Teaching toddlers about indoor voices

The only thing worse than hearing an excruciatingly loud noise is realizing that your own child is the source of it! By now you know that Baby is more than capable of breaking the sound barrier, and he doesn’t hesitate to do it on a regular basis. As Baby gets older, his lungs are only going to get stronger, and before he gets too set in his ways, it might be time to start teaching Baby the best ways to use his voice, both indoors and out.

Why oh why do toddlers scream? 

To torture their parents, of course! Just kidding. Think about it this way: if you just realized that you could make loud and exciting noises, wouldn’t you want to do it as often as possible? Besides how fun it is to be loud, raising the volume of his voice is an easy way for Baby to get attention, and it allows him to release any extra tension he might feel from being unable to verbalize his frustrations.

And don’t forget, Baby doesn’t really realize the havoc he is wreaking on your – and everyone else’s – eardrums. He doesn’t yet have the life experience to understand what volume is, and so doesn’t consider it rude.

Toddlers and indoor voices 

At first, it might be a bit difficult to convince Baby to turn things down a notch. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, though – Baby will get the hang of softer tones eventually. Here are some ways that you can teach him how to use his voice appropriately.
  • Prepare Baby before leaving the house: It could be helpful to let Baby know beforehand that he will need to use a quiet voice when you get to your destination. It’s easy for Baby to forget how to behave in certain settings, and it’s not guaranteed to prevent against loudness, but a little preparation can go a long way.
  • Keep quiet(er): Speaking loudly right back at Baby will only encourage him to go one volume notch higher! You’ll be tempted to match Baby’s volume, but it’s actually in your best interest to lower your voice to a quiet whisper. Baby will probably match your tone, or at the very least, you’ll get his attention.
  • Play hard-to-get: If the matter isn’t super critical, or you have a little time to solve things, gently tell Baby }} that you can’t hear him until he uses the ‘right’ voice. Make sure you help by guiding him to the appropriate volume. This can be time-consuming, but in the long run, it can be a helpful lesson for Baby.
  • Play the empathy card: Politely let Baby know that it hurts your ears or bothers you when he shouts indoors, and that you wish he would speak a little more quietly. Okay, so sometimes when toddlers are loud they’re just letting off steam. But if Baby is very loudly making a request, it can’t hurt to remind him that the same request could be made in a softer voice.
  • Congratulate Baby when he speaks at an appropriate volume: Why not let Baby know when he is already doing a good job? It feels amazing to be praised for doing a good job, so pass some of that sunshine on to Baby when he least expects it.

Indoor voices vs. little voices

Here’s a slightly radical idea: instead of saying indoor and outdoor voices, use the terms ‘little voice’ and ‘big voice’ to describe different speaking volumes that you want Baby to use, instead of where you want him to use it. This might make a little more sense to Baby and could help him scream a little bit less when the two of you are outside.

Depending on Baby’s personality, you may have to deal with some screaming before he gets a good sense of volume control. But eventually, with some preparation and work, the day will come when Baby knows when to be loud and when to be – well, a little less loud.

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