When F was a baby (about six months old) he stopped wanting to sit quietly on my lap. After all he was somewhat mobile at that point and could hold things and bang them together so sitting on Mama’s lap just wasn’t as much fun.? The problem was that there were still plenty of situations where it was important for him to be still and quiet (church, grocery store check-out lines etc.)
A friend suggested that I give him a session of “sitting still practice” every day holding him on my lap and making him be still and quiet for five minutes. Each time he wiggled or made noise I was to reset the timer until we had sat still and quiet for the full five minutes.? The first couple of weeks it took as much as half an hour of practice to achieve that five minutes of peace!
Interestingly after a few months of practice we began to see that if we had had a particularly busy day and F was having trouble calming down, sitting still practice would help him to get control of himself. The first five to ten minutes he would need constant reminders of what was expected but once he had been still for a little while, we could see him relax.
Even today we will often give “sitting still practice” when one of the children is agitated or overexcited. Slowly they are beginning to recognize for themselves when they need to have some space and will go and do something quiet voluntarily.? F will tell me “I need some no people time” and go up to the office and do puzzles for a while until he is more settled.
Recognizing the need for space and calm is something that even many adults struggle with. Our society and culture encourage us to do and stay busy all the time. We feel stressed, overburdened, and overwhelmed yet how often do we feel comfortable saying “I need some no people time” and going off to a quiet place for a while? We need that time to sit with ourselves and allow ourselves to rest, we need to learn (and teach) the art and practice of being quiet.