You know those parenting tricks you use all the time? Strategies you have up your sleeve that help you get through challenging moments in your day? Today I'm going to share with you one of my favorites.
During my first few years as a classroom teacher, there was something that I learned very quickly. When you get loud, kids get more loud. When you raise your voice, they raise theirs to be twice as loud as yours. And somehow, when you raise your voice, and kids raise theirs, their ability to listen and focus on your words cuts in half. (*made-up fact, but I swear it’s got to be true.) Your loud words are somehow not heard, despite their volume.
Learning this changed the way I speak to kids: when I’m feeling frustrated, disappointed, when I want to draw their attention to something exciting… Basically, this one revelation transformed the way that I interacted with my students and the way that I now interact with my children.
I’ve learned the power of a whisper.
Using a whisper voice is perhaps the most powerful but simple parenting strategy that I have, and I just know it will work wonders for you too.
Just this morning, Asher spilled an entire glass of water across the dining room table. My little scientist has been experimenting a lot with mixing his food and drink at the table, which has resulted in A LOT of spills. But I try really hard not to sweat the small stuff as a mommy, so when this happens, I calmly ask him to get a towel and clean up the spill. He does it with my help, we both happily declare “that was not a big deal at all!” and we move on.
Except this morning. We were in a rush, the spill was spreading all over the table and I asked him to get a towel. He ignored me. I asked him again. This time, he looked at me and said, “No. You can do it.” This is where the powerful whisper voice comes in.
I took a deep breath, kneeled so that my eyes were right at his level, put my arm on his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “I know that you don’t want to get a towel right now, but you made a mess and in our family, we clean up after our spills. Please get a towel and clean your mess. Right. Now.”
I immediately had his attention. He stopped playing with his cereal, looking at me with a bit of a confused look on his face. (Is she mad? Is she serious? Why is she whispering???) It was silent for a few seconds as he studied my face. I said, “Are you going to use that dish towel or are you going to get a rag under the sink?”
“A rag,” he said.
He got the rag, cleaned up his mess, and we moved on with our day. With no raised voices and no arguments.
I use my whisper voice when I am out in public with my kids or on a play date and need to address a misbehavior (hitting, throwing sand, etc.) I love that kneeling down and whispering into my children’s ears allows me to communicate with my kids without embarrassing them. It draws their attention to my words quickly, in an environment where a mom’s voice would otherwise just become part of the background noise. “You are having a hard time keeping the sand in the sand box. I’m worried that your friends are going to get sand in their eyes so I’m going to stand behind you for 2 minutes and watch you play safely with the sand,” I may kneel and whisper.
I use my whisper voice when it’s getting really loud in our home and I sense that things are getting a little out of control. I may get in the middle of the fray, whisper, “Do you guys know what I’m thinking?”, motion for them to come closer, and whisper, “I think it would be so fun to grab our science journal and have a scavenger hunt in the front yard. Who’s with me?” “ME!!” Ash will whisper back, tiptoeing after me.
Somehow, any idea, any redirection, seems to be pretty exciting to kids when it’s suggested with the whisper voice. I think it sounds secret, important, like an exclusive activity they’ve been invited to.
I use my whisper voice when I feel really frustrated as a parent. I’ve found that a quite whisper voice, in addition to a very serious face, is the best way to deescalate a situation in our home. I am able to communicate more clearly because whispering helps me stay calm, and in addition, my children hear more of what I am saying, instead of shutting down when faced with a yelling mom.
I know it sounds simple, but try it the next time you’re feeling stumped as a parent.
Kneel. Whisper. Place a hand on your child’s leg or shoulder. Speak calmly, slowly and deliberately.
If you try this trick and it works for you, let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about it! Know someone who you think would find this useful, click on the links below to share!