If yesterday’s post was about “The Quiet Joy,” today’s is “The Joy of Quiet.” CityMom asked the following question in the comments section last week. Another friend wrote me this week with a similar question, so I thought I’d bring the answer to a post.
As a follow up question, how have you been able to establish your quiet time routine? My three year old is giving up her nap and I am loathe to lose the one on one time that I used to have with my four year old, as well as the personal time that I had while he would sit quietly with brio, etc. For the past few days, it seems that none of us have been able to really get down time in the afternoon, and boy am I getting cranky!
Oh boy do I know that feeling. Quiet time is imperative for my sanity, let me tell you. Better yet, let my husband tell you. After a noisy, busy, noisy, bustling, did I mention noisy? morning, that little midday window of time when “peace comes dropping slow” is unutterably precious. And after the break, I am recharged and ready for round two of the noise and bustle.
I don’t know if my quiet time strategies will be applicable to anyone else’s specific situation, but for what they’re worth: here’s how we do it.
My three girls (ages 10, 7, and 5) all share a bedroom, but for quiet time they go to separate rooms, or there won’t be any quiet. Jane busies herself in the sewing room, Rose takes possession of my bedroom, and Beanie has the girls’ big room all to herself. Wonderboy, age 2, takes a two-hour nap in his own room.
By this point, all three girls are old enough to understand and follow the quiet time parameters. I think age three to four is the tricky age for keeping quiet time, um, quiet and sufficiently lengthy in time. An hour, say.
For non-napping three-year-olds, here’s my strategy: the bed is a boat, and there are sharks in the water so you can’t get off until mommy comes for you. (Obviously not a good idea for easily scared little ones, but for Beanie it was always a fun game.) I make sure the “boat” is stocked with fun stuff: books, a small basket of toys, something the child really loves to play with and only gets at quiet time. As Bean got older, I added a box of crayons and coloring books.
I put on a story tape or music—something to help the child know that quiet time is still going on. When the tape is over, so is QT. Our biggest hits have been Winnie the Pooh on audio cassette, the Classical Kids CDs, and Jim Weiss’s story tapes. Beanie is also partial to The Beatles.
Oh, and a really active outdoor play time or walk right before quiet time is always helpful too! I used to make a point of getting the kids outside for a short walk before lunch. After that they were usually ready for a rest. That brilliant strategy went by the wayside, however, when Wonderboy was born. Which of course was when Beanie was three years old and would have most benefited by said strategy’s aforementioned brilliance. Ah, well.
As you can see, there’s nothing particularly illuminating or innovative about my quiet-time habit-training methods. Wear ’em out, feed ’em up, set them adrift on a well-stocked “boat,” give ’em something to listen to both for entertainment and to signal “time’s up.”
After that it just takes practice, like any other kind of habit training. (Note: I’m a big fan of Charlotte Mason’s advice on habit training.) Firm but cheerfully enforced boundaries for what is and is not OK. Loud noise: not OK. Abandoning ship: not OK. I’ve noticed that some kids will get rowdy in order to keep mom popping in and out of the room—sort of a ‘negative attention is better than no attention’ kind of thing, so I had to come up with ways around that. I found some natural consequences for disobeying the quiet time rules: no post-QT snack; add 2 to 5 minutes of more quiet time when the story tape goes off (by walking in without a word and setting a timer, preferably one that counts down the seconds in nice big numbers); that kind of thing. Mellow consequences that don’t involve scolding.
(If I fuss at the child—and this applies to any habit-training circumstance, not just quiet time—forget it. Any lesson in patience or obedience goes right out the window: now we just have a case of heartbroken kidlet needing reassurance from mommy. So I always try to think out my course of action in advance and clearly explain to the child how things will work—and then I expect to have to cheerfully, calmly (think Marmee) follow through on the prescribed consequence three or four or ten times in a row before the good habit is established. But if mommy gets cross just once, all progress is lost and we have to start over from scratch. It’s habit-training for me, too, you see. And believe me, I’m a much slower learner than my children. Marmee may have had the consistently-serene-and-cheerful thing down pat by the time Little Women begins, but I’m not there yet. Frustrated-and-annoyed comes so much more easily. But then, how old was Amy in Chapter 1? Ten? What I wouldn’t give to see Marmee in her baby-and-toddler-raising years…)
Anyway, that’s what worked for my strong-willed Rose and my boisterous Beanie. It’s all so different with every child, isn’t it? I can’t begin to guess what it’ll be like whenever Wonderboy gives up his naps. (Please, God, not for a year at least.) When that day comes, you can probably expect a post on the subject: Desperately Seeking Quiet Time Strategies!