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August 4th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

‘Spiritual Ritalin' for hyperactive kids?

Anyone who's had to watch a hyperactive kid may have asked for divine help at one time or another. Now there's another resource to calm unruly children: Spiritual Ritalin.

In an intriguing article titled “The Child-Meditation Miracle” in the Daily Beast, Gwynee Watkins  says more meditation centers have been answering a growing demand by frazzled adults who want to teach meditation to agitated kids: 

Merriam-Webster defines the act of meditating as “to focus one’s thoughts on, reflect on, or ponder over.” Which means that the definition of the opposite of meditation might be: to be a toddler. But some parents are embracing the idea that meditation can calm their rambunctious young children. For holistically minded moms and dads, it’s like a dose of spiritual Ritalin.

A child and family psychologist told Watkins that not all kids will be able to meditate, but many can learn breathing techniques that will help them maintain control.

For parents who don’t know where to start, Watkins points to a website, AnmolMehta.com, that offers instructions.

Watkins taught basic meditation techniques to her 2-year-old son, who she described as a “human tornado.”

And the more I do it, the more effective it’s likely to be. Young children love ritual and repetition - hence “circle time” at the beginning of preschool, or the fact that Sesame Street always ends with 15 minutes of Elmo. The value of meditation is getting children familiar with the feeling of being still and quiet, if even for a moment, until it becomes a habit.

Her son may not  close his eyes and contemplate the nature of existence,  but Watkins says he has stopped leaping from the furniture.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Asia • Belief • Buddhism • India

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Svein

    Leaping off furniture may not be such a bad thing. It's good for motoric control training, for one thing. I would have been happier to read that the kid was now leaping off the furniture in a less manic, more mindful way.

    August 6, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Spiritual
    1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
    2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

    How is meditation NOT spiritual? Calming the body and mind, and thus the observer - of which many associate with the "spirit." I think there's too many religious and dogmatically influenced stigmas being attached to the word, here. Spirit and spirituality are pretty flexible terms.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Gary

      Anonymous, I agree, I am a very spiritual agnostic person who successfully practices meditation,relaxation daily.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  3. MMRMarin

    I don't see why this is 'spiritual.' I certainly believe in the amazing effects of meditation– I've done it numerous times with a teacher of mine and it's helped me in a lot of emotionally tough times, and has been shown to have amazing effects on the brain. However, even though meditation is undoubtedly buddhist, it needn't be religious.

    These are physical and mental techniques. They can be practiced religiously, and are, but I've never practiced it in a way anything but secular, so I think calling it spiritual ritalin is very, very misleading. It acts as ritalin, perhaps, and it can be spiritual, but calling it spiritual ritalin just sounds awful (it unintentionally sounds like the author is saying ADD kids are in need of spirituality, which is just weird).

    Buddhism/hinduism are very interesting religions, and their philosophies are important to look at, and I think there is a fair element of truth to some of what they say, but they shouldn't be romanticized needlessly. Also, I think it's not right to assume that meditation centers are inherently religious. And even if they are, and do meditations with certain types of imagery that are undoubtedly religious (chakras/chakra tuning, envisioning chakra points), I've done such meditations before, and they enhance how you visualize more than anything else. I don't really know why I'm writing this, but I guess my main point is that there is no worry of one's child becoming buddhist or a practitioner of hinduism from merely learning meditation techniques.

    Gary, your knowledge of the Qu'ran/history/contemporary Islam is abysmal. I can't claim to know very much at all (mine is also abysmal, maybe more than yours), but to say that 1.5 billion people have been forcibly converted to an inherently violent religious is an injustice to the millions and millions (the majority) of Muslims who live among us in the US and in other parts of the world, and is obviously false. Frankly, I know several Muslims (not that many, perhaps at most 5) and their existence, and love of their religion while still, of course, remaining scholarly and peaceful, even such small exceptions, basically throws out your entire ugly generalization. Even in my current ignorance of history, at least I'm not slipping such hateful things in to my speech as if they are fact like you are. Chill out.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:27 am |
    • MMRMarin

      WHOOPS. When I said 'Gary, your knowledge of the Qu'ran is abysmal,' I should have said SR. That, of course, was not aimed at Gary AT ALL. I'm sorry!

      August 5, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  4. SR

    Gary
    The Vedas (5000 yrs old) have been suggesting Meditation as the best way to achieve enlightenment and happiness. Buddha only lifted it from the Vedas. I know vedas and hinduism are not as cool as saying buddha/buddhism but just wanted to correct your history. If you were to compare what/'s in the Vedas (which is not God or Prophet centric) where it advocates nonviolence, meditation and its emphasis on "attaining happiness", you would understand clearly why the world is plagued with wars between christians and muslims for thousands of yrs now.

    Unfortunately, Gresham's law. Prvailes: the bad drives out the good.

    We are seeing that in the 1.5 billion people now who have forcibly converted to a radical political ideology known as islam. Shame on the world.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  5. David Johnson

    But Gary, what about the baby Jesus? * I said this, while sobbing into a towel *

    August 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  6. Gary

    I am agnostic but if I had to choose one Budism is the way to go. meditation,relaxation techniques,self hypnotism are great for clearing the mind and relieving stress..

    August 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.