Like last week’s rule to use walking feet, this week’s rule to use inside voices may not seem like an essential rule for kids to have.
How important is it—really—for kids to remember to use quiet voices when they’re inside? Well, take a moment to think about how many times you’ve been embarrassed by someone who was talking too loudly in a location where it wasn’t appropriate. Or how many times you’ve been at a social gathering and desperately tried to get away from someone who was being too loud and obnoxious for the setting.
Scenarios in which we are grateful for people who understand the rule to use appropriate voices for the setting actually happen on a regular basis. We just don’t realize how grateful we are for people who follow these rules, because we get used to it being the norm.
But as soon as someone breaks this rule, we know about it, and we’re embarrassed about it. We’re either embarrassed to be the one with that person, or we feel pity—or maybe a little bit of judgement—for the people who are associated with that person.
Think about these real life examples:
You walk in a few minutes late to church on Sunday morning and as you’re walking through the aisle trying to find a place to sit, your son screams out at the top of his lungs, “Mom! I gotta poop!”
If this scenario happened to you, would you be more embarrassed if it happened at church, or on the playground? There’s a huge difference between the two and while most people might be embarrassed by both—because somehow as adults we become embarrassed about talking about poop, even though everybody has to poop sometimes!—we are less likely to be embarrassed by this statement on the playground than in the quiet intimate location of church.
You are with your grandpa at the movie theater when he shouts out, “What did he say?”
Let’s face it…even if we know that grandpa is shouting and asking questions at the movie theater because he can’t hear as well as he used to, that doesn’t change the amount of embarrassment we feel for being associated with him. When everyone in the movie theater is giving you the stink eye and repeatedly stating, “Sssshhhhh!” because grandpa’s questions just happen to come at the most important points in the movie, his failing hearing doesn’t make you feel much better.
While out to dinner with friends at a quiet restaurant, one of your friends gets excited about a story she is telling and her voice booms loudly as she laughs, claps and smacks others on the back.
If you are one of the tables of people enjoying a quiet, intimate dinner with friends, family or your spouse, are you happy that this woman is shouting and laughing, disrupting your ambiance? I’m usually not, and from my experience when I’ve been at the disruptive table (much to my chagrin), most people are not.
Regardless of the reason, we feel more comfortable when people follow the social rules to use inside voices, and use whispering voices in special, quiet locations.
Be sure to include a rule that helps children to understand when it’s appropriate to use inside voices versus outside voices and when it’s acceptable to whisper versus talk.
Add this rule to your rules list and discuss the importance of why this rule has been set into place. Talk about how others feel when we talk loudly at the movie theater, how the librarian feels when we talk loudly at the library and how the Sunday School Choir feels when we talk loudly during their performance to help link a child’s understanding of when and where to use these voices with the feelings of others, not the threat of an unrelated consequence.
Prepare children ahead of time, so that they know what kind of voice to be expected to use when they arrive at their location. Provide role plays if necessary to help practice what is acceptable and unacceptable. And definitely talk about what they can expect to be their consequence if they aren’t able to use the appropriate voice when they get there.
When the rule is broken, offer natural consequences for the behavior, like missing out on fun activities in quiet places like leaving story time at the library early or leaving the restaurant, instead of offering consequences not related to the incident like taking away iPad time when you get home or giving a time out when you get home.
Remember that the most important reason for these must-have rules for kids is that they help to teach children how the world works and how they’re supposed to act in the world. Talking about these 4 rules often—preventatively, in-the-moment, and after consequences have been implemented—will help kids to better understand these rules and why they are important for life. It doesn’t guarantee strict compliance with all of these rules because all kids are different and have different personalities that affect how they respond to rules, but talking about them at least helps all kids to better understand the rules and in some way apply them to their own lives.
Did you miss the first three posts in this four-part series? Catch up now by reading about the first 3 rules in The 4 Must-Have Rules for Kids series:
3. Use Walking Feet!, and
4. Inside Voices!