Turn down the volumePublished 5:01pm Saturday, May 26, 2012
QUESTION: I realize that the noise level in our household has increased disturbingly, both among my children and between my children and myself. I need some ideas on how to lower the volume.
ANSWER: Loud voices may have become a habit for both your children and yourself. In lots of families, all members of the family have learned to yell when they are upset. If parents routinely confront in loud voices, children will also use loud voices to confront, either with each other or their parents.
If you realize you have a habit of getting louder when you get upset, that pattern is not going to disappear immediately. However, you can plan and then practice getting quiet and intense rather that loud and intense. Combining your focused attention, a stern look and quiet voice can actually be more effective in interrupting and changing behavior than yelling.
Usually our agitation occurs over predictable situations. Spend some time thinking about what the likely conflict situations will be and role-play in your mind what you want to say, how you want to look and how you want to sound. It’s important to tell children what they need to stop doing and what they can do instead — giving them a couple of options, if possible. Visualize yourself: 1) moving physically closer to your child, 2) speaking his/her name, 3) factually describing the behavior you want to stop, 4) giving a new direction using a firm and quiet voice. Give your child a few minutes to think and respond to your words.
The firmer and calmer we are, the more likely it is that our children will respond positively. Being assertive-clear, firm and calm-is perhaps the most difficult parenting skill to practice consistently; however, it brings great relational rewards. It is easier to say, “Thanks for cooperating” when our kids follow through, if we haven’t been yelling. The added benefit is that parents teach first: children who live with clear, firm, calm guidance are much more likely to be clear, firm and calm with their siblings and friends.
If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care, call the Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org