Shut the Duck Up

Author: AM Scott

Whilst I didn’t coin the phrase, “shut the duck up” (see Mo Gawdat in Solve for Happy, 2017), it might be among the most pertinent pieces of advice I could pass on to parents walking a journey with their child who experiences learning difficulties, or any other child for that matter. It is advice easily uttered but difficult to implement. If you think you’re ready, read on.

The ‘duck’ is the worry; the bothersome thoughts that quack on and on as one might expect from the feathered species.

            Quack, quack, quack.

The cacophony is a repetitive assault. It is not the type of audio input that puts the listener at ease. At best, the noise is meaningless and irritating. Have you ever paused just to listen quietly to the cacophony of a quacking duck? Not likely. You’ve probably moved away. That’s because a cacophony is a harsh, discordant mixture of sound, often associated with dissonance. It has origin in the Greek word, kakophōnos meaning ‘ill-sounding’. It’s a great word to describe a duck’s din! All ducks are at risk of sounding the same. Their racket is unpleasant and harsh, neither pleasant nor unique. There is no soft cooing or warbling to enjoy. Ever.

Ducks start quacking when they are alert, apparently. In response to a trigger or threat, they are off in uproar. The parallel is direct. Parents start worrying when they are alarmed too. Hearing that their child has difficulties sets any parent on high if not panicked alert.

The noise of worry starts externally, likely with person after person ‘calling you in’ to tell you that they are ‘very worried’ about your child. And they are. They are being honest, although the level of care in their delivery varies. It isn’t long before the noise evolves into an inner voice; a protective voice; a voice expressing concern for the now and for the future. Even when a parent has followed advice, sought the right intervention, done all he or she can, the jarring rhetoric continues:

“What if he fails?” 

“What will she become?”

“What if this can’t be fixed?”

“What is wrong with my child?”

“Why is my child not like all the others?”

“Who is to blame?”

“Did ‘they’ identify this early enough?”

“Have others overcome this?”

“Should I try the newest ‘cure’?”

The duck quacks on, and on, and on.

It seems to me that, as a “Year 2000+” post industrial community, we have completely missed it when it comes to understanding the magical wonderment that is childhood. In our busyness we have ceased to celebrate the unique marvel that every child is. We’ve failed to enjoy the naivety and innocence of a child as a default position. At times, we are not mindful and appreciative of the moments we share with loved ones. We have traded the joy of early years with anxiety about the future, a competitive performance target and an ambitious but compelling vision for our child’s life – the next star, the next leader, the next world shape shifter. We’ve been sold, and we have bought into, a striving for an artificial success that robs us of now. We miss the present moment and the beauty of the creation that is each child. As parents, we are so worried about our children climbing to the top of their adult purpose that we miss the lazy days, the exploration and the discovery. No wonder the duck starts quacking when someone derails our aspirations with bad news or sheds light on our child’s difficulties. That our child is not ‘in the box’ and ‘marching to the beat of his own drum’ is a fear we hold, not a celebration we seek.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapists suggest that to drown out a thought, we should introduce another thought. We should drown out the duck.

How about we replace the raucous recording in our heads by embracing childhood and allowing a season just to ‘grow up and be’ rather than prepare for a future. What if we truly celebrated of the uniqueness of our children and catered for their diversity and difference without fuss ? How about we dispel the myth that ‘different is a problem’ and embrace the idea that the ‘system’ might have it wrong as it caters for conformity in an industrialised structure? What if we really grasped that the 21st Century demands in the workplace are going to be met by children who are problem solvers, out of the ordinary thinkers, communicators, explorers, risk takers and optimists. To completely turn our child’s ‘definition’ or ‘label’ around, let us choose to be different ourselves. Let’s consciously make a decision to drown out the noise of our thoughts and the noise all about us. Rather, we could begin to applaud our disruptors and game changers, our inventors and dreamers, our collaborators and our perfectionists and not worry about them.

Let us choose to shut the duck up and let our children soar and sing instead.