Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quiet Please

Recently I went whale watching. On the deck of the small boat I observed a young mother who was obviously enchanted with her baby. Now, the best thing for humanity is having mothers enchanted with their offspring, but the game these two were playing didn't bode well for the future likability of this child. The baby would scream at the top of his lungs, mom would laugh and reply with a softer scream, and the baby would scream again. I always wondered why so many children seem to love to hear themselves scream. I had no idea they were encouraged to do this. 

One might think that children enjoy noise; after all they often are pretty noisy. Many adults don't enjoy the loudness of a large group of children but few people think that perhaps there are children who don't enjoy the constant activity and noise created by their peers. Most of us forget that there are children who hate noise. There are children who have a difficult time concentrating in a noisy environment. These children are highly stressed by noise. Some of those stressed children are the ones making the noise. However, most children who dislike noise are the quiet ones.

In this world where children are not only seen but heard and heard and heard, it is getting more and more difficult to find an oasis of silence. Libraries have become interactive community centers, full of the sounds of video games, talking, and arguments. Schools encourage cooperative learning where every one works in groups and discusses what to do. More and more parents of young children complain of how loud their child's classroom has become. Some children have difficulty hearing the teacher over the pandemonium let alone concentrating on learning new skills. 

Leaving the school grounds doesn't make it better. Has anybody tested the decibel level on a school bus full of children? After school many children spend a few hours in a cacophony of children's voices at daycare. Some children's evenings are spent playing sports while hearing the roar of a crowd. Others go home to the constant background noise of siblings squabbling or TV. We have a difficult time providing a moment of silence in many children's lives.

I am not saying we should expect complete silence from or for children.  But .... today there seems to be fewer and fewer quiet places for children. Children sometimes need to hear their own thoughts. Some children are extremely sensitive to their environment. They easily become overwhelmed by odors, sights, or sound. They need a quiet place to unwind. Others have the type of personality that needs time to work alone with only their own ideas for company. This article about introverts explored not only the need for silence for the introvert but also the need for quiet in the life of an active extroverted child.  The hyperactive child's frantic behavior  is often exacerbated by the noise and activities of our everyday life.  

Parents should be their children's advocate. If possible put your child in a school that has a balance of quiet and noisy activities. Have a quiet hour in the house when no machines are running (washer, dryer, TV, computer).  Go for a quiet walk with your child outside. If it is obvious that your child needs some down time, limit after school activities or select activities that take place in a quiet environment. Stillness is a welcomed gift in this busy world.

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