Today’s Mindful Children = Tomorrow’s Mindful Leaders

A 3 Minute Centering Exercise to Help Kids Develop Self-Awareness

Peter J. Liang
Jul 28 · 4 min read

One of the first things I teach in my Leadership4Kids program is what I call the “centering” exercise. It’s also one of first things you see in the “I AM A LEADER — A 90-Day Leadership Journal For Kids”. So what is a “centering” exercise?

I AM A LEADER — A 90-Day Leadership Journal For Kids

The “centering” exercise, or sometimes called “grounding,” has its roots in mindfulness and meditation which has been around for thousands of years.

Simply put, it’s a great way to help kids become more aware of the rhythms of their own body and connect deeply to the world around them. It helps them to relieve stress, improve confidence, and feel grounded with a positive mental attitude at school and home.

I first encountered the “centering” exercise as a student studying Tai Chi and Qigong with my martial art teacher Sitan Chen, who won a record thirty-two gold medals in national and international Tai Chi competitions. Ever since then, the “centering” exercise has been a big part of my daily routine.

Why is “centering” or “grounding” important for leadership development?

Being a centered leader means having the ability to maintain one’s balance, especially in the midst of action. A centered leader knows where she stands, what she stands for, and therefore, much more likely to act (instead of of react) in a principled way.

To teach this to kids, I have simplified the “centering” exercise from Tai Chi. And after studying with Dr. Paul Linden, founder of Being In Movement® mind-body training, I have adapted his methods of “smiling heart” and “shine” which is perfect for kids.

Want to give it a try? Below is a simple script. Read it in a calm, relaxed voice and follow your child’s cues for the pace. Or, if this is uncharted territory for you, you can click here for a guided audio version of this centering exercise. It only takes about three minutes. So give it a try.

Let’s begin by finding a comfortable position which can be either sitting or standing. Once you feel comfortable, let’s take three deep breaths together…

Breath in slowly through your nose and out through your mouths. Let your tongue hang loose, and your belly get soft. Imagine you are a balloon, so when you inhale, your tummy gets bigger and when you exhale, your tummy gets smaller. OK, ready?

Deep breath #1: (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Deep breath #2: (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Deep breath #3: (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

There you go. Three deep breaths in to help us settle in a bit. Feels good, right?

Now, the second part of the I AM A LEADER centering exercise is called Smiling Heart. Continue breathing deeply… Sit with your eyes closed and spend a moment picturing whatever it is that makes you smile inside. Everyone has something or someone that makes them happy inside; perhaps a friend, a toy, a flower, a song. Ready? Let’s start

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

How did that go? I thought of playing and goofing around with my daughter last night. That always brings a smile to my heart, and that makes me feel so good and so grateful for this wonderful day.

The third part of the I AM A LEADER centering exercise is called Shine. Continue breathing deeply… with your eyes closed. Imagine that you are the sun or a lightbulb or a firefly. What do you do? You shine. Feel every inch of your skin glowing outward, as you shine in every direction possible…

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

Breath in, Breath out. (Make sound of inhale/exhale so kids can follow)

How did that go? What happens inside of your body? What sensations do you feel flowing through you? Okay. Take in another deep breath now and exhale slowly. Whenever you’re ready, open your eyes and give your body a big wonderful stretch!

Great job! You just completed the centering exercise and thank you for being such a kind, focused, and courageous leader.

I hope you find these tips useful. Thank you. To learn how to incorporate the “centering” exercise into kids’ daily life, check out “I AM A LEADER — A 90-Day Leadership Journal For Kids” — #1 New Release on Amazon in Children’s Social Skills.

Peter J. Liang

Written by

Founder @Leadership4Kids, father of two, not a super dad but close, the creator of the “I AM A LEADER — a 90-Day Leadership Journal for Kids”

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