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/
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,