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Power of Silence: How it can empower your life

Power of Silence: How it can empower your life

A parent’s life is never silent. Let’s face it. Pretty much from the get go, we have a bawling infant, a tiny form in swaddling clothes that demands every ounce of your attention. If you treasure silence and value it above all else, your best bet would be to not have kids. Power of silence? What does that even mean? How can silence be empowering?

Silence? Let’s just kiss that goodbye, shall we?

This doesn’t change much as they grow older. Toddler phases are notorious for bringing out the ‘yelling mom/dad’ in each of us.

Don’t touch that!

Get off that swing now!

Stop throwing things at your sister!

I’m not even going to pretend that I haven’t done it. And this for a kid who has largely kept out of mischief. What can I say? I had a terrible temper. (Confession: I still have one. I just know how to manage it marginally better now).

But over the years, especially after I took up the yelling-less challenge, the concept of communication with a child took on a  more agreeable hue. Softer voices made for a better home. Lesser yelling meant more time talking, laughing, moving forward one step at a time.

As of today, my yell-free counter in my sidebar here on the blog reads ‘737 days’. That’s 737 days straight of not raising my voice. It wasn’t easy. I fell off the wagon, multiple times. But I climbed back on, determined that this wasn’t going to get the better of me.

However, while I had virtually stopped yelling, I still continued to have these emotional arguments with my tween. You could put it down to adolescent angst, of course, but this piece had me thinking otherwise:

Don’t blame genetics for daughter’s sassy demeanour. It’s more nurture than nature.

Kids grow, evolve, blossom when you give them one of the greatest gifts of all: undivided attention. And how do you do that, when you are so desperately trying to drive home a point, not letting them get a word in, edge-wise?

Things came to a head a few days ago when I was passionately imploring her to study for her exams. She tossed her head carelessly and said, ‘I’ll do it soon.’ On the one hand, I had this growing urge to firmly sit her down in a chair and give her a good talking-to. On the other hand, I wanted to throw up my hands in despair and walk out of the room, fuming. As you can tell, both options wouldn’t have worked.

That’s when I stepped back.

I fell silent. As tempting as it was to lecture and get my point heard, I began to look at this from another perspective, difficult as it was to do. I asked myself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ In this case, she’d not do well in her exams if she didn’t study well. Right?

For someone who’s been largely self-driven that can be a very big ‘what-if’. But I had to let go. This wasn’t my life. It was hers. Sure, she’d fall, maybe fail even, but it’s important that I let her learn.

And so, a strange, almost disquieting peace descended upon the home. I stopped telling her to study. Instead, I sat and watched her go about her day, sometimes playing, sometimes singing and occasionally studying. Consciously, I had to fight the urge to say, ‘Stop playing and go study’, multiple times through the day. But I did it and kept myself in check.

At the end of the day, possibly rattled by the complete lack of lecturing from me, she approached me timidly and asked, ‘Is everything okay? You seem very quiet today.’

Looking at her earnest face, I replied, ‘We’ll talk about it in the morning. It’s late and you should sleep.’ Hugging me a bit longer than usual, she drifted off into dreamland.

That night I reflected on how much better I had felt, without having to hover incessantly at her elbow. For all my talk about letting go (that I do often on the blog), I’d fallen prey to the number one mistake that we commit: micro-manage our kids’ lives.

Next morning, the first thing she did after brushing her teeth was corner me and ask, ‘Okay tell me! Why were you quiet? What happened? Did you argue with Appa?’

Partly amused by her insistence and partly touched by her concern, I sat her down by me and said, ‘I realised I was talking too much. When I do that, you tend to tune me out. It’s not your fault, really. If I am always talking, I am not listening either. So, silence was my way of helping myself and helping you too.’

She nodded sagely and waited for me to go on. That’s the first change I noticed. Ordinarily, she’d interrupt me multiple times before I finished a single sentence. Yet, here she was, waiting, even hanging on my words.

‘So, now the ball is in your court. You know you have exams coming up. It’s a fact that hard work will help you. You’re aware that you need to put in the effort. The question is, can you do it without me telling you every ten minutes?’

Eyes shining, she hugged me and replied, ‘You’re right, Amma. I don’t know why I don’t do it. What do you think?’

‘Well, I guess because it’s boring or not as entertaining as a game of basketball with your friends. What if you made it interesting?’

‘Can I do that? I don’t know how. It all seems boring and tiring.’

We then had a detailed discussion on how to make studying and learning more fun. I’ll talk about it in my next post. Perhaps those tips may help a young learner at home.

And just like that, a dialogue had occurred. Coming out of silence, a deep, meaningful conversation had ensued between a mother and her adolescent child. Bonus? They learn that they can tell you anything. And I do mean, anything.

Silence may not be easy to cultivate, especially if you are the kind who loves the sound of your voice. But, the power that it has, in helping bridge the gap between you and your child, is incredible.

Power of Silence: How it can empower you as a parent

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*Featured image: Shutterstock

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Respond or React: What’s your instinct?

Respond or React: What’s your instinct?

Ever watched a match catch fire? That instant when the sparks ignite, and the entire head of the matchstick bursts into flame in a fiery ball and then burns steadily for a few seconds, is probably one of the most fascinating things ever invented by man.

As compelling as it is to watch this, the same cannot be said for the human instinct to react to a stimulus with uncontrolled, fierce outbursts.

Imagine a scenario now. A person says or does something provocative: How do you answer? React in anger or slow down and respond with care? My worst feature, if I were asked to stand up and say it aloud in a room full of people, would be my temper. People close to me know it and my family has seen the worst of it. Correction: They still see it on some days.

This has come as a surprise to many people who have known me in passing or who have chanced upon me online, on the blog or on social media and they always ask, ‘You? Lose your temper? Really?’

Welcome to the inside of my head. Fortunately or otherwise, I have a very strong sense of right and wrong. It’s something that’s been an integral part of my upbringing as well as my own evolution as a woman, daughter, wife, mother and now writer too.

What happens here is that the second I see something which goes against my moral compass, I react. It’s almost primal and reflexive. My blood boils, all the wrong buttons get pushed and before I know it, I’ve exploded and said things I would regret ten minutes later.

Here’s the interesting dichotomy though: I am rather reactive offline( among close friends and family) but consciously responsive online. How, you ask? Because online, I try to weigh my words before putting them down for posterity. Offline, I have the advantage of verbal and visual cues to help with my apology after an outburst. Online, I lack that trump card so I play my hand with care.

You may assume that this is ridiculously impossible or bordering on split personality but think about it. Have you ever said something in anger only to go back and realise that it made little sense? How often have you managed to douse that fire?

Why I bring this up is two-fold. As a parent to a tween,  I notice that she is going through what can best be described as the ‘I defy everything’ phase. It can be something as simple as a meal I’ve made for her to asking her to get dressed for an event. If she’s not in the right mood (and at the moment that seems like every hour), she will react, almost without provocation. She calms down soon and apologises but the fact is, she does react.

I’ve been working hard on minimising my own reaction to situations and increasing my conscious response instead, in the hope that she will begin to mirror that behaviour but it’s a long, hard road. A leopard can’t completely change its spots, you see. Maybe it can learn to blend with the background though.

The second reason I touch upon this topic today is a strain of behaviour I see online a little too often. There’s a tendency to pull other people down. Social media gives us so much license to react that responding with care is a rarity.

Criticism is never something people can take well, I notice and the one thing they seem to thrive doing is react in anger with generic posts/tweets about ungrateful people. It’s not too hard to figure out who is the target of these posts either among mutual friends and it often leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth. Add to that the removal of people from friend lists and things get murkier.

My question to these people is simple: Do you actually feel better after ranting and venting your anger online? Does it help you heal, forgive, forget and move on? Does the validation of a few ‘likes’ or some retweets soothe your bruised ego?  Instead, if you were to weigh your words and respond instead of reacting, would it not help you in the long run?

Today, I ask that you conduct a simple test. Take a topic/ person that angers you and instead of reacting to the stimulus, I ask that you respond with a private note in your own diary. Say everything you want to say, but let it be for your eyes only. Read it back to yourself. Would you be okay if you heard this from someone else?

There lies your answer.

Reaction and response are both like fire.Fire, by itself, isn’t bad. It can be life-giving, provide warmth, help us feed ourselves and offer light. But a burst of it with no direction can easily burn everything we hold dear, into a pile of ashes. 

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