The Ducroit Family just finished the evening meal. “Phew, finally!” the mother is thinking, fatigued because of the incessant talking of her six children during dinner, who do not know how to listen to one another. As usual, everyone does the dishes while Father goes to his office to read the newspaper. In order to calm her children, Mrs. Ducroit plays a CD with some music. The children listen for a little bit then they continue their childish chatter while the music fills the kitchen. The dishes finished, everyone gathers in the living room to pray the daily Rosary together. Therein is found a birdcage with some pretty canaries. The birds unite their singing to the Ave Marias. In addition, in this same room, Vincent, the baby, cries wholeheartedly while little Maxence plays with his toy truck…Where is the calm we all need so much?
The Necessity of Silence
For a good and healthy development, silence and calm are necessary. Unfortunately, people no longer tolerate silence. In the stores, in waiting rooms, in train stations: music is played everywhere. Noise is imposed on us. May silence find room at least in our own homes!
In the beginning, providing silence may demand an effort from the parents as well as the children. However it will become a habit and will be beneficial for everyone. At certain times it is appropriate to shout or engage in joyful antics, for example during a nice game of tag in the garden. But, afterwards, while returning to the house, the mother will calm her little flock down.
The children are at school: the mother is ironing her laundry in silence. This helps her to recollect during her work and to reflect on the sermon from the previous Sunday. At 4 o’clock, she gets in her car to go pick up her children at school. She is happy that they have many stories to tell, but makes sure that only one child speaks at a time and that the others know how to listen. In addition, she asks Catherine questions, because she is very quiet and slow of temperament: she is easily forgotten among her talkative brothers and sisters!
Yes, learning to listen is an important thing: to listen to those around you, to listen to nature—such as the babble of a brook, the melody of birds, the silence of the falling snow… This can be taught from a young age with little games: the father opens the window and the children close their eyes in order to concentrate and listen. After two or three minutes, he closes the window and in turn everyone can relate what he or she has heard. This exercise calms the children, and the calm is so beneficial!
Your baby is upset and cries often…why is this? Perhaps it is because he is in motion more than necessary. He is moved during a walk from one arm to the other, picked up to appease his cries, on the go because of too frequent trips. During these trips, the child gets into the habit of looking at all the images that come one after another. Nothing precise remains in his mind and he is fatigued by this other kind of noise. It is thus necessary to be watchful and protect him as much as possible from the cradle.
It is also in silence that the mother of the family will draw the energy and strength to teach tranquility to her dear children. For this she must know how to sacrifice at times and turn her phone off…
For the child, listening is synonymous with docility and receptivity: necessary qualities to grow and build character.
Following the Rhythm of the Child
Silence is, in addition, contrary to a certain spirit of competition, which consists in the desire to produce many things quickly. A child is normally slow and, when one leaves him at his pace, he is able to pass entire minutes looking at a picture, in playing tirelessly at the same game, in listening to the same song, the same story… It takes him a certain time to get dressed, to eat, to think. When we adults demand that children work quickly, when we share our stress with the children, know that we are thus in the process of destroying a small part of the reign of their interior silence!
This is why it is not always good to impose a whole series of activities on the child’s Wednesday afternoons or Saturdays, and to steal from him the precious time that he would calmly spend in his room and his little universe. He ought to be able to “settle down” as we say today, to engage himself in games where his imagination will develop and discover, at his pace, the beauty of the world that surrounds him.
In this agitated world, it is necessary to relearn how to value and to love silence. Join the moments of silence with an activity that your children love. Charlie really loves to draw. At 7:00 pm, while the little children of the family are going to bed, he, the eldest, still has half an hour before his bedtime. His parents ask him to be quiet in order to not bother the little ones. During this time, Charlie enjoys drawing and thus has good memories of these moments of silence.
Contact with nature will also foster this appreciation: a beautiful walk in the forest, in the mountains, by the sea will allow the listening of the singing of the birds, the sound of a waterfall, and will rejuvenate the entire family.
Naptime for the youngest, during the day, can be an occasion of added responsibility for the older children: “Hush! We must not make noise. Your little sister is sleeping and we mustn’t wake her!”
Finally, during family prayer, which, according to the age of the children will be more of less brief, parents should insist early on that toys are left aside, that the child is totally present in all that he does. To help this, we should try to have our young children participate as much as possible. In the same way during Mass, if the younger ones need something “material” to occupy them, we will give preference to religious objects that don’t make noise (plastic Rosaries, holy cards in an album, a cloth book or missal…)
Let us work courageously in order that these moments of silence that we request from our children are not a constraint, but rather a pacification, a time that is beloved in view of its benefits. It is also thus that the interior life is able to develop, because “silence is the help that we give to God so that He can fill us (with His life), as He desires” (Mother Mary of Jesus, OCD).