Silent Children = Better Mama {or how to shake an adage and let the joy back in}

I don’t tolerate unnecessary noise very well. I was one of those secondary school teachers who wouldn’t let you tap your pen on the desk, and passing a primary school playground during a break time would set my nerves on edge and cause me to send up silent thanks that there are people in the world able to cope with watching our children while they play at school.

So, you can imagine that listening to my daughter singing the complete collection of songs from Frozen – at the top of her lungs – like a strangled cat – while I am trying to concentrate on what I am reading…well, it’s not actually music to my ears.

And there I was all ready to go to the bottom of the stairs and yell up to her to sing with a little less gusto, when suddenly I started to laugh.

Kenzie Noise

Somewhere between the strained (and catastrophically missed) high notes and the glass-shattering volume was a happy little girl, probably standing on her bed like it was a stage, perfectly enjoying herself. And big bad mama wants to come and suck the joy right out and somehow instil in her that silent (or at least quieter) children are better.

And you know, I hear that a lot: In my day, children were seen and not heard. Sometimes as a mere observation, sometimes as a jibe…and somehow, somewhere along the way, I had got to believe that visible but silent children were better. 

If everyone can see my children and note that they cannot hear them, then that kind of maths is easy.

Child – Noise = good mama.

Child + Silence = good mama.

Seen + Not Heard = good mama.

Child + Seen + Noise + Definitely Heard = baaaad mama.

Quickly I had become the sum of an old adage that I had allowed to impress upon me how I would be perceived and valued by the society around me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, no one enjoys the sound of a whining child. No one wants their child to lie down on the grocery store floor and scream because they don’t get what they want. No one asks their toddler to shout NO on a loop when you’re trying to feed them organic rice cakes in a shop full of cupcakes and they just.want.frosting.

I was blessed with two little people who are naturally vocal and energetic. I was that Mum you might have had coffee with whose child was trying to squeeze their head between the chair legs and the wall, while everyone else’s sat in a high chair quietly reading a pudgy-one-word-toddler-book.  I was that Mum who you saw out shopping who seemed to say “Stop it” in eighteen different voices, ranging from low between gritted teeth to shrill desperation. I was that Mum who said weird sentences like “stop poking your toes in your brother’s ear” or “please don’t lick the table legs”.

And now they’re a bit older and can sit for longer in a chair and tend not to lick anything and everything, but they are still vocal.

Stubbed toes = near-death screams.

Losing teeth = noise akin to leg being cut off.

They roar, they roll around, they yelp and scream and chatter.

And sometimes they sing. They might need autotune, but they sing their little hearts out.

And somewhere raging around my head is the whisper of a voice telling me that if I don’t get them to be a bit quieter, then people will think I’m not a very good Mum.

But that whisper is also a lie.

And it’s a lie of the worst kind. Because it does nothing to build anyone up. It makes Mum anxious, it makes children believe there is only joy in silence (and they struggle with that because if they like to shout-scream-sing-roar then there’s nothing in the slightest bit joyful in removing those things), and it makes a law that I don’t think we were ever supposed to keep: Stay Quiet and You Shall Be _________ (fill in the blank – what shall we put? Acceptable? Credible? Worthy? Good? Better? Saved?) Will Jesus love my children more if they are silent?

We become law keepers. Making our own rules, trying to keep them. Listening to other people make rules, trying to keep them as well! And we squeeze all the grace of a day right out because success at the end of it is measured against a human, flawed, made-up yardstick.

Psalm 127 3

So, I’ve slackened my foot on the No Overwhelming Noise brake. I’ve let them shout vociferously upstairs and laugh hysterically at the top of their lungs. I’ve let them sing loudly and tunelessly after breakfast and watched them giggle at their own noise. And you know what? The air in the room has thickened a little with joy.

I still want my children to know there are times when they need to be quiet. When it’s respectful, when it’s necessary, when it’s socially in keeping or a display of good manners. But not because I want to please other people and seek their approval in thinking I am a better Mum because my children are quiet.

Will I still twitch a little when the decibels reach the heights? Probably. Do shrill and unnecessary noises still make my eyes pop a little? Yes they do.

But I’m also learning that there is much fun to be had in making a noise that is punctuated with smiles, laughter and overwhelming joy.

So, Mama out there with noisy children…let’s strive for joy and grace and children who love the Lord more than we strive for the outward appearance of having our act together and our kids in line.

And let’s stop punishing each other with old adages that might well sound good and honourable, but…can we find them in the Bible? If the answer is a resounding no, let’s cast them off, teach our kids what the Word actually says and walk in love and grace. Noisily if necessary.


Grace and Love

Helen x


Linked with Missional Call


  1. Love this Helen!


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