I come from quiet stock. Subsequently, my children are, well, quiet kids. They raise the occasional ruckus, but like their mom before them they are encouraged to raise it outside – on the field of play, for example. They don’t “run through the house,” and the saying “boys will be boys” as it applies to a license to scream, wrestle, and yell indoors is an excuse that has never flown in our home. For the most part this nurtured (and genetic) tendency toward reticence has served them well. When I encounter not-so-quiet children guilty of various avoidable social transgressions, like my mother before me I find myself saying, “My kids never got away with that!” If peace and quiet are for you, I offer the following suggestions:
1. Monitor television viewing.
Don’t mistake background noise for companionship. Children model what they hear, as well as what they see. If what they observe is one cartoon character screaming at another, or sitcoms reveling in verbal abuse, you can bet this behavior will become fodder for the emulation mill.
2. Hold reading in high regard.
Tiny babies can be rocked and read to. Preschoolers can carry book-bags just as easily as they can lug around buckets of Matchbox cars. The sight of a classroom full of middle school students engaged in silent sustained reading is a joy to behold.Children need to know that books are our friends—friends that expose us to new worlds if we are quietly receptive.
3. Get crafty.
Provide your children with arts and crafts supplies. Creating a work of art requires quiet concentration.
4. Visit a library, a museum, or a place of worship.
Give your children the gift of quiet by frequenting places where quiet is the norm, where being still opens them to experiencing reverence.
5. Commune with the great outdoors.
There is quiet beauty in a clear blue sky, a starry night, a majestic oak, an unexpected snowfall. Take your children to a parade or fireworks display so that they can experience the quiet of a crowd.
6. Unplug your kids.
As parents, many of us are eternally grateful for iPods and the earbuds that come with them. But it’s important to remember that this kind of quiet is onesided.Establish times and circumstances when kids are required to unplug. Music and quiet are not the same – especially when it diminishes a child’s time with his or her own thoughts.
7. Teach listening skills.
Our best friends are good listeners; good students are great listeners; effective parents are listening pros, as well. Find a way to politely remind even your youngest children not to interrupt when someone is speaking to them. Kids need to absorb and process what the other person is saying before they offer commentary.
8. Make a conscious and concerted effort not to scream at your children.
Screaming as a means of communication is counterproductive. No parent needs to live in a constant state of fight or flight, assuaging parental frustrations through verbal harangues. Have you ever noticed that the louder parents get, the less children hear?
Recently I was driving my daughter to school. As we rode along in companionable silence, a song reminiscent of a mutually difficult time came on the radio. My quiet daughter extended her hand. I placed mine in hers for a comforting squeeze. That gesture, exclusively ours, spoke volumes. Sometimes the loudest words we voice are those that come in silence.