Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Teaching Children Responsibility: How to Play

Teaching Children Responsibility: How to PlayWhen I was pregnant with my first child I knew a woman with two children. Her husband was in graduate school and though she couldn’t have been more than 26 or 27 I thought she was old. I mean old. And added to the wisdom of age her having two kids made her a child-rearing expert in my book.

One day she mentioned that her oldest child didn’t take naps anymore but that she still required him to go to his room and be quiet during that daily nap period when the younger child was sleeping. I soaked this up and years later when Grace outgrew her naps “Quiet Time” was born.

Quiet Time is that magical point in the day when the baby goes down for a nap but the older child has to spend the time playing quietly in his or her room with the door shut. It doesn’t matter what they do, they could look at books, put puzzles together, play with toys, lay on the bed, it doesn’t matter the point is that they must stay in one room and quietly entertain themselves for the duration of nap time. Or take a nap—that’s always given as an alternative, but who am I kidding? No kid chooses a nap, it’s the magical strong-arm technique because everything is more appealing to a four year-old than having to sleep, right?

Now before you blast me for being a Mean Mom (and actually, after four kids, the phrase has no meaning for me any more, I wear it as a Badge of Honor) think of what Quiet Time means.

First of all, it means you have time to recharge. Read a book, take a nap, work on a project, whatever. It’s YOUR time, reclaimed. Second, it means that your child is forced to entertain himself for an hour, two hours, (gasp) even two and a half-hours, all by himself. This is a skill that children need to be learning, how to be able to keep themselves busy without a screen, without an adult providing stimulus, without anything but their toys and their thoughts. If you start from the beginning once they abandon the afternoon nap they’ll transition into the habit of playing quietly for that set amount of time quite easily. Third, it may not be the equivalent of a nap, but having this enforced down time is just enough rest to get them through that pesky period of being too old for naps but still young enough to wreak some serious emotional damage because they need extra sleep to get them through the long day.

I’ve done this with all of my children and it’s been wonderful. It’s kept me sane, kept me productive and forced them to take responsibility for their own entertainment rather than pestering me for things to do. When I’ve had more than one child at home in the afternoons (now for example) and if I’m not on the road I still declare Quiet Time after lunch and they know that they have to pick a spot and play or read quietly. If there are more kids than bedrooms they can go out in the playhouse, they can go downstairs in the family room (sometimes separating siblings into different rooms is necessary) but they have to play quietly and if they come out early I tack on extra time in increments of five minutes (ten if I’m feeling feisty).

The earlier you start something like this the better it is. The first time I tried it on Grace she was thrilled not to have to take a nap and loved being able to just play quietly with the door closed like a Big Girl. Once the rules are established the habit is formed and it becomes the expectation—suddenly you’ve got two extra hours in your day. You’ll thank me I promise—I’m considering submitting that young mother’s name for sainthood because of her wise advise 14 years ago. If that doesn’t get her in I don’t know what would.

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Congratulations to Bonnie from Bell, Florida for winning last week's Saturday Giveaway. The seersucker purse is winging its way to her as I speak. Or write, or whatever. Thanks again for all who participated, I love giving things away!

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36 comments:

Michelle A. said...

My girls stopeed napping at 18 months, although there was that occassional joyful day when they slept. Even though they didn't sleep, I always had quiet time. When they were older, I did what you did and allowed them to read quietly etc.. Very good post and a reminder that mom's need quiet time too!

AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

My daughter never -- as in really, never -- napped. I don't know how she survived, because I nearly didn't.

I had to create "quiet time" as the stand-in to keep my sanity.

I heartily agree; it teaches self-sufficiency to learn how to sometimes provide their own happiness and entertainment.

girlymama said...

We SOOOO have quiet time in our house!! Little girl sleeps while the big girl plays quietly (sort-of). That's when I exercise and try to get some work done.

I learned it from my mom, who had four kids. I think I had quiet time when I was in junior high :-)

Christine Kane said...

This is an amazing post. Geneen Roth - who has written many books about healing eating disorders - says that healing is learning how to keep yourself company. What you're teaching your kids is about doing just that - before they have to call it "healing." !

G's Cottage said...

I absolutely loved "quiet time" and we had it through middle school in the summer. Everybody needs time to just be. We also did not have any electronics during "quiet time" either because they are just not, well, quiet.

Heather said...

My oldest napped until he was half-way through Kg. My second son quit when he was 2. I use quiet time wiht them and my babysitting kids when I put the 3 year-old I babysit down for her nap. If I need extra time, I give them jars and send them into the edge of our woods to gather tree frogs. That is a guaranteed hour of quiet that I can still see them, but can't hear them.

Lynnae (From Under the Clutter) said...

I am a huge believer in quiet time! I think it's a necessary thing for mommies, and you're right...it's important for children to learn how to entertain themselves.

Amy W said...

With a toddler who still takes monster naps in the afternoon, I know the benefits of quiet time for the older one.

Marie N. said...

We employed Quiet Time in our home. Now, though both children have outgrown naps I do still occasionally use it -- when I need it.

mcewen said...

Seems I'm the only failure around here. No naps and no quiet time just in case anyone else is wondering.
Cheers

Thea said...

We did the exact same thing when Jake gave up his naps. Emma goes down for her naps and then about a half hour later, Jake goes down for Quiet Time. We put a digital clock in his room a while ago so we tell him exactly what time he can come out of his room. Even at 4, he still takes naps once or twice I week. It's awesome! And I don't know how I would function without it!

Judy Aron said...

Wow - I didn't realize.... my teens nap till noon! LOL
seriously - my kids were good "nappers" and were always able to entertain themselves.

Thanks for the great post!

my4kids said...

With my 4 being barely 5 years apart from oldest to youngest it was a necessity to do this as well and mine actually slept up until they started Kindergarten, well except Izzak but he did do quiet time. I would have lost my mind otherwise!

Jenn in Holland said...

Amen sistah!
We had "quiet time" growing up and it was something I used (still use) in my mothering. Time off built into the day is always welcome and always necessary. The same goes for the end of the day bedtimes. Even though my kids are older and can stay up late (or so they wish) I send them off after 9:00 because it's MOM TIME. They don't have to go to sleep directly and can read, or write or talk, etc. But they must be elsewhere to do that. That's my time and I am protective of it.
Well said Michelle!

Daisy said...

Quiet time -- I did that with mine, too. My youngest liked to rest on his bed and listen to the radio. It helped him relax and recharge, even though it wasn't sleep.

Melissa R. Garrett said...

I totally agree with this. We have quiet time around here, when Bridget naps, of course, and H&J are forced to entertain themselves quietly. Bridget's naps are the only time during the day when I can write articles without being bothered every five minutes, and it gives me the peace of mind knowing exactly where they are and what they are doing. Woo-hoo for quiet time!!

Laura said...

Hooray for mean moms. I LOVE this idea. I have done this with my four year old, but only for one hour of the 2,3 hour time period. Thanks for the permission to extend it to 3 hours! :)

My question-- What about vacations, when everyone is out of their routines? Do you still try to do this during baby's nap?

minerva77@gmail.com

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

We totally have done this, too. In our house it's called "Nap play time" for the ones that weren't napping and could play. If they came out of their room a million times bugging me, I'd threaten them with "Nap sleep time." Worked like a charm.

J Fife said...

Thanks for the tip! When my daughter stops napping and my world comes crashing down, I'll be sure to use this tactic.

Scribbit said...

Glad to hear I must not be the Meanest Mom in the World afterall and am in good company--

Laura, it probably depends on what your vacations are like. Touring the theme parks would be tough, lounging in Hawaii (my favorite vacation) would be easier. As a general rule, whenever possible normal routines are abandoned during vacation time around here. That's what makes them vacations, though my kids are old enough not to still be slaves to the need for naps. I'd probably ease up on it during vacations generally.

Leslie said...

You're not a mean mom. I'm a fan of "Quiet Time," too.

Excellent post and great advice!

Heffalump said...

Quiet time is heavenly. Sometimes though, our boys would become very...not quiet. Its part of having a three bedroom house and five boys who are close together in age. Quiet time eventually became all of them upstairs at a dull roar, which is still better than all of them running circles around me loudly.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yep, because of my orthopedic issues, I'm the one who needs a nap every day! Thus, the kids are stuffed into their rooms for quiet time. I've done this since the Older Half of the Opening Act quit napping, around age 3.

Also, when the kids are/were bad, instead of time out, I'd send them to their rooms with the admonition to return when they could honor the rules. Sometimes, they forget to come down!

I think that both of these things helps teach the kids that their rooms are retreats, places to go to regroup and chill out. For all of us who've grown up with attachments to our beds, it's too true.

Kris said...

I will admit that I had fallen into letting the boys play videos or watch tv during quiet time. Thanks to your post today, I pulled the plug. They protested wildly but now, John's in the playroom in the basement, ben's at the kitchen table, both are quiet! Unfortunatley the baby's not falling asleep, but she's not crying either. I think this will be great for my 7 year old as he is being evaluated for ADD. thanks so much for the inspiration!

Dawn said...

Absolutely! Now that the kids are sharing a room, I can't send ds (5yrs) to his room for quiet time, so he's been occasionally playing on the computer or watching a movie. I would prefer it didn't involve 'screen time,' but I need the quiet time regardless to maintain my sanity!

Corrie said...

We do this every Sunday after church too. The kids get 1-2 hours of quiet time away from each other. I think it's important for kids to have some time to themselves when they have a big family.

Eve said...

I'm with you here. My kids must have quiet time every day. For mommy's sanity.

la bellina mammina said...

What a great post - Thanks Michelle. My 19mo still naps though now it hovers between 1.5 - 2.5 hours only - he used to take 4 hour naps.

He sleeps a total of 10 hours during the night (on a good night), so I think he may be reaching the stage where I can introduce QT to him.

Thanks again!

Colleen (My Baby and More said...

I love what you said about how being called a "mean Mom" is a badge of honor. I laughed out loud! You are a fantastic writer and I always look forward to your posts. Thanks!

JAM said...

Great post, but I keep going back and looking at the picture. It's an instant classic, anyone, anywhere would have their heart melted to see the little girl's face with the ducky.

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. said...

This is a great article and the idea is a wonderful one. I did something like that with mine, although I didn't require the oldest to go to his room. It was usually a time when we could play quietly together and have a little time for the two of us so that he didn't feel like his little brother got all the attention.

jchevais said...

I completely agree. Children need to learn how to entertain themselves.

SabineM said...

oh goodness, you guys are scaring me. I have a 2 year old who takes great nap (oh should I even say it!!). I live for the afternoon nap. I GET SOO much done!
Once in a while, she will not sleep, but will lay in her crib and play and sing. I learned to let her do that "quiet time" too. I hope she napes until she goes to school! ;-))

EcoFloridaMag.com said...

Ah, quiet time. Great advice.

Kris said...

OK, Michelle, I am hoping you can help me out with a question on this.

I have started doing this with my boys (while my 2 year old girl naps) since the day you posted this. They fought me like crazy but now I suspect they are even starting to like it.

My question: How do you handle this during school days? My boys will get home at 2:30. (the toddler usually naps until 3, 3:30 latest). Do you still have a quiet time on school days?

Thanks for your help. I'm relatively new to your blog and have become an avid fan.

JHS. said...

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