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Silence is Golden When It Comes To Your Child’s Health

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

One of the three rules Dr. Kristopher Kaliebe suggests to overcome childhood obesity caught my attention.

In an article published in April in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Kaliebe presented his three “simple rules.” The first two were not much of a surprise: Rule One: Eat Food – Not Too Much and Mostly Plants – that is, natural, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains, and Rule Two: Get Up and Move. Certainly eating nutritious food and exercising daily are tactics just about everyone knows are essential in helping kids towards a healthy weight.

The third rule, though, surprised me.  Dr. Kaliebe’s Rule Three is Honor Silence.

What? “Honor Silence”?  What does he mean and why?

According to Dr. Kaliebe, “The pediatric obesity crisis arose from systemic changes in society and multiple dynamic interacting risk factors. It has been paralleled by increased mental health problems that seem interrelated.” Which is to say that children’s obesity is often accompanied by high levels of anxiety and stress, poor sleep, and disruptive behavior. By slowing down the pace of children’s lives and reducing the everyday sensory assault most of us are under, children’s health and their weight will normalize.

By honoring silence, we take control of the beeping, buzzing, flashing insistence of machines and replace it with quiet. What would your child’s life be like if it were quieter? For one thing, says Dr. Kaliebe, your child’s life might be lighter in weight.

We are so used to lights and noise that we scarcely notice how surrounded we are with technological interruptions. Silence seems spooky. Maybe it’s time to bring silence back.

Many people are observing “Screen Free Week” this week. I’m not asking that you or your children give up all your screens for even a day. But I am asking you do that for an hour. An hour every day. An hour every day for more than just a week.

  1. Find a time every day when all screens and noisy toys are off. This could be the last hour before children go to bed, since it’s been demonstrated that the light from screens interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin.
  2. Once you find a time, turn things off. The television, the computer, your phone, your e-reader and tablet, the radio, your music, Tickle Me Elmo and all other noisy toys. Notice how many things interfere with the peacefulness of the evening! Turn them all off.
  3. Help children find things to do. Read or look at books with the children. Work puzzles. Play board games. Take a walk. Garden. Draw. Putter around the house. Watch the stars come out. Listen to the birds as they sing themselves to sleep. Just sit and talk with each other. Kids may have trouble at first keeping occupied without the usual noisy entertainments. You may have trouble. Work at this together.
  4. Soak up the silence. Our lives are filled with busy-ness. In the quiet notice your own stress levels going down.

Overweight and obesity are symptoms of life’s problems as much as they are problems in themselves. By reducing the stress in life, we may improve children’s health and happiness and make many of the problems that beset us fade away.

Try it. Try being calmly quiet together for a little while every day.


© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Join Dr. Anderson in an online conference for teachers and parents. Find out more at Quality Conference for Early Childhood Leaders

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.