Do you feel the urge to tell your children exactly what you want them to think? Imagine one of your children just dropped a glass, called somebody by a bad name, or asked you about death. You can probably think of a lot of things you would like to say in any of those situations.
Would you feel the urge to offer play-by-play narration of what led up to the dropped glass? Would it feel natural to rattle off instructions for resolving conflicts without resorting to name-calling? Would you feel compelled to give a treatise on biology, life, death, and heaven?
It is understandable to have these inclinations. But acting on them can overwhelm your child. Perhaps your child needs to take in the experiential learnings. They can’t do that if the moment is crowded with entreaties from an adult. Too much information can overload the child, or spark a disagreement or a clash of egos, all of which negates the lessons that the experience has to offer. Sometimes, less is more.
Here is something else you can try: silence. Not the kind of silence from an aloof parent, who is concentrating on something else as the child struggles. I am talking about the kind of silence from a present and engaged parent, who is focused on attuning to the signals coming from their child.
Just let the moment transpire. Imagine offering a simple statement, or asking an insightful question.
“Broken glass is sharp. We need to be careful.”
“You seem very angry with your friend.”
“It can be scary to think about death, can’t it?”
Then, resist the urge to fill the vacuum with more words or actions. No lectures. No complicated trains of logic. Just welcome the silence. The sparse words that you use are like a few drops of information for your children’s brains to soak up. Too many words can be like a flood that just washes away any of the useful information.
The silence will allow your child to interpret your concise words and facial expressions while you do the same. There is so much information transmitted through simple eye contact. This is a dynamic process, as mutual understandings evolve as the moment unfolds. That silence gives room for people to know one another more deeply.
What else happens in that silence? Your child has a chance to internalize what happened, to ponder your words, to feel their own feelings, to consider what it all means, and to reflect upon their actions. The fact that you have created this silence, and are devoting your time to sharing it with your child, gives your child the chance to recognize their own self-worth, and then to act on it.
The silence gives your child the chance to speak. This means you have the chance to listen. You have the chance to understand your child, and perhaps most importantly, to make your child feel understood. When you listen with your eyes, holding back any immediate response, your child may open up more and continue speaking. You may be surprised that, given the gift of silence, your child says many of the things that you would have included in a typical lecture.
That kind of interaction doesn’t seem like the norm anymore. Things happen faster these days. The world is hurried. Our lives are faster paced—too fast to really take it all in.
Sometimes we need to slow down. Sometimes, we just need a little silence.
How to Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “The Power of Silence”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date], https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/silence.