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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:
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.
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