Children Need the Sound of Silence
Children’s brains are on a developmental fast track. Their brains are evolving, pruning, and shaping…at an amazing rate. You can see it in their changing abilities and growing knowledge every day. Interestingly, sounds have meaning to our brain and our brain seeks to understand that meaning. For instance, the sound of a speeding car when I’m at an intersection means be cautious. The sound of gunshots means beware. The sound of a baby crying arouses empathy and causes me to look around. Other sounds provide information we deem unnecessary for the moment, so we move them to the background—the ongoing buzz of traffic in the distance, the sound of birds chirping in the yard. As I write, the sound of construction “down the street” causes me to take note. I need to go a different way when I go to the store. Now move the bang and hum of construction into the background of my awareness and continue with my work.
Whatever the sound, our brains take notice. In fact, the “brain has to work overtime to ignore sounds.” The energy invested in ignoring sounds means less energy available for learning. This is especially true for young brains. Studies have shown that excessive noise can interfere with children’s ability to understand speech and comprehend what someone else is saying. It interferes with the ability to recall information from a visually presented list, and it interferes with reading. These studies also reveal that chronic noise contributes to children’s lower performance in verbal tasks and reading. In other words, noise interferes with our children’s ability to learn.
One study in the 1970’s (described in How a Little Silence in Children’s Lives Helps Them Grow) actually found that soundproofing a classroom near noisy train tracks actually led to improved test scores.
Why do I tell you this? Because we live in a noisy world and our children will benefit from a little more silence in their lives. They will learn more easily with a little more silence in the world. More importantly, you can provide a safe haven of quiet for your children in your home. You can develop a quiet environment in your home by:
- Reducing loud arguments. Learn to talk about problems rather than yell and scream. Keep your tone respectful and loving, even in the midst of disagreement.
- Discipline respectfully and politely. Don’t yell. Train your children to respond to a firm voice, not a loud voice. (I know. There will be times with loud arguing and even loud discipline in our homes; but keep them to a minimum. Make it a goal to disagree and discipline in respectful tones rather than loud tones more often than not.)
- Turn off the TV and enjoy undistracted interactions with your children. Also, turn off the TV during homework time. Limit the noise distractions while your children complete their homework.
- Turn the TV down. Even when you watch TV, turn the volume down rather than leave it loud enough to “hear in the other room.”
- Consider the timing of various activities. You don’t want one child practicing the drums while the other child is trying to complete their reading assignment. Coordinate activities.
- Go for a walk in the woods with your family. Enjoy the sounds of nature. Nature has a healing effect in and of itself, especially the sounds of nature.
- Go to the library to read.
- Make bedtime a quiet time—no televisions, radios, or cellphones playing in the room.
Of course, we will encounter noise. We live in a noisy society. But do your best to make your home environment a place of peace with moments of quiet and even silence. Let your children hear the sounds of silence and learn without the distraction of noise. Their brains will appreciate the chance to invest energy in learning and growing without having to invest energy in combatting the noise. And your whole family will enjoy the calm of enjoying silence together.