Introducing the concept of mindfulness to our little ones
In Bad Day, written and illustrated by Ruby Roth, we meet a boy mid-meltdown. He has had a bad day and doesn’t know what exactly his feelings are or why he’s feeling this way. He has decided to go be alone and accomplishes this via a frowny-faced paper bag placed over his head.
(Side note: I was kind of put off by a children’s book encouraging a child to put a bag over their head. I get that it’s to achieve the illusion of isolation and to illustrate, via a drawn-on frown, their emotional state, but I really don’t think illustrating this method of isolation is a good idea. This book is geared towards young children and if a paper bag is not available, I fear what other bag a child, by this book’s example, may try to put over their head. Maybe next time, use a blanket?)
But I digress…
While alone in his bag, he relives the day and remembers all the things that have caused him to feel “grumpy and frumpy and down-in-the-dumpy”. Upon further contemplation, he realizes that while it WAS a bad day and his bad mood is understandable, he realizes he is stronger than the bad day. He explores his feelings and thoughts in this quiet space and discovers “No matter the people, their words or their ways, I am my own feelings guide.”
I liked the concepts behind this story. I am not great at mindfulness so I enjoyed the simplistic concept of how one can embark on being mindful. Going off alone in silence to examine what’s going on inside you can be beneficial. Even grown-ups can appreciate the idea that sometimes you just NEED to be alone to sort yourself out. Children are no different. Sometimes my kids need to be hugged and cuddled or they need to talk it out or even draw their feelings. But sometimes they go upstairs to their rooms voluntarily to be alone for a bit. This is also a helpful reminder to parents that sometimes there’s literally nothing you can do and they need to work it out for themselves. We can also take comfort in knowing that when we send them to their rooms INVOLUNTARILY telling them to “think about what they did”, it isn’t really punishing them, it’s contributing to their mindfulness.
I do feel like the boy’s turn-around and revelation about his feelings was a little quick. There’s no real explanation of the journey from bad mood memories to discovery of his own control over his feelings. You just see him lying on the floor with a bag over his head. Maybe an example of an exercise to get him to this realization would help little kids and their parents achieve their own conclusions about their feelings. I feel like reading this story alone to a child in a bad mood is just me pointing out that “this little boy knows he can control his feelings so you should too.” That’s not how that works. We need help in guiding our children to these conclusions.
Roth, a Los Angeles-based artist, author-illustrator, activist, and former teacher wrote this book from her personal physical and emotional challenges that she has experienced since childhood. She believes in “solving problems by starting with the self” and believes in self-agency. Her motto is “love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly.” I appreciate the effort in showing how she is able to have these enlightened thoughts and feelings, but that doesn’t really help me teach my children to do the same.
I read this to my kids (6 and 7.5) and they didn’t appreciate the headier concepts. They were in a goofy mood so most of their comments revolved around the illustrations. They do go off alone when they are in a bad mood sometimes, so I think they are experiencing mindfulness and this book can help define WHY they feel better after a bit on their own. I will probably try reading this to them again when they are having a melt-down to see if the concepts introduced in this book will help them understand their emotions better. Until then, I’ll always give cuddles when they need them and leave them be when cuddles are the last things they need. I’ll let them be my guide.