Children should be seen and not heard

The saying Children should be seen and not heard is much older than it might seem. It originates from the Bible, and in those distant times it had a purely religious meaning. This phrase meant that children needed to be silent to hear the Gods voice. Later on, it became an old English proverb and started to lose its religious edge gradually. Time passed, and this quote was used by teachers and mothers in educational and disciplinary contexts. A century or even fifty years ago, no one doubted the validity of this saying. Children were assigned the role of subdued members of a family who were not allowed to speak without permission or put a word into an adult conversation. A loud and uncontrollable behavior was punished. Disciplined and quiet children were testimonies of good parenting and education. Nowadays, however, this saying can and should be doubted. Today, children are regarded as individuals with a right of voice. The saying is beginning to fade and becomes history. This phrase regains its actuality only in cases of educating highly talkative children. The upbringing of an overly talkative child makes even the most liberal parents and teachers use the aforementioned saying or at least think of the ways to silence a child. At this point, a dilemma arises of how to find a borderline between discipline and suppression.


It appears, silencing a child can be done in harmful ways. A parent or a teacher can use their authority and/or loud voice to make a child silent. Some parents physically abuse their children so that the latter become intimidated and fall silent because of fear. The other way of silencing a child presupposes that parents or teachers explain the rights and wrongs of conduct to children in a strict but also mild form which does not involve raising ones voice or physical punishment. In essence, there is nothing wrong with the phenomenon of excessive talkativeness in children. When children talk, they express their inner thoughts, feelings and questions about the world which surrounds them. Children also unconsciously try to incorporate themselves into the social context of their families or an even wider one of community as a whole. A huge mistake would be to discourage children in this respect. Some children cannot understand what they have done wrong and why their parents silence them. Hence, parents should be reasonable in quieting children so that discipline does not turn into discrimination. By discouraging children from talking, parents risk discouraging them from showing interest in the world, or from associating with other people. For active children, talking in a form of questions or statements is a way to establish a contact and ask for parents or teachers attention. If this enthusiasm is suppressed or not shared, children will feel abandoned and depressed. Suddenly, their hypertalkativity can transform into offishness or detachment.

Suppressing or ignoring everything a talkative child utters is wrong, unacceptable and non-pedagogical, let alone counterproductive. Parents need to listen to their children attentively and react to this or that question or sentence. Reactions may vary from providing the child with answers he or she is seeking, when it is possible, or explaining that the moment is inappropriate for such or any question. A child needs to see that people understand him or her, and at the same time a child needs to understand which of his/her behavioral patterns is inappropriate in this or that situation. Making children understand the situations in which it is allowed or inappropriate to talk takes time and effort. For parents and teachers, it is important not to lose patience. Even more effort may be needed on behalf of children to get used to restraining themselves and keeping all the excessive words behind their closed mouths.

An article by Jonathan Pitts (n.d.) illuminates an interesting method of inculcating the understanding of when and why to be silent, as well as the very habit of being silent in public places. The author suggests taking a child to a library and asking him or her to keep silent during the time spent there. The suggested duration is an hour, and the frequency of visits has to be daily (Pitts n.d.). Perhaps, it would be reasonable to start with about fifteen minutes or half an hour and then increase the time gradually. It can make the task easier for a child who may otherwise feel uncomfortable or unable to be silent for a long hour during the first visits. In this method, not only the parents affect their children or induce certain rules of conduct, but the institution, with its own rules, helps parents with this task. Please quiet signs in libraries can be used to make children realize the rules are not made by parents, and conclude that the rules apply to everyone, not only children. By explaining this to a child, parents kill two birds with one stone, namely discipline their child and introduce him or her to society and its rules of conduct. Other people in the library will exemplify and reinforce these rules and behavioral patterns, and the child will see and accept them. Pitts also says that similar silence hours can be organized at home, but preferably under a condition that all members of the family are required to stay quiet for about fifteen minutes (Pitts n.d.). Another way of organizing silent hours at home would be to ask a child to play a game of being silent as long as he or she can. One more option has to do with directing childrens energy, that is, redirecting it from talking to writing, reading or drawing. It will help decrease talkativeness and increase interest in various educational activities and hobbies.

As one can see, all of the suggested ways of parenting and educating talkative children exclude the old saying Children should be seen and not heard together with the call to suppressive actions it implies. Thus, talkative children should be taught to be silent, not silenced.

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