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 she doesn’t hesitate to do it on a regular basis. As Baby gets older, her lungs are only going to get stronger, and before she gets too set in her ways, it might be time to start teaching Baby the best ways to use her 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 her voice is an easy way for Baby to get attention, and it allows her to release any extra tension she might feel from being unable to verbalize her frustrations.

And don’t forget, Baby doesn’t really realize the havoc she is wreaking on your – and everyone else’s – eardrums. She 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 her how to use her voice appropriately.
  • Prepare Baby before leaving the house: It could be helpful to let Baby know beforehand that she 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 her 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 her 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 her until she uses the ‘right’ voice. Make sure you help by guiding her 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 she shouts indoors, and that you wish she 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 her that the same request could be made in a softer voice.
  • Congratulate Baby when she speaks at an appropriate volume: Why not let Baby know when she 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 she 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 her to use it. This might make a little more sense to Baby and could help her 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 she 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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