Dear Dr. Renee,
How do I get my daughter to use her ‘inside’ voice? I hate yelling at her, but sometimes that is the only way I can get her to hear me over her loudness.
You are not the first parent, and you won’t be the last, to tell me you have to raise your voice (yell/scream) to get your child to use her quiet voice. We all laugh because it is so ironic, but it is also very frustrating!
Before I get into tips and strategies to encourage your daughter to use her inside voice, I would recommend a visit to her pediatrician if you have not done so already. It is good to make sure she does not have any hearing issues. Occasionally when children are loud, they have wax build-up, difficulty hearing, or difficulty processing their voice volume. Most of the time, it is just a child learning to be aware of volume levels and how to control their own.
Try whispering, especially at breakfast, if you feel like the volume level is getting out of control. Ask someone to pass something or make a comment about the weather in your ‘whisper’ voice. You might need to talk for a few moments before your family even realizes you are speaking…
For these next few ideas, you will want to explain to your daughter what you are doing before you start. These can even be played as games. Try one a few times before introducing another one.
The Echo and Response Claps are popular teacher tools for getting students to listen in elementary schools.
Echo Clap: You clap a short pattern and then ask your daughter to repeat it. After you have played a few times, you can even switch roles and have your daughter clap a pattern that you repeat. The more often you play this one, the more challenging your pattern can be.
Response Clap: You clap the first part of a pattern and your daughter claps the second part. You need to teach her what it sounds like first and then you can play.
Turn the Volume Knob: Turn an invisible knob up and down and have your daughter speak/sing/yell accordingly (soft – – – loud). If you have a really young child, you could do this with a stereo knob or on your phone and play with the volume of the music you are listening to. Older children tend to understand this. You can just say “please turn down your volume” or even use your hand to twist their invisible volume knob to turn their voice down.
It is not always easy, but taking a deep breath before you respond to your daughter will help decrease your yelling. Playing some of the listening games above will help strengthen her self-awareness. And speaking softly to her, yes, even whispering on occasion, will help decrease her volume over time.