Big Questions: How Do I Turn Down the Volume?
My two and a half-year-old son has never been a screamer or cryer per se. However, recently he has started yelling at me at the top of his lungs! Sometimes it is a simple request, at other times it is to voice a complaint. It’s a bit maddening and the more I ask him to stop, the louder he becomes. How do I get him to turn down the volume?
Children his age are discovering their strengths; whether it is their strong legs to climb, run, and jump with, their strong arms to throw balls or their vocal cords to raise the volume of their voice. And like all discoveries, there is delight and novelty built in. In the case of discovering one's voice and all of its power, there is the added attention that one gets from shouting and yelling. Not necessarily positive attention, but anyone who has spent time with a toddler knows, they are curious about any kind of attention they can garner and this particular dynamic will be no exception.
First of all, try to step back and see if there is a pattern to when this is occurring. Does fatigue, hunger or boredom play a role? If so, start by tackling those issues.
Secondly, make sure your son knows the difference between what we will call an “indoor voice” and an “outdoor voice.” That can be demonstrated with you modeling the difference and doing fun things like helping your child identify animal sounds - quiet and loud - from a favorite story. The refrain, “shout hooray” from the song “If you’re happy and you know it” helps illustrate the loud volume. When I was teaching, I always taught my students how to give a silent cheer- mouthing a scream with no sound and shaking one’s fists - which they loved doing. Sensitizing your child to differences in volume when they aren’t actually engaged in yelling is a good start.
Lastly, I suggest having some diversionary toys and activities nearby when things start to get out of hand. Toddlers are often not rational and do not always respond to a polite ask to stop the annoying action. Sometimes you just have to change the subject. Most young children can be distracted with a favorite book, some play dough or an opportunity for water play. A chair at the kitchen sink with some plastic cups, a funnel, and a spoon can really help turn down the volume.