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I am trying something that is extraordinarily difficult for every parent. I plan to cease and desist from all parental instructions; or at least reduce their volume and frequency quite significantly.
I am what I would call an involved parent. My kids have another pithy word to describe my modus operandi: nagging. Completely untrue, I might add.
While I don’t consider myself opinionated, I have thought through things and developed views about how to do things—the right way and the wrong way. I am also a champion of the teachable moment, which could be, if you think about it, every waking moment that your child is with you.
When we walk to school, I point out trees and talk about networking and the tree of life. When we are stuck in traffic, I tell them about how meditation can help them unwind and spark creativity. When we go to the grocery store, I “discuss” nutrition and food choices.
As my daughter says, “It is exhausting.” In return, I ask: what does she have to be exhausted about?
After all, I am the one coming up with sprightly thoughts and sensible advice. All she does is roll her eyes, with yellow earphone wires snaking out of her ears.
So far, I saw nothing wrong with this maximalist approach. After all, our children are in our purview for just 18 or so years. Doesn’t it behoove every good parent to pack in all the advice?
But a funny thing has happened now that both my daughters are teenagers. I find that their eyes glaze over when I begin talking. Worse, they say what I am about to say and not in an admiring-imitation fashion either. They have grown positively grumpy. Grumpy voice and glassy eyes. That’s the thanks I get for all these years of advice.
This year, I made a vow. I would stop advising them. Heck, I would stop speaking altogether. Those morning chants of “wake up, wake up, wake up”? Gone.
The incessant orders masked as questions? “When are you going to start your homework?” “Have you had your bath yet?” Gone.
I will be as silent as a monk on a mountaintop till my kids beg me to dispense my pearls of wisdom. That’s the plan anyway.
Silence is an underrated tool in the arsenal of parenting. So far, I have only used it to give the silent treatment to erring pre-teens. This is a different approach. It involves pausing before every uttered instruction, quickly figuring out if I really need to utter that instruction, and hopefully not saying anything at all.
Basically, I plan to do what every married man learns to do fairly quickly: listen, nod and remain silent.
Silence is the latest practice to hit the spectrum of thought exercises that began with meditation, mindfulness and then moved on to gratitude, loving-kindness meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy and self-compassion. The goal of all these is to soften and shape the mind as if it were a clay sculpture.
Silence is both a late-comer to this party, as well as being one of the oldest. From Vedic rishis to Benedictine monks, from Sufi saints to Buddhist teachers, every faith has used silence as a way to access spirituality, compassion and centering of the mind.
And yet, silence—like mothers, I might add—has been under appreciated in the modern arsenal of mind-body practices. Until now.
Amazon is building a giant nature preserve to encourage creative thinking among its employees. The idea is that its employees will walk in silence amid this enclosed nature preserve and come up with world-changing ideas.
Bengaluru-based data analytics firm Mu Sigma has asked its employees to “go quiet for an hour every day”, as Mint reported. Companies are scrambling for ways to empower and encourage employees, not just to be more productive but also to think brilliantly and not burn out. Silence is the practice du jour.