Efforts to quiet a noisy family starts with quieter parents

Q: I never would have guessed that our family could make up the nosiest house in the neighbourhood.

We never thought about it when we were living on the farm. No one was there to complain.

However, in town it is different. Everyone hears us, and many of those who hear us are starting to complain.

Obviously, something needs to happen. Somehow, we have to get things a lot quieter. But I am not sure how to go about this. How do you take a family that has laughed and chuckled and screamed and shouted all of these years and say, “hush now, the neighbours are upset.” This is going to be a bit of a challenge. Any ideas?

A: You are right about this much of it. It is going to be a challenge. But don’t get discouraged. You can do a lot to slice the turmoil thundering through your house and turn it into a dull roar. Much of it starts with you.

Years ago, psychologists told us that somewhere around 80 percent of what children learn, they learn from imitating their parents. To change the child, you need first to change the parent.

What is it they say about the apple falling not too far from the tree?

Don’t get me wrong. No one is saying that you are bad or evil or sinful. The point is that either you or your husband or both of you are pushing more decibels than you need when you are working with your children.

If you cut back your own noise level, it could have a direct effect on the tonal damage being inflicted by your children.

Don’t shout, “dinnertime,” for example. When the food is ready you can ring the soft chimes of a Zen Buddhist bell, play quest music, or take an extra moment and approach each of your children and invite them to join you.

Don’t forget that you are the greatest cook in the world. The kids want to join you to enjoy the feast. Yelling is not essential.

The next variable is the home environment into which you and your children have moved. Houses these days are loaded with electronics. Most homes have more than one computer, a couple of television sets, goodness knows how many tablets and cellphones. There are probably too many electronic gadgets. Many of our children are being over-stimulated and every time the stimulation goes up a notch, so does the noise of the child.

Turn things down. I used to settle my own home when the kids were being wild simply by turning off the TV and toning down the stereo. It worked like magic. Chances are that if you turn everything in your house either down or off the magic will be there for you too.

Finally, talk to your children. Did you know that few people listen to a noisy child? They hear the noise the child is trying to make but they do not hear the message the child is trying to deliver.

Kids want to be heard. They shout and scream and do everything that they can so that you will notice them. If you teach your children strategies in effective communication, they will learn that shouting and screaming is neither necessary nor useful.

Good conversation, on the other hand, will give them the recognition they want and deserve. You start this with a family meeting in which you say to your children, “let’s make things better around here. Let’s have a quieter house,” and go from there. Your children will have a ton of ideas to help you silence the trolls.

OK, let’s face it, this is a long-term project. Your household is not going to suddenly change over night. But as you and your husband patiently work toward a modicum of peace and quietness around the house, you will one day hit tranquility, and that should do it to those pesky neighbours.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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