I’m still having fun in our dual-family household, but I have to admit that meal times in our house can be crazy! Trying to feed six children at the end of the day can be an absolute pleasure, or an absolute nightmare, depending on everyone’s energy levels at the end of the day. Either way it is noisy. Our house has lots of wooden floors and windows, and lots of kids, which means lots of noise.
Now imagine a hungry one-year-old screeching for food, two tired three-year olds dissolving into gibberish, a five-and six-year-old bossing each other about as they set the table, and then add a cranky 4 month old crying for milk (and peace and quiet). Plus two mothers who have been on the go all day and JUST WANT TO GET THESE KIDS FED!!!
Tonight we tried out something new. I cannot remember what made me think of it, but I made a comment to my house-mate about a person I went to see at a workshop who told me she had inexplicably lost her voice for a period of MONTHS (I think it was three months) and had to learn how to communicate with her three-year-old-son non-verbally in that period of time. Imagine that? Imagine not being able to respond verbally to your children … how creative you must have to be to get your message across. I do try to use non-verbal communication with my children, particularly when they hurt themselves because a kiss and a cuddle do more to soothe than words do when you are little, but I don’t use non-verbal communication for EVERYTHING. I’ve always wanted to give it a go.
We decided right there and then to give it a try – if not for three months, at least for dinner tonight. If we HAD to talk to our children we decided we would sing softly to them.
Ooooh … what fun! We began with a song to invite children to wash their hands and sit at the table, and after that we said nothing. Not a word. Having someone else do it with me made it so much easier.
Without words we served food, and with gestures we complimented each other on the meal. The children chatted away together … and we had the usual comments of “I don’t like this!”, “I’m not going to eat this!”, “I can’t cut my food!” … and these comments were met with silence. If it became apparent that a response was required, we would gesture with our face and hands … and it worked! You can say so much with your eyebrows 🙂
When someone declared they wanted more sausage, they would be met with a gesture that indicated they had to eat what was left on their plate first. Message understood. No words needed. Not that the message was always accepted, but that wasn’t the point. No words were needed and no words would change the situation. You can’t argue with someone who doesn’t talk back to you!
Each of my two big kids had to leave the table for various table manner indiscretions, and this happened after one non-verbal warning each that was clearly understood. When that was not heeded, I just took them away and whispered that they could return with their beautiful manners. When they came back, no words were needed.
Only once did one of the three-year olds exclaim: “Why aren’t you talking?!!”
Oh it was beautiful. Great eating and beautiful manners were rewarded with a massive smile and thumbs up. We both felt strong and assured, we enjoyed the silence, and it was fun. It made us realise how much we actually contribute to the negative verbal dialogue at the table, how quick we can be to respond to the children’s whining and carrying on, and that those repsonses actually continue the cycle of negative talk at the table.
It was a really interesting experiment and I recommend you give it a go!!
I admit that I did break my silence when one child was trying to squeeze sauce on to his plate. Each time he squeezed the bottle, the baby under the table would make a huge raspberry noise. It was too funny 🙂