Chalk, Tattle-Telling, and Volume Control

Having kids provides hours of entertainment.  HOURS.  Especially at the ages Bean and Gracie are right now.  Bean is four and he is awesome at it.  He asks questions around the clock these days.  He wants to know how everything works, why we do anything, where we are going, who’s going to be there, what everything is…  If there is a question to be asked, Bean is going to ask it.  And while it drives me completely insane sometimes, (seriously, I think this age might be more frustrating than the terrible two’s…) I have to stop and remind myself that he is simply learning and this is how four-year-olds learn.

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Also, in the four-year-old phase is this insane sense of justice.  Bean wants to point out every chance he gets whenever he has been wronged.  I think that’s the part of this age that irritates me the most.  It is constant tattle-telling.  Which leads to constant bickering between Bean and Gracie.  I was trying to referee every issue they had, but I quickly figured out that a) there are not enough hours in the day if I need to get anything else done at all and b) it’s actually healthier for them if I let them work through some of the bickering.  Now, I only step in when it is something that breaks a house rule or if it escalates before they can resolve the problem.  But the little “he took this/she touched my toy/it’s my turn” bickering, I’m letting them work through for the most part.  And in doing that, I’m realizing that sometimes they SOUND like they are angry, but really that’s just them learning how to use tone.  If I say something like, “Hey, you guys need to be talking nicer, please,” they’ll instantly stop the yelling and finish their argument in much more reasonable voices on their own.  I think as long as Chris and I are continuing to guide them through how to communicate when you’re disagreeing, they are really going to learn a lot about communicating from each other.

The root of 99% of the tattle-telling and bickering that Bean is doing right now is because, while he is four, Gracie is a rip-roarin’ two year old.  We’ve thankfully curbed a lot of the temper tantrums and meltdowns, but Gracie will be Gracie, and she loves nothing more than destroying the world her brother creates.

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Take Friday afternoon, for example.  It was gorgeous outside, so I sat in the driveway with them after school while we waited for Chris to get home.  They had popsicles, sidewalk chalk, and bikes, and life was grand.  Bean is learning his “at” words at school (cat, bat, rat, sat, pat…), and so he spend about ten painstaking minutes carefully writing each of them out on the sidewalk.  Then he started writing his sight words, too (the, it, as, a, for…).  Which took another ten or fifteen minutes.  By the time he was done, his half of the driveway was a perfect list of every word he knew.  The entire time he was working, Gracie was sitting in her chair next to me, eating a popsicle and carefully watching everything Bean did.  The very minute he stood up and said, “I’M FINISHED!” Gracie jumped up, grabbed a red piece of chalk, and with guerrilla-like warfare skills, she ran over to his list of words and drew a giant red line across about six of them.

Bean, of course, melted down.  “GRACIE RUINED MY WORDS!”

And Gracie ran around the driveway laughing, until she found herself in time out.  But even that didn’t really bother her.  She just laughed hysterically from time out.

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This tactic of “hit and run to ruin Bean’s neatly ordered world” has become Gracie’s favorite past time.  And, I’ll admit, it gives Chris and me a good laugh after the kids have gone to bed.  It’s just so funny because at two-years-old, she knows just how to push his buttons.  Nothing makes him more upset than to have his little world shaken and stirred.  And Gracie knows that.

While this all would seem like the two of them are constantly at odds, it is amazing to me how much they love to play together, despite everything that drives them crazy about the other.  The absolute worse punishment I can give right now is to tell them they can’t play together.  We try not to use that one too often, but every now and then for our sanity and the sake of our eardrums, it has to be done.

Speaking of eardrums, the volume at our house right now is OUT OF CONTROL.  Bean’s default volume is yelling.  No clue why.  He’ll be telling us about his day, but he’ll be yelling at us the entire time, “I PLAYED ON THE PLAYGROUND WITH JOHN!  HE CHASED ME AND THEN I FELL DOWN!  BUT I GOT UP AND THEN I CHASED HIM!  IT WAS SO FUN, MOM!”   And it’s kind of like when the radio in your car is too loud, but you don’t notice until you turn the car off.  In the silence, you’re like, “Goodness, that was LOUD!”  It’s like that with Bean.  I don’t notice until I DO notice, and by then it’s too late.

Because I’m already deaf.

Is the volume an issue for anyone else with toddlers and preschoolers?  Or is that just us?  It is something you try to get under control, or is that just life with kids?

Help me, Imaginary Friends.  Save my eardrums.

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18 thoughts on “Chalk, Tattle-Telling, and Volume Control

  1. My mom has ALWAYS said that I’ve had an issue with volume control since I was a kid! Now I’m a teacher and that loud voice comes in handy, so maybe Bean will be following in your footsteps 🙂

  2. My MIL and husband have this problem. They are not 4 years old but they are loud talk-over-each-other people. My husband has a loud, projecting voice and I constantly remind him to bring down the decibel level just a little. I try to tell him that in a whisper. It seems like when you whisper or talk very softly, people mirror you because then they have to pay attention to you. Sometimes, I tell my MIL that I need 10 seconds of silence… This does not always work…

  3. Lindsey

    I like reading these posts of yours because it helps me to realize my kids aren’t completely insane. They are the same ages as yours and my 2 year old is JUST like Gracie, and my 4 year old is JUST like Bean. I have no advice for you. Carry on!

  4. Oh! We just had a session with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst about this! You’re supposed to drop your voice to a whisper. Kids can’t hear you if they’re shouting so a) they’ll stop shouting to hear what you have to say and b) follow suit with the vocal tone that you’re setting, even if it’s just knocking the decibel level down a notch or two. See if this one works on neurotypical kids! 🙂

    1. Kat

      wow this is great advice!

  5. Laura

    I read in some parenting book that if an adult asked as many questions as a 4 year old, they’d be offered a research grant for some important science project.

  6. after working with preschoolers for a while, i found that learning/understand tone of voice, volume, etc. was still a skill that had to be developed.

    p.s. love how you described bean as being “awesome at being 4 years old”. super cute

  7. Kim

    Whispering to them DOES help when they’re being loud. As our megaphone-speaking child got older and it continued, we used a 5 point scale to define volume for him. 5 was a 911 emergency yell, 0 was quiet, 1 a whisper, etc. It helped to give clear parameters! Good luck! (From another deaf mom)

  8. Casey

    My girls are really into the tattling and one uping each other. Drives me nuts! And we have a total noise problem in our house too. My girls are 6, 4, and 16 months so it’s complete chaos and by the end of the day my brain is mush and my ears are ringing. That being said, my father and brother are both naturally loud talkers and my husband says that I am as well, so in my case it might be a family thing. I try to soak it in because one day they may not want to tell me every little detail at a volume level that rivals only that of jet noise!

  9. My son yells, too, but only I think it’s yelling. I keep telling him our house is not big enough for how loud he’s being, but I don’t think he gets it. Maybe he’s making himself go deaf?

  10. Ha, yeah you are in for a long haul with that little girl. Poor Bean 🙂

  11. Nikki

    My 9 month old loves to scream. All of the time. Rather he’s happy, mad or just hanging out, he’s screaming. My Husband was apparently the same, and ended up being an amazing singer, so Im crossing my fingers that B will follow in his daddy’s footsteps so he can also get college scholarships : )

  12. Grandma Barnes

    Gracie is doing to Bean what Ginny did to you. After you had everything
    laid out in perfect order.. . . along came Ginny. Yep, just like Gracie.
    I can hearing you yelling still.
    (Grandma)

  13. I’ve got 2 boys- 3 and 5 and they act the same as Bean and Gracie and also have serious volume control issues! Matter of fact tonight dinner was a silent one, so I could think straight and so they would eat… It was marvelous!

  14. Long story short: Bean and Gracie sound identical to the way my younger brother and I were (we’re 16 months apart). I was Bean, he was Gracie. One thing that I remember my mom doing was pulling me aside and telling me that my brother was playing a game with me, to see if he could get me mad. She suggested we play a game with him and not let him see that it bothered me. So when he stole my Cabbage Patch doll and ran around the house with her, taunting me to chase him, I was supposed to find something else to do and pretend I didn’t care. Eventually my brother would get bored, and by then I’d be distracted by another game. Didn’t work every time, of course, but the times it did I think my mom probably considered herself pure genius!

  15. “where she continued to laugh hysterically from time to time”……..Gracie could be my child, God help her. I just love her!!!!!! But I do understand how horrible it is for you now. Bean just needs to catch on that if he stops reacting, all her work will be for nothing. Much as I hate to ruin all her fun, Bean has the power. Believe it.

  16. Kat

    I can’t wait till our girls are old enough to actually play together.

    But funny enough, our neighbor boys who were 3 and 5 when this happened last summer had the exact same thing happen. I gave them chalk to play with and the 5 year old went around and wrote his name, his mom’s name, his brother’s name, and everyone else he knew how to write all over. And when he was finished, he proudly beamed at me and P (who was 18 months and watching intently). Just then his brother grabbed a piece of chalk and crossed out every single word. why do they do that?

  17. Morgan

    Good news for you!

    My mom used to tell my little sister and I that we had to work out 99% of our issues on our own she would literally almost never step in. She would say “one day all you will have left is eachother you need to get along”.

    She was so right. Today, my sister and I have a bond that’s stronger than some twins have. And we always have eachothers backs.

    My parents later divorced and often have dating dramas and emotional times of their own and my sister and I take care of them. In so many ways we have become the parents and we do a beautiful job of it, because we’ve been planning on a life of only having eachother our whole lives.

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