Cultivating the Quiet: The Inner Work of Advent

Donna Simmons stayed at my house a bit back, and one of the things she commented on was how quiet our house is after seven at night.  The house is dim, you can hear the wind or rain outside and the house is quiet with small snoring sounds coming from the dog :) and/or children.

This comment led me to think of the tone of our home, the energy of our home.  What is the energy like in your home?  Does the energy in your home change over the course of the day? What changes the energy in your home?  Is your home quiet during the day t any point?  Are your children ever quiet or just going, going, going? 

I think there are three main stumbling blocks to achieving quiet in the home.  The first one is visual clutter, and I think with the holidays right around the corner this is an important one to consider.

I wrote this post last year at this time (click here for the full post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/23/holiday-gifts-for-children-how-much-is-too-much/ ).  Here is part of that post, referring to gift-giving surrounding the holidays:

Unfortunately, in our society, the person(s) many families are most likely to spend the most money on are their children.  Whew.  I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea, and have your husband take your kids to the park for a few hours.  Now go into their rooms and the playroom and look at the amount of stuff that is there.  Seriously.  Count the number of puzzles they have, the number of pairs of shoes, how many bags and boxes of craft supplies there are. How many board games do they have?  How many dress up clothes?

The first step is always the hardest.  I invite you to think about purging at least a third or more of your toys this holiday season.  If you cannot purge them all, or you do purge all the junky made in China plastic toys and have some nice open ended toys to keep, here is a thought for you.  Some families pack up toys and  put them away somewhere.  Then they rotate the toys so only a few things are down at a time.  The toys can be changed out either monthly or seasonally.”

Where are you going to put the new holiday things? Think about that a bit this week! I would like to challenge you to use some of this time to de-clutter your physical space.  It seems every good Waldorf Early Years teacher worth their salt  knows that when a child is starting to get wound up, just straightening the space around the child helps shift the energy and is calming.  Think about your child’s room, and how you could make that a calming space to relax.

The second challenge to achieving quiet is VERBAL clutter.  Stop sharing so many details of your adult life with your child!  Even a seven, eight or nine-year old does not need to know many of the things we” overshare”.  It is only in this day and age we have the expression “TMI”!     Can you share your adult conversations with adults, and your children conversations  with your children?  Keep asking yourself, does my child really need the ten minute adult thinking process of how many outside activities they can do and why, about the child down the street and why their family does X and we don’t, about this and that.  Really?

Think about how much space and quiet you are cultivating between your words.  Model for your child your thinking in silence, drawing a conclusion after thought, and then saying your thoughtfully worded conclusion (not the thought process).  This a wonderful skill for a child to see!

The other place to reduce your verbal clutter is to stop asking them how they feel.  Children under the age of 9 change emotions on a dime, and to put too much weight on how they feel at any given moment is an awful lot of pressure.  Kim John Payne talks about this in his book “Simplicity Parenting

On page 199, Kim John Payne writes this wonderful food for thought:  “Children under nine certainly have feelings, but much of the time those feelings are unconscious, undifferentiated.  In any kind of conflict or upset, if asked how they feel, most kids will say, very honestly, “Bad.”  They feel bad.  To dissect and parse that, to push and push, imagining that they are hiding a much more subtle and nuanced feeling or reply, is invasive.  It is also usually unproductive, expect in perhaps making a child nervous.  While young children have feelings, they only slowly become aware of them.  Until the age of ten or so, their emotional consciousness and vocabulary are too premature to stand up to what we ask of them in our emotional monitoring and hovering.”

There is much more in this section about emotional intelligence and how this develops, is fascinating.  “(Emotional intelligence) can’t be bought or rushed.  It develops with the slow emergence of identity, and the gradual accumulation of life experiences.  When we push a young child toward an awareness they don’t yet have, we transpose our own emotions, and our own voice, on theirs.  We overwhelm them  For the first nine or ten years children learn mainly through imitation.  Your emotions and they way that you manage them, is the model they “imprint”, more than what you say or instruct about emotions.”

Here is a worksheet to review your level of “information simplicity” with your child from Kim John Payne’s website:  http://www.thechildtoday.com/files/SimplicityReviewForm

His book is just excellent, please see the link for it on Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Simplicity-Parenting-Extraordinary-Calmer-Happier/dp/0345507975/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260846766&sr=8-1

So many of the things we talk about on this blog are here in this book;  I am sure you will enjoy Kim John Payne’s writing.  His stories of working with parents and helping parents with their challenges are amazing!  Read this book and enjoy!

If you need more help, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

and this:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

Remember Carrie’s Golden Rule:  The less you say, the more weight your words will hold.  Smile and be warm, give hugs, but try less speaking and more listening!

The third challenge to achieving quiet is too much PHYSICAL ENERGY.  Mot children under the age of 9 need hours outside running off steam.  Without getting that physical energy out, you are setting yourself up for children who are bouncing off the walls and who cannot be involved in something focused; it also sets one up to listen to a lot of chatter!

Calm, quiet times,

Carrie

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8 thoughts on “Cultivating the Quiet: The Inner Work of Advent

  1. I am really good at creating peaceful, calming energy in my home. In fact, when most people come over, they tend to get sleepy here as they slow down.

    But, sometimes you don’t want it to be that calm- like when you need to get chores done! :) So, I was wondering if you had any tips on getting the energy in your home to be less stagnant. Not chaotic, but energetic, moving. I am a very introverted inner-directed person, and while most people need help with the calming down, inward type things, I need help with the outward directed activities, and increasing the energy in our house.

  2. Thanks for your wonderful blog. I’ve found it so insightful into many aspects of mothering. I’ve found the discussions surrounding keeping our homes quiet and peaceful and limiting stimulation for young children especially interesting. But I’m curious what your thoughts would be for an only child. My son is 2.5 years and a bit shy. Would the Waldorf principles still apply as you previously discussed or would you suggest play dates/playgroups/classes for an only? Our home is quiet but my son has mom, dad and/or grandma interacting and playing with him throughout the day, but do you think he needs more? Thanks very much!

    • Hi Mama2one,
      No, not at two and a half, home is exactly where he should be. We look to playdates more around the age of 4, at least developmentally. That doesn’t mean you cannot go to the park or somewhere and “meet” some new friends here and there, but at two a half, home is the best, best, best. :)
      Great job, mama!

  3. Hello Carrie
    I am really enjoying this series – thank you.
    Please may i ask if you could put forward some ideas to enrich my 4 yo’s story time – we sit together each morning for a short story, before I begin my 7 yo’s main lesson.
    We have tried puppetry, drawing & modellng. I was wondering what you yourself do? We are telling the same story for a month, so i am wondering how you structure the activities to cover such a long period of time
    Kind regards
    Lynn

  4. Great post Carrie! The quiet is so important – I think it changes so much as they grow too – what I was able to cultivate a lot when they were younger is harder at times now when they are older but I find them catching themselves as we have discussed extra chatter.

    I also love your thoughts about how much is too much this time of year. The physical clutter of toys makes us anxious – it makes the space feel so crowded. I put forth the question on my list a few weeks ago as they were discussing what to buy… what do you do when you are the mom who has all the Waldorf toys? What then do you bring them? Pretending you are already in this space often brings you to an answer that comes deep from within and reminds us that it isn’t about the things, it is about what we hold inside. That peace and warmth can not be found in play stands and silks – it is found in being together, crafting together, snuggling together. There is balance.

    Blessings!!

    Melisa Nielsen
    http://www.alittlegardenflower.com

  5. Pingback: The Inner Work of Advent « The Parenting Passageway

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