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Every parent longs for a bit of peace and quiet, but you need to be aware of the diabolical shenanigans and potential danger of too-quiet children.

As most parents know, there are different kinds of quiet. There’s good quiet, which is when you know full well that the children are tucked up in their beds, sound asleep. There’s bad quiet, which is the long moment just before a raging tantrum is unleashed.

Up to no good?

Then, there’s the most unnerving sort of quiet of all, when it dawns on you that the house is too quiet, and in a second you realise that it’s been too quiet for far too long. It can mean only one thing: they’re up to no good.

For mother-of-twins, Nicola*, this sort of silence is now her cue to reach for the camera and track down her children. “I have learnt to sneak up on them when they’ve been too quiet for too long, because I know that they’re up to something so wild that no one would ever believe me without incontrovertible evidence,” she says. Her photo album bears testimony to her words, like the picture of two naughty children covered in white dust powder gathered around a huge amorphous mass of goo on a previously pristine shag-pile carpet.

The Danger of “Too Quiet”

This gets to the very nub of the danger of “too quiet”. It’s one thing for children to take themselves off out of sight and earshot, to spend hours quietly amusing themselves cutting the glossy illustrations out of an expensive set of encyclopaedias, or finger-painting the walls with your new Guerlain KissKiss Gold and Diamonds lipstick that retailed in 2007 at R480 000 a pop. It’s quite another when they stealthily decide to show their friend the workings of
dad’s gun.

Durban mother Candice was horrified, for example, when she went to investigate what the children were up to after she had noticed the drop in decibel levels and found that her six-year-old daughter and her little play-date were happily taking turns to lock each other in the boot of her car.

Tragically, there are a number of children who drown each year, when their “too quiet” games revolve around swimming pools. So, tune your ears into the gnawing silence. At best, it will offer some wonderful photo opportunities, and may even save a life.

Read another article on childproofing your home as your baby grows.

Childproof Your House

The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa offers the following tips:

  • Install child-safety latches on all cupboards containing dangerous products.
  • Ensure potentially poisonous products have childproof caps, and lock them out of reach.
  • Secure bookshelves and furniture that can topple over.
  • Use safety glass for sliding doors and large glass panes. Mark doors at your child’s height with stickers or tape.
  • Store alcoholic beverages out of reach of children in a lockable cupboard.
  • Never leave matches or lighters lying around.
  • Make sure you know which plants in your garden are poisonous. Place poisonous plants out of reach.
  • Always empty the bath when finished.
  • Lock away all medicines and avoid leaving medication on your bedside table. Install child locks on medicine cupboards.
  • Store razors and other hazardous products like turpentine, cleaning products and pool chemicals well out of reach or lock them away.
  • Attach toilet-seat guards on toilets.
  • Ensure garden and other tools are locked away, out of sight. Make sure that when they are in use that children are supervised.
  • Set your hot-water cylinder to a safer temperature (50˚C or less).
  • Never burn candles where children can reach them. Always extinguish them when leaving the room.
  • Do not allow children to play on furniture.
  • Always try and supervise play. Buy age-appropriate toys and games.
  • Throw away broken toys or have them repaired.
  • Supervise all outdoor play.
  • Always keep the garden shed locked and teach children not to play in it.
  • The most dangerous area in the garden is the pool. Make sure it is either fenced with an SABS-approved fence or have a safety net installed.
  • Always empty paddle pools after use.
  • Cover deep ponds with a net or mesh.
  • Keep car doors locked in the garage or driveway. If using an electronic garage door, make sure that it stops if it touches an obstacle.
  • Never leave children unattended near a braai fire.

*Name changed



Laura Twiggs