Let The Youngest Teach You Mindfulness

child-paced, slow down, slow to appreciate,

Image from jesse.millan’s Flickr photostream

Ask any child. When adults meet them for the first time, standard questions include, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” right after classics like, “What grade are you in?” and “What’s your favorite subject?”

Such questions, unintentionally, gauge a child’s progress toward adulthood. That’s because adults tend to be future oriented. We’re distracted from the present moment by the need to plan and work toward any number of goals—what to do about dinner, how to juggle next week’s schedule, when bills can be paid. These distractions take our attention away from what is in the here and now. When we think ahead so often we have less time to notice, let alone appreciate, what makes up our lives minute by minute.

What is impatience except denying the value of the present moment? The watercolor effect of rain on the window, the meandering quality of a child’s conversation, the long wait for a pot to boil—these can be occasions to experience impatience or opportunities to breathe deeply and be present, gratefully.

Leaning so often toward the future unconsciously demonstrates to our children that later is more important than now. Yet as we know, later never comes. As long as we’re alive there’s always “later” to strive toward. Worse, we are surrounded by advertiser-driven messages telling us that we aren’t there yet, that we need to do more or become something more in order to have friends, be successful, find love.

The nature of early childhood is the perfect antidote to this hurry-up attitude. That is, if adults truly pay attention to the lessons the youngest model for us. Young children who are not yet pulled by the adult world’s messages are oriented to the present moment. When forced to disregard what is vital to their bodies and spirits—pretending, daydreaming, playing, snuggling—they rebel. They are who they are, where they are. They’re not caught up in the future tense which dimishes the here and now. They demonstrate the oldest way of knowing.

Pay close attention to the youngest children in your life. Let them help you learn solutions to our cultural overdrive.

As we slow down we have time to truly know each other and to truly know ourselves. We’re more aware of the messages our bodies send us and can act on those signals before they become symptoms. We have time to reflect. Time to remember our dreams when we awaken. After all, time is the only true wealth we have to spend.

slowing down, slow movement, child-pace, mindfulness, mindful living, mindful parenting,

Image from kla!’s Flicrk photostream

10 thoughts on “Let The Youngest Teach You Mindfulness

  1. Thank you Laura, for reminding us that being in the NOW is all we have. As I spend time with my “wee-one” I will remember that these young ones have the power to teach us True Mindfulness.

    Laura Grace, wwwlauragrace.net
    Since we share two of the same names, a friend found you when they were searching for me. :)–
    “Grace” is both a beautiful noun and verb. 🙂


  2. Thank you Laura, for reminding us that being in the NOW is all we have. As I spend time with my “wee-one” I will remember that these young ones have the power to teach us True Mindfulness.

    Laura Grace, http://www.lauragrace.net
    Since we share two of the same names, a friend found you when they were searching for me. 🙂 –
    “Grace” is both a beautiful noun and verb. 🙂


  3. I am often delighted that my daughter allows me to come back to the now. Playing with her, holding her, nursing her, helps me see what is important.


  4. A great reminder to stay present. My daughter often wants me to play with her NOW and I too often find myself saying, in a few minutes or later when I’m finished such and such. I can’t get that moment back.


  5. I totally agree, but I also think the “what do you want to be…” question is also an attempt to find a connection between the adult and the child. I like to share with my kids all the different things I wanted ‘to be’ (which is in itself an interesting phrase) and they can relate. They know that I once had career goals that haven’t come to fruition, but that I’m totally happy and useful the way I am. It’s not something I stress though because I think that what the kids are enjoying now is way more interesting than what I think they might enjoy in the future.


    • You’re right, adults don’t necessarily have any agenda in mind when they ask kids such questions.

      And you’re on to something by sharing what you wanted to be. Kids need to hear the adults around them talk about such things, about paths not taken and how we ended up where we are today. I remember an elderly neighbor telling me once that she’d always wanted to drive a semi. It was hard for me as a little girl not to laugh out loud, imagining this gray-haired apron-wearing lady behind the wheel of a big rig. But later, when I thought about it, I wanted to know what stopped her and why her friends and family couldn’t have supported her goal even if it was atypical for the times. When I heard she’d died many years later that’s the first thing that came to mind, my sorrow that she’d never experienced the thrill of driving a truck as she’d longed to do. So I guess part of talking to kids about their futures is enabling those dreams and part is knowing which ones to let go.


  6. “What a shame” is what I think when I hear those questions.While they may not be asked with an agenda many times they are asked not expecting an answer worth listening to. I also think it ridiculous when the adult asks questions of the child but looks to the parent for the answer….. How old are you? I say “they can talk and they can answer” yet they continue. Is it any wonder why the youth find it hard to connect with adults?

    Sometimes my wild things have insane conversation but often I am happily surprised by the knowledge they have . The littles especially so.


    • I have to laugh. Even when I was small my mother taught us to speak up for ourselves, refusing to answer questions about us or for us when we were present.

      I agree, adults don’t have a conscious agenda when they ask such questions. This is, in part, a function of how uncomfortable many adults are around kids (except their own). Today’s society keeps kids largely segregated via schooling and recreation, so it’s quite possible to be an adult who is completely unused to children. They may perceive what kids have to say as silly or disconnected from reality, but as you say, it comes from the knowledge kids accumulate in their own ways. It has the capacity to open up adults to new ways of thinking and seeing, if they let it.


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