continuing to throw food around, however, means he doesn’t get to play with the iPad after lunch.

Removing access from a desired item is torture for a kid. If that’s what you choose as a consequence, make the time frame realistic. A short time away from a favorite toy will send a loud message. Also, make sure you follow through with the understood consequences, even if he begs and swears the behavior won’t happen again. It just did. Be strong and do the calm, right thing and that will bring about more desirable results next time he thinks of flinging spaghetti onto the wall.

6. Create Structure

All of these tips for successful disciplining point back to “following rules.” As mentioned, setting up and expressing expectations will define the rules of your home. So, creating structure will help your children follow along with your plan.

If everyone wakes up at the same time every morning, your child will learn “this is when we get ready for our day”, or “this is when we eat breakfast.” If you want your kid to eat breakfast, then be consistent with wake-up time and when food is available.

Bedtime structure is also very important. Proper sleep for everyone is essential. When a child knows a routine and experiences structure, she is more secure. She understands what to expect throughout the day. Rigidity is not particularly healthy, but organizing and experiencing events in a consistent manner will help the disciplinary process.

Of course no ”method” for parenting will be perfect fit for everyone. Being individuals, all with different life circumstances, our challenges will vary. The above tips are offered as helpful tools. Hopefully, some of them will strike a chord for you and your parenting style. For other articles on families and health, check out



Screen Time for Kids May Not Be So Bad

For a while now, it’s been recommended that screen time for children and teens should be limited to two hours daily. A new study, however, does not corroborate findings from past studies. Limiting screen time for youngsters may not be as imperative as we’ve been led to believe.

What The Research is Now Showing

Surely, anyone’s face in front of a screen every waking hour is unhealthy, regardless of age. Data from over 6,000 teens (16 years old on average) was analyzed in the new study. The research conducted out of Stetson University showed that the link between excessive screen time and mood disorders and misguided behavior are minimal.

The data collected was from teen questionnaires. The participants were asked about the amount of time they spent on screens daily. They also answered questions about their nightly amount and quality of sleep. Additionally, the teens were asked about their personal and family relationships, risky behaviors, drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, and if they experienced feelings of depression.

The amount of time spent on social media or electronics was found to have no impact on reckless driving, promiscuity, or substance abuse. The association between large amounts of screen time and higher levels of depression were very slight. Even up to six hours a day of screen use showed no significant negative impact on the youngsters’ mental well-being.

Any negative outcomes were extremely low. And although the participants were equal in number (make and female), the males tended to be more affected by excessive screen time.

Is There a Clear Picture?

The discrepancy in “screen time” studies over the past few years seem to have one element in common: screen time recommendations are merely estimates. The actual optimum time (where very little negative results ensue) is just not clear. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer offers a recommended amount of screen time for children and teens. They had been advocating a maximum or two hours a day, but they can’t offer appropriate guidance when the findings are not necessarily clear.

How the Time is Spent

Perhaps a more valuable element, instead of the questioning the amount of time, is examining how the time is spent. How are children and teens using their time while on the screens? This seems a consideration more worthy.

If websites are compelling our youngsters to read and learn, then they are an educational tool as praiseworthy as a book or a professor’s lecture. Kids are teaching themselves how to play instruments and explore foreign languages on their electronic devices. Even gaming provides a social outlet.

Just as one would advise for anything else, moderation is the key. Screens before bed definitely disrupt sleep patterns, so shut them down at least a half an hour before turning in. Monitoring the sites your children visit is not a bad idea. But if your teen is using screens a few hours a day, you can stop worrying that his/her mental health is at stake. It’s just a sign of the times…


How to Help Kids Get Along and Resolve Conflict

Kids are going to have disagreements with other kids. How they handle the situation will predict whether they can find a resolution to the conflict.

Who’s in Charge?

Ultimately, it’s the kids who are in charge of their interactions. As parents, caretakers, and teachers, it’s up to us to offer skills and help guide them towards positive exchanges.

We’re not going to be there every time there’s a snag in a social setting. But when we are, it’s essential we use that particular experience as a learning opportunity. We can teach, model, remind, and reinforce.

On the “Playground”

The playground is the largest hotbed for conflict among kids. Whether they’re in elementary or middle school, the schoolyard tends to be the place we observe the best and the worst behaviors betweens peers. (High school-age students seem to experience more conflict off campus and on social media.)

In today’s climate of bullying/victimization, it can seem that our kids don’t stand a chance of becoming well socialized. This is simply untrue, although sometimes it may not feel that way.

You’re the one getting the call to pick up your child in the principal’s office. Or, your kid comes home crying because someone called her ugly, fat, dumb, etc. Or, your child is solemn, won’t communicate about his feelings, and you want to reach out. There are tools, as adults, that we can offer to kids to help avoid (or lessen) the above scenarios.

Campus supervisors, “yard duty guards”, or whoever is on the schoolyard supervising can be a key figure in assisting kids with positive socialization—reinforced with parental guidance as well.

Tattling Vs. Reporting

It’s important to discuss the difference between ”telling on someone” to get them in trouble versus informing an adult of an unsafe situation. We want them to differentiate so we can keep kids safe, but also to empower the students to work out their own conflicts. It’s a skill they’ll need for life.

Set Ground Rules

Once the conflict begins, the rules of engagement must be set.

YES – using words, walking away, or seeking aid from an adult.

NO – any form of physical contact, throwing objects, yelling or name-calling.

Problem-solving is a creative action. Kids will come up with solutions that we may not have thought of. But whatever works and seems fair for both parties is a good resolution.

When You Witness Good Behavior…

When you see a kid teaching another the rules of a sport, praise him. When you see a student asking another to join in, praise her. Feel free to comment, “I really like the way the two of you are getting along.” Model expressions like, “Great try!” “My turn, “Thanks for sharing.” Communicate with kids in positive scenarios.

When You Witness Unsavory Behavior…

Never shame a child. You can talk to a small group of kids, but don’t single one out in front of others. Always remain calm. An emotional response muddles your message. Use clear, concise words. “Others feel bad when you call them names,” “If you can’t play the game by the rules, then perhaps you need to find a different activity, “When you behave “that” way, you’re showing me you can’t handle the situation.”

Give the child the opportunity to redeem his/her “bad” behavior. Coming from a place of empathy (and wisdom) will go much farther with trust and encouragement of “good” behavior.

And, of course, consequences need to be established up front as well. Consistent praise, reminders, and follow through with consequences will leave no one confused. Keeping the peace is where it’s at.

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