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Raising Your Child with Spirit:
Eloquence in Silence
by Susan Dermond
Susan Dermond

Parents love their children and want to give them everything they need to become happy fulfilled adults. In my sixteen years of working with parents, I have known many who go to extraordinary lengths to nurture their children.

Perhaps you are one of them. You drive them to lessons, enroll them in camps, and get them to all the practices and games for sports teams. I know parents who do all of this plus take their children camping, to science museums, to Scouts, and to temple, synagogue, or Sunday schools. Many of these children are full of confidence, competence, and joy.

Many more of them, however, are stressed out. The least disappointment or unfulfilled desire sends them in a tailspin and they pout, cry, or whine. They get bored easily. Their voices are often high-pitched and anxious, rather than relaxed.

Contented Children

Other children, even some who have not had all of the opportunities I’ve mentioned are balanced, creative, joyful. They seem to have a well of inner contentment that enables them to cope with small disappointments and to be able to take no for an answer sometimes. They are able to “go with the flow” of life, accepting both its ups and downs.

Is there any common characteristic I have noticed in families whose children answer this description? The answer is, yes, there are not media-saturated children. There parents have given them a gift that can lead to inner contentment. And that gift is the gift of being comfortable with silence.


Restless Children

Children really have so little quiet and solitude in their lives unless parents make the effort to give it to them. Many kids stay up too late and then have to be nagged to get up, get dressed, and rush to eat breakfast and go. They jump into a bus or a carpool and ride to school amid a crowd of children talking and teasing, Even if they’re driven to school alone in the car, the parent has the radio on or worse, the child listens to a Walkman. At school they are in crowds at recess and lunch. In the classroom, even if they are working quietly, there is movement, whispering, the teacher talking softly to an individual--constant stimulation to tune out. Children come home after school and turn on the TV or the CD player. The sub-conscious becomes filled with ad lines, song lyrics, and emotion-laden images.

A child always immersed in so much sensory stimulation learns to tune some of it out on the conscious level. For self-protection he simply must. This leads to a contraction of the consciousness and to a deadening of the sensitivity to others.

The Remedy

In order to have any time at all for his own thoughts, to get in touch with his own feelings, to imagine, to create, a child needs to have quiet times. The inner self needs silence and solitude to develop.

Most religions teach us the necessity of being alone in silence as part of their mystical tradition. In Judaism, this tradition is called hitbodedut, a form of prayer in solitude, which leads to self-transcendence. In yoga it is called pratyahara, the interiorization of the mind. Saint Teresa of Avila calls it the Prayer of Quiet, “…a deep and peaceful happiness of the will, without being able to decide precisely what it is, although it can clearly see how it differs from the happiness of the world.”

At the end of a week-long class on Education for Life that I taught in Europe, I asked all the parents in the class to come to the last class with one idea of how they would put into practice something they had learned from the week. We had covered many topics from motivating children, to nurturing the whole child, to prayer and meditation with children.

One Italian couple had an over-active little daughter. The dad stood up and shared that they realized that their child had no quiet time in her life. The parents meditated—before she got up in the morning. They had quiet time after she went to bed. But they now realized that their daughter had little peace in her life. All of her waking hours she was either at nursery school or at home with TV or radios on and her parents busily cooking, cleaning and talking on the phone.

They decided to have silence (or relative silence) on Saturday mornings. They would leave off the music, the news, the entertainment. They would turn the phone OFF, and they would not even talk with each other any more than absolutely necessary. Their interactions with their daughter would include quiet play, concentration games, and conversation. They would give her creative materials and let her draw, cut out, glue, and color.

What a wonderful change in this little girl’s life. If she had this sort of environment every night of the week, she would be a calmer, more relaxed child. But this wasn’t possible for these parents, small business owners. Yet this positive step in their lives and the strong statement made by their withdrawing from their busyness once a week with their daughter, I knew, would open a door for this child.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy and effort on the part of parents to provide their children with a quiet, peaceful environment in which to develop. It goes against the predominant trend of mainstream society. Yet, not to do so runs the risk of children becoming teen-agers who don’t know themselves or what brings them real happiness.

Susan Dermond is the Director of the Living Wisdom School (K-5), and a minister of Ananda Sangha. For more information about the Living Wisdom School, call (503) 626-3403.