Giving Your Children the Gift of Silence

Matthew Crawford had a wonderful piece in the New York Times last week, where he discussed the lack of silence in our lives and how much we suffer for it.

His focus was on the pervasive advertising that surrounds us, but that’s just one facet of our loss of silence. We live in an increasingly noisy world, and that’s bad because we need silence to think.

It’s especially important for children to have periods of silence in their lives. How can they think if they’re being bombarded by sound all the time? How can they develop a rich thought life, and learn who they are?

Parents who are blessed to be home with their children most of the time can and should control the amount of sound (and silence) their children are exposed to. I was one of those parents, and I tried to include silence in my children’s lives.

When they were babies, I didn’t always pick them up the moment they awoke. I still remember standing in the hall listening to them coo, and babble, and later on, chatter, as they woke up on their own; those are great memories. By the time they were toddlers, they liked being alone in their beds in the quiet, so they rarely fussed about having a daily nap time. As they got older, they still had naptime, but they didn’t have to sleep. Instead, they could lay quietly on their beds and read or daydream.

I often sat with them in the backyard and watched them play, or took them to the park where they could hear the birds. Fortunately there were no cell phones then to chirp or play music incessantly, even in public parks, as there are now.

In the house, quiet times were common. The children had limited television time, so the rest of the day, the television was off. Sometimes I’d have music playing on a radio or tape player, but most of the time the only noise was our chatter amongst ourselves, and the children’s laughter.

I’ve written before about how parents need to be careful not to spend all their valuable time with their children chatting on the phone; that came from my childhood experience of having a mother who was on the phone for hours at a time. The background noise of hours’ long adult phone conversations isn’t really good for children, especially if they hear things they’re too young to hear.

Today, there are blaring television screens in children’s restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese’s (as if there weren’t enough to do there already) and stationed at public swimming pools. Even the silence of the public library is polluted by people chatting on their cell phones. There are few places children can go to be in silence so they can think about their world.

If parents don’t purposely give their children chances to experience silence, where else will they find it?

Has Facebook Stolen Childhood?


I used to think that it was up to parents to prevent young kids from using cell phones and older kids from using Facebook, and that by doing so, they’d be able to keep their kids from getting sucked into these time wasters.

Of course, my kids are grown, so what did I know? It wasn’t until I learned that my little nephew was being left out of play dates and birthday parties because he didn’t have a phone to receive group texts on (apparently parents don’t “do” printed or phoned party invitations anymore) that I realized just how pervasive texting has become.

Then there’s Facebook. Supposedly off limits to children under 13, it’s a huge source of bullying among the preteen and young teen set. Some kids have been driven to suicide by online bullying; how tragic!

One might think the key to preventing trouble on Facebook is to limit your kids’ time on the Internet. I was able to do that with my crew, who only had access to a desktop computer in our main living area for years. But today’s kids, who have phones to text with so they won’t be left out of the social scene, can also access the Internet and therefore Facebook on those same phones.

Parents can’t possibly supervise kids on their phones 24/7. I suppose they could make their kids check their phones at the door when they come home, but I’m getting the impression that today it would be considered child abuse to do so. Besides, some moms are too busy on Twitter and Facebook themselves to monitor their children’s phone usage anyways.

Do I sound like a curmudgeon? I feel like one. I’m with the writer who recently said that Facebook has stolen childhood. I’m not sure how parents can recapture childhood for their kids once they’ve given them phones (and unlimited use of them), but it would be worth a try.

I spent much of my childhood playing and reading books. My kids did the same. Will they be the last generation to have done so?

The Increasing Danger in Public Schools

I’ve written extensively about the many negatives of public schools: herd mentality, negative socialization, indoctrination, bullying, etc. As much as I see homeschooling as something positive in its own right, it’s also a great way to give your children a far better education than what they’ll get in a public school.

But I never dreamed that yet another reason would crop up, one that would make it imperative that people take their children out of the public education system: increasing numbers of these teachers are sexual predators.

And it’s hard to know which ones are the predators. For example, who would look at this young woman, an Iowa math teacher, and suspect that she sends nude photos of herself to students and performs sex acts on them?

Or this young man in Pennsylvania, another math teacher, who sent dirty texts and a thong to one of his students, promising her extra credit if she sent him a nude photo of herself AND it turned him on. How creepy is that?

While teachers preying on students is not unheard of, we’re seeing new reports of such teachers on a regular basis these days. The fact is that sexual predators are in schools all over this country, and until they’re caught in the act it’s almost impossible to know who they are. How do you know your child won’t be targeted by one? You can’t know….and you can’t guarantee your child’s safety in school. You can only guarantee your child’s safety by teaching your child at home.

When Kids Refuse to Learn

We spent an enjoyable Mother’s Day up in Door County (yep, that’s where we used to live, but we still like to go there on vacation.) We had lunch at Al Johnson’s restaurant, where I go to get in touch with my Swedish heritage. We also played mini-golf at Pirates Cove, which my son always enjoys.

While we were there, I couldn’t help but notice a family several holes behind us. What caught my eye was the way the mother was teaching her youngest son, a boy of about five, how to play. She would grab him like a rag doll and jerk him into the proper position at each hole, then reach around him to hold his arms and direct his shots.

He looked really annoyed, and who could blame him? I’m sure his mom meant well, but I don’t think her efforts were having the desired effect. Whenever she took her own turn, however, the boy skipped around with his putter, teased his brother and watched his dad. His face only turned gloomy when he took another turn with his mother glued to him like a backpack.

Seeing her misguided efforts got me thinking about all the ways we try to teach our children. We may instruct verbally, we may demonstrate, or (rarely, I hope) we may grab their little bodies and lead them in doing the activity. While the latter is often resented, sometimes the first two options don’t work very well either. After all, when you have to keep telling kids the same thing over and over, you clearly haven’t taught them by talking to them. And demonstrating doesn’t always work either. I demonstrated how to do dishes so many times to my kids yet often found greasy plates in the dish rack the next day. (I imagine my kids work much harder at getting dishes clean now that it’s their dishes they’re washing!)

The fact is that kids are often not motivated to learn the things we want them to learn. This can result in frustration on their part and ours. Clearly the mother at Pirates Cove cut to the chase by physically manipulating her son into what she considered the proper golfing stance. Perhaps she’d already tried telling him what to do and demonstrating what to do and it didn’t work, so in frustration she turned him into a puppet.

Ultimately we have to ask whether it’s worth humiliating a child to teach him something. Would it have been the end of the world if he hadn’t played properly? Perhaps a few times of losing to the rest of the family because of his lack of skills would eventually motivate him to learn to play better all on his own. Or maybe he doesn’t really care that much about mini-golf; if he’s not a competitive child, he may never care to learn the proper way to play. If that’s the case, I hope his mother comes to accept that this would not be the end of the world. But I doubt it; she looked pretty serious about her mini-golfing to me.

So, how do you react when your child refuses to learn something you’re teaching them? Are some of your children more feisty learners than others? If so, what techniques do you use to teach them?