Q: My kids, 4 and 3, are very loud. They yell and run inside the house. They bang toys, get into loud conflicts, and my son likes to scare his little sister by growling like a dinosaur. I know most of this stuff is normal, but I’ve got a new baby on the way, and I’m worried that the baby isn’t going to be able to get enough rest during the day. Should I punish or just lighten up?
A: I don’t know if you need to lighten up or not, but you most definitely have the right to protect yourself — and baby-on-the-way — from aural assault. It is not unreasonable to expect children to play quietly. Fun and quiet are not incompatible.
Your kids are now old enough to understand the “three-strike rule.” They start the day with no strikes. When they get too loud, for whatever reason, they both get a strike, no matter who was the louder one or who started the situation. Just walk in to where they are and say, “That’s strike one,” and walk out. They’ll get it in no time.
When they get to three strikes, they spend one hour in their respective rooms. Use a timer to avoid dealing with “Can we come out now?” The slate is then wiped clean and they start over. If they get to three strikes twice in the same day, they spend the rest of the day in their respective rooms and go to bed early.
That’s a very systematic, yet simple way of dealing with this sort of problem. Done with dispassion and consistency, that strategy should have you saying “There is no place like home!” within a few weeks.
A psychologist, Rosemond answers questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.