Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preschooler's "Quiet Time" as Training for Contemplation

Three-and-a-half year old Bella isn't napping anymore--she's in that stage where she could fall asleep at nap time, but if she does she's awake until 11pm.

I knew we'd be one of those families where non-napping preschoolers still have an hour of quiet time. The reasons, or so I thought: (1) My sanity--I need that time to catch my breath, exercise, and pray for a few minutes (2) The child's sanity--no 3 year old can blast through a day full-throttle and still be cheerful at dinner time.

However, lately I've started to realize that there's more to quiet time than saving sanity. Bella is learning to entertain herself with her own creativity and imagination. No noise, no stimulation, no frills, just a few books or basic toys. Even more importantly and so lovely, she is learning to sit still in the quiet and be alone with her thoughts. I have watched her improve in this ability day by day. Her first quiet times were real struggles, and if she was quiet, it was only out of obedience. Lately, she has an easier time settling in peacefully for the full hour. This quiet is so difficult to cultivate in children these days, with all the activity and distraction, but I see it as true training for the ability to contemplate and pray. Her Mass behavior has improved significantly lately, too.

I didn't really expect that quiet time would have a training purpose, but I've been so pleased to see its effects. She's inspiring me to discipline myself to be quiet and still and contemplate better. If a chatterbox 3 year old can do it, I have no excuse!


Mary Alice said...

I am always struck with how hard it is for ME to get through dinner if I don't do something quiet and contemplative while the kids are having their quiet time. It is tempting to turn to chores or the internet at that time, but if I do that a few days in a row I start to get grumpy!

4ddintx said...

I'm home all day with my 10, 8, 6, 3 1/2, 21 month, and newborn daughters. EVERYONE has 1 to 1 1/2 hours quiet time each afternoon while the youngest sleep. When I'm pregnant and have a newborn, I often take a nap during that time, too. Otherwise it's the time when I can pray, catch up on bills or whatever needs to be done with no interruptions. If the older girls miss this quiet time too many days in a row, there are more late afternoon quarrels and general grumpies around the house. This is the time when the girls do craft projects alone or read or play with their quiet toys or just BE with themselves.

I need this break so much everyday and they do, too! Thanks for highlighting some extra benefits of this time!

Right Said Red said...

Amen JM. I have been advised time and time again by mothers that have larger families that quiet time is essential to their well-run and sane family. Thanks for highlighting some of the additional benefits of this daily staple in our routine. It is very hard sometimes to say no to outside activities that interfere with our quiet time...but I'm going to try to stay disciplined in this area.

AR and J Mama said...

So there is hope for me now...especially for my 2 1/2 yr old daughter to sit quietly at mass!! :) We are struggling very much...she does not want to sit still during mass. My husband and I feel strongly that we attend mass together, as a family, however neither one of us is getting much out of it, since we spend our time trying to get her to behave, while also taking care of an 8 mo. old. Any suggestions? We usually go to Saturday evening mass due to work schedules (I work alot of weekend days, husband has youth ministry all afternoon/evening on Sundays), and there is no nursery at that time. But I'm not sure that would be the route I go even if there was a nursery. I want her to learn and enjoy mass. Thanks for any help.