Twelve Words That Have Changed My Family For The Better. Maybe They Can Change Yours Too.

“Dinner time,” I hollered from the bottom of the stairs up to the second floor of our home where our daughter was doing homework in her room.

No response.

“Dinner time!” (A little louder this time.)

“What?” she hollered back.  “I can’t hear you!”

Well then, why don’t you get up and come to the landing where you can READ MY LIPS?!?” I thought to myself as I stewed at the bottom of the stairs.

But instead of practicing what I was preaching and climbing the stairs myself, I hollered again.  Well…truth be told…this time, it was an all-out scream.

“DINNER TIME!”  I shouted.  (A hint of “Ursula” coming through in the texture of my voice.)

To which she responded as she bounded down the stairs, “Mom, you don’t need to SCREAM at me! I said I couldn’t hear you!!!!”

Now that’s a way to start family mealtime.

Am I the only one who lives in a house where the decibel level could break glass before we start arguing?

We’re a loud bunch.  All the time.

Usually, though, we aren’t yelling at each other.  We’re yelling to each other.  From opposite ends of our house to get someone’s attention.  It’s just the way God made us.  A bunch of high-energy extroverts whose “inside voices” are more consistent with other people’s yells.  And try though I might over the years (and despite reading countless blog posts with tips for how to stop yelling), I haven’t seemed to break loose of the “yelling” habit.  And now I’ve passed it onto my kids.

But that all changed three weeks ago.

Kory and I are facilitating a parenting class with 15 young couples at our church called Parenting From the Tree of Life.  It’s the newest series from Growing Families International, a ministry that has helped shape and form who we are as a family.  Three weeks ago, our lesson focused on the issue of common courtesies.

Though most of the material is extremely familiar to us because it stems from the same philosophy as other classes we’ve taken, this little gem for teaching the courtesy of using the “inside voice” was new to me:

Your voice doesn’t enter the room until your legs carry you there.

When we heard this teaching tool presented on the video, Kory and I looked at each other.  And we knew.  We were in the presence of brilliance, and we had to try this at home.

So we went home and explained this new “house rule” to our kids over dinner.  They seemed to understand.  But as soon as we left the kitchen table, they began shouting at each other from different places in the house all over again.

Habits are so hard to break.

I didn’t let them suck me in though.  Instead, I walked to where they were, and in my most quiet inside whisper, I re-stated the rule:

Your voice doesn’t enter the room until your legs carry you there.

“Oops.  We’re sorry Mom.  We forgot.”

Over the span of about two days, though, we managed to ease this new rule into full effect.  And on day three, we reveled in the peace and calm that comes when the shouting ceases.  It’s completely changed the dynamic in our home.

In addition to simply lowering the volume, I’ve noticed four benefits from implementing this new rule:

My steps have increased.

I don’t have a FitBit, but if I did, I could say with certainty that my steps have increased because of this new rule.  Instead of standing where I am and yelling at the top of my lungs when I need something from one of the members of my family, I’m walking to them.  This often includes a journey up the stairs.  It’s not monumental exercise, but the FitBit knows every step counts, so I’ll take them.

Communication has improved.

It’s not news to me that face-to-face communication is the most effective method for communicating.  And I think there’s three reasons why.  Eye contactBody languageAnd inflection.  If I’m yelling at my kids from the bottom of the stairs, I can never be certain they’re listening to what I’m saying or understanding the message I’m trying to communicate.  But when I’m standing in their presence, I can require eye contact.  I can observe their body language, and they can observe mine.  And I can use my inflection for emphasis instead of volume.  As a result, I’ve noticed that my kids are more likely to respond to my words with first time obedience if I’m standing in their presence.  Of course, if I can get them to come to me without shouting, then I’ll do that because they need to practice the discipline of coming to me when they’re called.  But if we’re on opposite ends of the house, and I need to speak to them, then it’s my turn to do the walking.

Conflict has decreased.

Sometimes I take a shout at me from across the house for exactly what it is.  High volume to get my attention.  Other times, though, I take it as much more than that, and it can be the beginning of a conflict with the person doing the shouting.  It all depends on my mood, I suppose.  I’m certain this is true of other members in my family as well.  Take my daughter, for example, who was exasperated at me for screaming up the stairs to her.  All I was doing was trying to get her attention, but she was clearly frustrated for the fact that I was “screaming at her.”  By using our “inside voices,” though, this aspect of miscommunication has been altogether eliminated, thus decreasing the number of conflicts in any given day.

Unavoidable conflict is occurring at a lower volume.

Just like anything else we’re exposed to often, we can become desensitized to high noise levels.  If we live near a heavily traveled roadway, overtime, we stop hearing the cars.  If our ceiling fan buzzes while we sleep, we get used to it (and many would say they can’t sleep without it).  And if we’re constantly shouting, shouting becomes normal.  As a result, when there is conflict, shouting turns into screaming, and screaming does not resolve conflict effectively.  Since we implemented this new courtesy, though, I’ve noticed that conflicts are occurring at a much lower volume in our home.  This is a good thing.

So what about you?  Does your family struggle with yelling?  If so, consider implementing this rule of courtesy in your home, and see if it makes a difference for your family.  I think you’ll be surprised that such a simple rule can have such a great impact.  Because after ten years of hollering at each other as our go-to method for communicating, we managed to break the habit in a few days’ time.  It’s certainly worth a shot.

Have a great day! (In my most enthusiastic “inside voice.”) 

3 thoughts on “Twelve Words That Have Changed My Family For The Better. Maybe They Can Change Yours Too.

  1. We’ve been working on this too, especially getting closer to each other when speaking. Now that the quads are highly verbal and opinionated it seems that someone is always trying to get attention or make a point. They are little do we are trying to curb habits before they start. We are working a lot on manners and gratitude with them too, toddlers tend to demand things and that’s no acceptable.

    • It’s always nice to spot something on the front end and get it right the first time! Good habits are just as easy to create as bad ones, so it’s great that you’re “on this,” and teaching them about acceptable noise levels this early. Especially with four of them running around! You will be so glad that you took control of this at such young ages. You should also consider implementing the “interrupt rule.” They are old enough for you to begin teaching this, though it may not stick for a while. Have we talked about this tool?

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