The book Hamlet’sBlackberry: A practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age by William Powers is an all-time favorite of mine. Even though no one has Blackberry phones anymore the information in the book still applies! It’s all about finding balance in a world of hyper-connectivity. Powers is not against technology at all, but he says what makes it work for and not against us is when we have some spaces in between the screen time. Powers says the trouble comes when “We don’t have any gaps, any breaks in which to make sense of it; do something new, creative with it; enjoy it,” The same notion applies to how we interact with our children. We have to leave gaps or space to let things sink in.
Some space comes in the form of subtle pauses. Let me give an example by sharing a very personal video from 7 years ago.
The video has actually been shared in professional circles for use in conferences and teachings for people that work with the deaf and cochlear implant recipients. After my daughter had her first cochlear implant surgery I was prompting her to speak. Keep in mind she had never said anything before so to see her respond to any auditory stimuli was a huge breakthrough.
What her therapist and Otolaryngoly team loved about this video was the connection that took place in the pauses where she was given the opportunity to respond. If for some reason you can’t see the video it’s very simple. I show her a Woody cowboy doll and say Boot, b-b-b and then after about 5 seconds she says Buh. I am not trying to brag about how awesome I am at speech therapy, because they just happened to catch a glimpse of a very touching moment. The point is if you go through speech therapy with your child you will learn that as important as it is to narrate everything, and give them tons of modeling, prompting, and auditory training. What is equally as important is that you pause. It’s in that space that they can chew on it, process it, and have a chance to respond to it.
It’s not just about what you say, but also the spaces where you don’t say anything at all. These pauses give children a chance to really think and evaluate.
Sometimes the pauses are for our benefit. I’m pretty sure every parent struggles with anger or outburst when a situation with a child escalates past the breaking point. I know that for me I have reacted and implemented discipline in the moment that I later regretted. For example, one child hit another in the backseat and I was so mad that I told them they couldn’t go to the birthday party they were looking forward to. The truth was we were all going to the party and it wasn’t a consequence I could follow through with. Rather than just reacting I should have remembered this advice from the book Love and Logic:
Don’t feel like you have to hurry into an immediate reaction. Give yourself time when coming up with a consequence and just let the child know that it’s sad and you are going to care of it later.
The kicker is you still have to follow through. Sometimes this hard because life keeps going and forgetting the offense can happen. Still, I feel better when I pause and take a moment rather than just react.
There are so many benefits of intentional pausing. It’s the little things like just enjoying a moment in silence together, or watching as your disgruntled child soften ups and decides to ask for forgiveness. So much can happen when we pause for a moment.
I know we live in a very fast paced world where we aren’t used to slowing down and taking a breath, but we need to. We need to with God (Proverbs 46:10 Be still) and we need to with our children. It’s amazing what can happen if you make some space for it.
This post was originally featured in a series called “Teachable Parenting” For more articles like this check out the contents page here.