Dr Richard C. Woolfson
You used to worry that he didn’t speak a word. Now, your child is such a chatterbox that you find it difficult to get him to hush up in quiet places like a library, a fine-dining restaurant or a plane. He just talks too loudly all the time. What can you do?
1. Have a positive approach To make sure he doesn’t interpret your comments about voice tone negatively, give him regular reminders that you’re delighted with the way he chats about everything in his life. It’s important that he understands you value and appreciate his speech skills, and that you enjoy listening to him.
2. Explain etiquette rules At this age, he probably hasn’t thought much about the way people speak in different tones and volume or loudness. So, explain to him, for example, that he shouldn’t shout when he’s at a restaurant because that could spoil the enjoyment of other diners.
3. Practise at home To help him get into the habit of moderating his voice tone and volume depending on where he is, practise this in pretend-play at home. For instance, you could act as though you’re having a chat at a library and should, therefore, talk more quietly than normal. Keep this fun. Do it regularly and often, until you think he understands, and he’ll soon start to be more aware of his surroundings.
4. Remind him in advance Don’t expect your child to remember everything you have told him about talking more quietly in public places. So, prompt him in advance. For example, just before you leave the house for a meal at a restaurant, refresh his memory about what you’ve said earlier. Then get him to explain it back to you. Lastly, be ready to give your child a further reminder just as you arrive at your destination.
5. Point out the context For example, in his excitement about attending a church service or sitting beside you on a plane, he might become oblivious to those around him. Despite all your training, advance warning and recent reminders, the thrill of the occasion might start him talking loudly. Gently point out that he should talk in a quiet voice, just like how you’ve practised at home.
6. Set a good example yourself You can’t reasonably expect your preschooler to adjust his volume according to context if he hears you talking loudly to your friend at the library. He models himself on you, so you need to set a good example. And if he doesn’t notice how you have lowered your voice, point out that you’re talking quietly because you’re at a library, and that this is how you want him to speak, too.
7. Praise his sensitivity The time will eventually come when your child actually speaks appropriately. Let him know that you’re pleased he spoke so quietly without disturbing those around him. Give him a big cuddle or a thumbs up. That reinforces his behaviour, makes him feel proud and ensures that he will do the same the next time.