Kids and their struggle to be heard

Posted by Stacey Wallis on

As I sit here and type this, I’m surrounded by the noisy, happy, but extremely noisy play of four kids under the age of 6. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super stoked that they are happily engaged in an activity. All laughing and all joining in together. However, my ears are paying the price! I watch as the two older kids take control of the game, calling the shots, making the rules as I suppose only natural given, they are the two with a little more life/play experience. The younger two (both under three) do their best to meet the expectations of their older playmates. They follow the instructions given to them, but they also regularly attempt to assert their own opinions. The result, a lot of noise, shouting (happily) at each other, and not a lot of listening. Did I mention they are all boys?!

So, what’s the cause of all this noise? Is it four strong personalities all trying to get their points and ideas for the game, across? Or is there something else going on? Are kids these days struggling to regulate their own volume?

My first instinct is to shout, in a slightly louder, deeper voice so that I can be heard over the racket of course, “Quiet! Use your inside voice!” But I hold back and take a moment to check my response and here’s why…

  • They are having fun; no-one is getting hurt and there is some incredible learning going on in amongst all this noise.
  • The response “Quiet! Use your inside voice!” is likely only to serve the purpose of distracting their game, causing them to loose their momentum.
  • What does “Use your inside voice!” even mean to a kid? They’re aged 2-6 not 26.

For a moment of instant peace, I approach their game and kneel down to their level, they quite quickly look over at me and the volume drops right off. I proceed to ask what they are playing. The older kids immediately, and calmly begin giving me the most incredible breakdown of how the game is going. The younger two adding in a comment or two when they get the chance.  I commend them on their creativity and calmly ask then if they can please try to speak in a quieter voice. When I move away, the make every effort to oblige to my request for volume control, and they are successful at least for a little while!

I have no doubt that I am going to need some long-term strategies in dealing with this volume though. A few suggestions I’ve come across:

  • Suggest they take the game outdoors if possible. At this point in time perhaps they just simply need to create some volume.
  • Kids Work in Chicago suggest avoiding the phrase ‘indoor voice’. Try instead ‘quiet/regular voice’. Its much easier to understand from a younger age.
  • Model the behaviour and volume you expect from them. Its totally going to send mixed messages if you are constantly raising your voice to get their attention. They’ll in turn repeat that behaviour with their peers.
  • Praise their volume self-regulation when they do a good job.

I’ve no doubt in about 10 year’s time (gasp!), with teenage boys, I’ll be missing the noisy conversation.

- Written by Stacey Wallis, mother to two busy young boys and owner of Inquisitive by Nature.


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