One Tool Parents of Young Children Should Add to Their Toolbox

Last Sunday afternoon, I took my second hot yoga class.  It was the hardest yoga class I’ve taken to-date (in my 4 week stint of yoga addiction).  The instructor was fantastic, and when I walked out of the studio, I looked like I had been spun through a car wash.  Dripping from head to toe, but feeling “clean,” all at the same time.  It was as if I had managed to sweat out every ounce of toxin, anxiety, and stress in my body.  

I felt ten pounds lighter.

A stark contrast from the beginning of the class.  Because at the beginning of the class, my mind was reeling with thoughts of everything I needed to do Sunday evening to get ready for what my calendar was forecasting would be a very busy week.  

A briefing deadline.

Vacation Bible Camp.

A swim meet.

A baseball game.

Meetings at church.

And a host of other minutia that had to be dealt with but isn’t worthy of mention here.

(I thought it was summer already.  Why haven’t things slowed down?)

And as if the instructor could read my mind, before the class began, she gave us a speech.  She talked about how coming into the yoga studio from the world we live in can be a real challenge.  Because, while yoga requires concentration and focus, the world is filled with distractions.  Shutting our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds off from those distractions is a tall order, but to get the most out of our yoga practice, it’s a necessary discipline.  

If our minds began to wonder away from our yoga practice and towards our to-do lists, our burdens, our hurts, or our worries, she encouraged us to concentrate on the tips of our fingers and toes and to think about what those body parts needed to do in order to help us find the very best yoga poses we were capable of.  

“Yeah, that’ll work,” I thought to myself.  

As the class began, predictably, my mind wandered.  But not as far afield as I might have thought.  Instead of thinking about my to-do list, I recalled a tool I’ve used with my children in the past to help train them in self-control.  It’s a great tool, but I’ve lost it along the way somehow.  Because it’s a real gem, though, I’m dusting it off now and putting it to use again in our home.  I’m also going to share it with you, hoping that you or someone you know might benefit from it.

We’ve taught our kids that “self-control” means “doing what we know is right even when we don’t feel like it.”  (Conversely, it could also be said that “self-control” is “refraining from doing what is wrong even if that’s what we want to do.”  But we try to speak positively in our teaching to the kids, so we prefer the first definition.)  

In my experience with young children, a lack of self-control often manifests itself with a case of the “wiggles” or a fit of “I can’t keep my hands to myself.”  This can happen almost anywhere (and I’ve found it doesn’t plague only pre-schoolers), but I’ve found these predicaments to be most prevalent at the dinner table, while at play with siblings or friends, or during a shopping trip to the store.  And when I was a new mom, I often found myself scratching my head over how to deal with it. 

 That is, until someone gave me this tool.

Tell them to fold their hands.  

And if they know how to count, 

tell them to count their knuckles.

That’s it.

There’s nothing more.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?  In fact, it’s such a simple tool, you may be doubting that the tool has any power.  But as soon as I put this tool into practice (at the suggestion of a more experienced mom than me), I began to discover that instructing children to fold their hands is one of the most powerful tools to help them regain self-control when they’ve lost it.  

It gives them something specific to do.

It provides them an opportunity to focus.

It helps them channel their energy.

And it slows down the activity of their bodies long enough for their heads and hearts to be cleared of noise and to be prepared to receive and respond to instruction from us in the right way.

It’s golden.  

It’s a keeper.  

I don’t know how I’ve gotten along without it the last couple of years.

And based on my experience in yoga class last Sunday, it works on grown-ups too!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” 

(Galatians 5:22-23)




9 thoughts on “One Tool Parents of Young Children Should Add to Their Toolbox

  1. This is good because it teaches a replacement behavior! My dad used to ask us to twiddle our thumbs while in time out for the same reason I’m sure.

    You’re making me really want back in the yoga studio too! It’s so good for the mind and body. I miss it terribly.

    • I can totally see your Dad making you twiddle your thumbs. Have you gotten back in the yoga studio? I’ve been out a week and will be back for my first class in the morning. Can’t wait!

      • I wish I could get back in the studio! I’ve got two issues 1. diastasis recti (split abdominal wall) so I need an instructor familiar with modifications 2. childcare (our old gym has it but the cost is hefty) Ugh…

      • I haven’t but I really should! It would probably help me feel more energized and less stressed. I’ve heard Giam is good. Since you’ve been to class you’d probably know if a video were good or not- it should feel like you are in class.

  2. I have had vertigo and have not been able to do yoga for 6 weeks. My anxiety has been through the roof as well, and tomorrow is my first day back, and i am so thankful to have a physical activity that really tunes into “tuning out”, and focusing within. I have found that yoga for kids is also very powerful to teach them self control, but i love your recommendation for the younger kids- i will talk to my kids about this technique, and remind them that it is prayer hands as well:-). Thanks for you advice!

    • I’m going to have to try yoga with the kids. Great idea! Particularly the last five minutes of class when we lay in the dark and everyone is quiet 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful anniversary celebration! We’re about to celebrate the big 15. Wow. Time is flying by.

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