My patience has a bad habit of running razor thin every day from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. My kids have a lot of steam to burn off after a busy day and they do this in a very physical way—jumping on the furniture, screaming and yelling for the fun of it, and chasing each other around the house.
Related: The Real Reason Why Parents Yell at Their Kids
Their way of burning off steam is completely different than mine, which would involve quiet and peace.
Did I mention quiet?
If you’re wondering how to make kids listen when you’re on the verge of losing it, then the weird noise tip I’m about to share with you might be your solution.
A story for you.
Several months ago, my son developed an intense fear of the dark. He experiences terror and complete panic during the night. Heart racing. Shaking. Shrieking for help. To help him cope and still sleep in his own bed, he came up with two things he wanted to do:
- Use an essential oil diffuser in his room at night, which he refers to as “the purple light.”
- And a red night light. Read here why we chose red.
We were winding down for the night, and I was going through my kids’ bedtime routine using our printable routine cards, when my son ran off into his room.
I was in the middle of helping my daughter with a bath and kept an ear out for any weird noises because my son has a tendency to attempt ninja moves and jumps. Which is all fine and good until his falls on his face and there is blood everywhere.
So I’m listening and bathing.
And listening and bathing.
Then I heard it.
From his room my son yells, “Purple light. Purple light.” My brain immediately thinks he is scaling his tall dresser to reach the essential oil diffuser.
And now, I’m a little peeved because he already dropped and broke one diffuser before. If he breaks this one, he won’t have a purple light to sleep with and I know that won’t end well for any of us.
But I stopped myself.
My gut reaction desperately wanted to yell, “What are you doing in there?!” And “How many times do I have to tell you not to touch that?!”
Instead, I pull the drain plug from the bath, and calmly made a weird noise….
“I hear something in there!”
In the past, when I heard or saw something “going on,” I had this crazy tendency to jump right into reactionary and accusatory statements or questions like…
“What are you doing in there?!”
“How many times do I have to tell you not to touch that?!”
“I can’t believe you’re…”
“What did I just say?!”
And in doing so, I trained my son to have more reactionary responses, engage in more power struggles, and try to cover up what he was doing (even if it was nothing).
I mean, isn’t this the parenting story we’ve all seen and heard before?
Parent: What are you doing in there?!
Parent: “What did I just say?!”
Kid: (Does it again anyway).
When I started using Language of Listening, I learned to make a weird noise instead of jumping straight to conclusions. This also allowed me to let out some of my emotions and at least say something, while keeping the situation free of judgement.
Then I dove into the first step of Language of Listening – SAY WHAT YOU SEE, where you simply describe the situation as you see it without teaching, guidance, judgement or questions.
If you can’t see the situation, you can say…
“I hear noises in there!” Or “That was really loud!” You’re not yelling this, but definitely saying it loud enough so that your child can hear you and with a little confidence behind it.
Here’s the kicker.
I pulled my daughter out of the bathtub, and my son continued to repeat something about this “purple light.” I’m totally on the verge of losing it and I’m mumbling and chanting to myself.
Keep it together. Keep it together. Keep it together.
So instead of yelling, “How many times have I told you not to touch the diffuser?!” I said, “Sounds like you’re talking about the diffuser!”
That’s when I walked into his room while holding my sopping wet daughter and saw what was really going on…
There he was sitting on the window sill trying to show me the bright purple and orange sunset. Smiling from ear-to-ear, he turned his head from the window to look back at me.
Him: “There’s a purple light in the sky.”
Me: (smiling and feeling dumb)
Him: “It’s orange and purple…like a rainbow. It’s perfect.”
Me: “Wow. You found a beautiful purple light in the sky!”
And that’s when I knew.
When I took a moment to stop and wait before jumping to conclusions, I discovered that he was doing something fine all along. As time continued onward, I started to see that most of the time, he had really good intentions.
Like when he was scaling the pantry…he was attempting to get his sister a snack because she seemed hungry.
Or when he refused to get out of the car…he was trying to put the sun shade in the windshield so the car didn’t get hot.
Or when he wouldn’t let another kid play on the slide…it was all wet and he was worried they would slip.
While I’m not okay with him scaling the pantry, refusing to get out of the car, or bossing other kids at the playground, it was my approach that changed how I corrected his behavior. And this simple little shift, helped us avoid power struggles altogether.
Try it today.
Making a weird noise and then seeing his side of the story for a moment, allowed me to coach and guide his behavior rather than reacting abrasively with…”Why are you doing that?!”
Sometimes kids need coaching and guidance to make a better choice and understand boundaries. And other times, they had it right all along.
Print this free toddler listening checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with toddler listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 37,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on parenting?
- 9 Magical Phrases to Use When Dealing With a Strong Willed Child
- 2 Year Old Not Listening? Try This Remarkable Tip
- 4 Ridiculous Ways to End a Power Struggle or Tantrum
- The Tantrum Taming Tip Most Parents Don’t Know About
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with teaching your child to listen, this series will help transform your parenting. Yes, really. I've seen my proven strategies work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
After taking my free email series, you will:
- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
- Experience a stronger connection with your child
- Enjoy more peaceful parenting days
- Gain more cooperation from your child
Such a lovely article about the “purple light.” I am sure most moms can relate to this story. Thanks for sharing this advice.
I am struggling with my 5 yr old daughter right now. Her attitude has been pretty crappy lately, talking back, not listening, etc.. all leading to power struggles. It has been making me so sad as this is not her usual. This article is just what I needed to read. Not only did I gain tools to use with her, but more importantly tools to control myself from reacting negatively. Thank you!
Same mama!! Exact same feeling. Just what the doctor ordered for me. Hope your daughter is doing better!
Just want to say – I really needed to read this. I stumbled across this through another of your posts about getting your toddlers to listen. After only my third day of solo parenting after covid hit my husband I have been feeling like a terrible mother and my patience has definitely worn thin well before the 4-7pm block. This just made me feel better and also gave me a handful of new tricks to try with my daughter while it’s just the two of us. This noise trick will be great as I attempt to keep life in order and herself somewhat self reliant.
This is such an amazing article to read. However how do you go about when your child is actually doing what you thought they were doing, even when you’ve tried this method before