Children are, well, children – which means sometimes they get excited and their voices hit new, ear-splitting decibels in the blink of an eye.
But what happens if your toddler is playing a little too loudly and relatives suddenly start to shush them? Is this acceptable? Or should they just let kids be kids and not have such high expectations?
Such is the case for one confused parent who recently shared on Mumsnet that her in-laws had started shushing her three-year-old son.
The mum explained that her son can be shy around new people and takes a while to warm up, but once he’s comfortable he can be “boisterous and often loud”.
She explained that whenever they’ve visited her husband’s family recently, his relatives have become annoyed with her toddler son, “shushing him and telling him to be quiet.”
“My husband spoke to his parents about it and they have said they would expect him to be able to sit and join in adult conversations and that it’s not acceptable for him to run around their house and shout,” she said.
Is it right to shush kids?
The mum asked fellow parents: “Is it normal to expect a 3.5 year old to sit through adult conversations and not to want to run around and play? Is it fair for us to expect his relations to try to engage with him and play with him rather than shushing him or should we be telling him off for being loud around them?”
Other parents seemed to think it depended on how loud her son is being in these instances. On the whole, most agreed it was pretty harsh to expect a young child to be quiet and have adult conversations.
“He’s 3. He cannot be expected to sit quietly and listen,” said one respondent.
“This would really piss me off (I have a 3 year old too), and I would just visit less,” said another.
But there were also a lot of parents who thought there was definitely a middle ground between a child having to sit quietly and listen to adult conversations and then running around and shouting loudly.
“It would be an unusual three-year-old who would sit and join in adult conversation in my experience so I think your PILs [parents in law] are being unrealistic here,” replied one person.
“However running around the house shouting doesn’t need to be the alternative. He is old enough to start to learn that there are places where that’s not appropriate, his grandparents’ house being one of them.”
One parent of a “naturally busy toddler” acknowledged it can be hard when kids get worked up and excited, but said “it isn’t okay in some situations for him to be charging about the house shouting because let’s face it, when we are all talking, it’s annoying.”
What to do?
Parents recommended for the mum to take lots of things to distract their child with, such as colouring books, puzzles or toys, when they’re at their grandparents so they don’t get bored.
They also advised taking the little one for a walk or trip to the park during visits to help expel some energy (and noise).
Another asked: “Do you have ‘inside voices’ and ‘outside voices’? Perhaps remind him he can use his ‘outside voice’ in a little while, but for now, ‘inside voices’ are better. Then redirect him with a puzzle or some other quiet activity.”
If a child tends to be quite loud regularly, Verywell Family recommends having regular chats with them about what level of noise is expected (or allowed) in various settings and with different people.
It also recommends modelling a quiet, calm voice yourself – including when disciplining your child – and repeatedly telling them to use their “inside voice” when inside. When they do this, it’s a good idea to praise them for it.
At the same time, it’s important to let kids shout and expel energy so let them have access to areas where they can do just that. As Verywell explains: “If your child knows they can safely get loud occasionally, they may not mind keeping quiet at other times quite as much.”