I have to tell you a secret about this post. It should be written by my husband because he found a really awesome way to get our kids to stop screaming at each other and listen. I mean, I took his idea, ran with it and tweaked it a bit, but it was still his initial idea! It’s a brilliant trick to get toddlers (and older children) to stop whatever noise they’re making, and listen.
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Let me explain a little bit. Our twin two-year-olds, Josie and Margo, are spirited, independent, stubborn, and LOUD. They are also darling, precious, sweet little girls, but they are still very loud. They like to yell at each other over the most ridiculous things. For example, when we get home and pull into the driveway, they like to fight over whether or not we are “home” or “here.” I’m talking screaming at the top of their lungs “WE’RE HOME!!!” “NO, WE’RE HERE!!!”
Another one of their favorite things to fight about is colors. One will claim that blue is their favorite color and the other will insist that no blue is THEIR favorite color. Theo will then chime in, yelling at them: “Josie and Margo, you can both have blue as a favorite color!!!!!” It’s quite pleasant. Sarcasm.
When things escalate like that, it is impossible not to raise your voice. They are so loud that they won’t hear you if you speak in a regular voice. And when you add Theo to the mix (he likes to join in the yelling sometimes as well just for fun), the volume is out of control.
Screaming at Our Children to Stop Screaming
What happens is we end up shouting to be heard. I’m sure every parent has been there. “YOU NEED TO STOP SCREAMING!” only to feel like a total hypocrite because you’re screaming at your children to stop screaming.
Ben also has told me that he thinks our girls don’t understand when we speak to them because they ignore us so frequently. They definitely understand us, they are just very smart and choose to ignore us.
Our Trick to Get Our Children to Stop Screaming
So, one day, when our sweet toddler twins were going at it, he told them to close their mouths. He didn’t tell them to stop fighting our quiet down… he literally told them to close their mouths. And you know what? They listened. He proceeded to have a mini lesson with them about how sometimes they need to just close their mouths. He made a big deal out if it and put his finger to his lips for a visual cue.
I mean, it’s really genius, ESPECIALLY for younger toddlers. What does “be quiet” even mean to an 18-month-old? It’s much easier for them to understand “close your mouth” than “be quiet.”
Struggling with your repeated behavior problems? This post is for you –> How to Correct Your Child’s Behavior With Behavior Bootcamp
Our Calm Down Method
Sometimes I do have to raise my voice and tell them to close their mouths because they’re making so much noise. Other times, I can just put my finger on my mouth and the imitate me. Once they have closed their mouths, I tell them to do the following:
- Take a big breath to calm down
- Sit your bottoms on the floor
- Fold your hands
- Eyes are looking at mommy
- Ears are listening to mommy
Once they’re following all of the instructions, we have a little talk. This doesn’t mean that they’re in trouble, just that I need their attention. Sometimes I will do this even if they’re just being silly and I need to get them to refocus on something.
This book –> Calm Down Time <– is a fantastic book for teaching toddlers how to calm down by taking big breaths. We’ve read it to all 3 kids and it’s been amazing.
Is It Mean to Tell Our Children to Close Their Mouths?
I know many of you are probably all *gasp!* They tell their children to shut their mouths! No. We never tell them to shut their mouths, we tell them to close their mouths. I feel like there’s a huge difference. The other thing we are very cognizant of is our tone. I make sure that my tone is always cheerful, even if I’m having to raise my voice in order to be heard.
I think I could tell my kids to calm down in a stern voice and it would sound fine. Telling them to close their mouths in a stern voice just doesn’t feel right. However, there is nothing wrong with telling them to close their mouths in a calm and controlled voice.
Read my tips for staying in control and overcoming angry mom moments <– here.
Focus on What to Do Rather Than What NOT to Do
It’s much easier for children, especially toddlers, to focus on doing something rather than stop doing something. When I taught in the classroom, we would tell the children to “catch a bubble.” The children would respond be filling their cheeks with air. It worked brilliantly! It’s the same concept with telling them to close their mouths. I do think the concept of catching a bubble is a bit tricky for a toddler to grasp, so we are sticking with telling them to close their mouths for now. When they’re older, we might switch to telling them to catch a bubble.
Not only does this method get our children to stop shouting, but it is also teaching them self-control. Our calm down method goes through different senses of their bodies to get them to focus 100%. I want my children to understand that they have the ability to calm down and teach them the skills to be in control of their behavior.
My friend Emily has a fantastic post on teaching her children self-control. You can read it –> here.
Have Them Practice Closing Their Mouths
If you want to try this with your children, It will probably take some practice and here’s how I would suggest practicing. In a time of non-conflict, have them close their mouth. Do it in a sort of ‘Simon says’ way. “Rub your belly! Close your mouth! Touch your toes!” It is important to make them touch their mouth as they’re closing it.
Once they know what to do, you can use it when you need to.
I will reward or give consequences if they don’t listen. A great example is at mealtime. When they are done eating, Josie and Margo will scream that they each want to get down first. It sounds like this “I’M FIRST!” “NO I’M FIRST!!” over and over and over at volume 5000. I tell them to close their mouths, and whoever does it first, gets down first. It’s the perfect reward for the child who listened and consequence for the child who didn’t. If they both do it at the same time, I let them get down at the same time.
I’m not naive enough to believe that this method will work for everyone. It will also take some work, but it is 100% worth it for your children to learn self-control and stop the screaming!
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