Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Sound of Silence

I've been reading Rudolf Steiner and Charlotte Mason for the past few days. I find it fascinating that their writing is over 100 years old and yet so much of it, in fact most of it, still applies today. Their pedagogy have many similarities. The most striking for me is the idea of talking to children less or actually explaining less. We parents have been taught that if we want our child to have a rich vocabulary we should talk with them and read to them as often as possible. While I agree with this, I think, as with many things in education, we've gone overboard. Think of the Mozart Effect, so many parents buying Mozart CD's, in the hopes of giving thier child every possible advantage. While, again, this maybe help to wire connections in the brain, it's only a piece of the puzzle.

We are now coming full circle and coming back to basics...it's not that talking is over-rated, but rather that silence is under-rated. How often throughout your day do you have moments of silence? Is their constant chatter going on in your life and/or mind. Are you constantly verbalizing every thought that crosses your mind? How is this affecting your child?

So, where do we begin? How do we choose what we share with our children and what we keep silent about? I read a blog post sometime ago at The Parenting Passageway where she states that "words should be used like pearls." Like everything else, your words should be a conscious manifestation of your thoughts. They should be kind and used for the improvement of your surroundings. Wow! What would happen if we all used our words in this manner? This is pretty powerful stuff!

I'm not suggesting you stop talking with your child. What I am suggesting is that you give thought to your words before they leave your lips. For instance, it's fine to engage your baby while changing their diaper, or during mealtimes. Often times, I found myself talking to my baby simply because there was no one else in the house to talk to! Those moments need to be tempered with moments of silence, like during nursing. I've never met a mother who speaks to her baby during nursing. I don't know if it's instinct kicking in, or just the sheer awe of the moment that keeps us quiet. As your child grow older, he learns to speak by listening to you and those around him. Wawa becomes water. Baba become bottle. As they grow older still your child becomes a chatterbox. This is his job....but it is no longer yours.

As your child's vocabulary becomes richer, you need to make sure your are not tuning him out with constant chatter or explanation about everything under the sun. Children learn and come to knowledge through their experiences, not through yours. It's fine to offer simply explanations when asked, but it's most important to remain silent and let the child observe. They are soaking up the knowledge of life and the world around them, whether it's a bird looking for twigs to build a nest or listening to the sounds coming from the MP3 player, they are observing and absorbing everything around them. Do not rush your young children, learning is a process.

Few words are essential when you are disciplining your child regardless of age. This has been a difficult lesson for me, especially during the teenage and early adult years of my two oldest. The sound of my voice dishing out advice, how to's and reprimands seemed to be my favorite sound in the world. (Sorry, S and J) What I've learned is the less I say, the more they listen. I make it easier for them to not have to sift through all the chatter and get to the essence of my message. I give it to them straight and forward. When my younger ones feel the need to negotiate something that is not negotiable, I simply state that this is not negotiable and go on about my day, singing to myself and ignoring any further requests. Oh, but ignoring a child is just cruel! I'm not ignoring the child. I am simply ignoring a question that I have already answered. I'm teaching my child that you do not need to engage in a power struggle. I'm teaching him that time and words are precious and I don't want to waste them. Again, the child will learn this through observation. We teach as much by what we leave out as by what we share.

This has been a learning process not just for me, but for those around me. Often lately, my husband will ask me if everything is okay because I'm so quiet. I have noticed to that he is speaking less also, but when we do share our thoughts, they are heartfelt and interesting and we are better listeners now that we don't have that need to fill in the silence. There are many things our children must learn in order to have fulfilling and successful lives. I think that being comfortable in silence is one of the most important.