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Why Is Our House SO Loud?

Photograph by Getty Images

If there’s one thing I say more than anything else, it’s “Shhhh!” (“Don’t hit your sister,” comes in at a close second.) We are a loud, in-your-face bunch. The dogs bark. The kids yell. My husband (a hearty Italian from New York) is a natural storyteller who talks big and gesticulates even bigger.

When I made the decision to be a work-from-home mom, one of the challenges I forgot to factor in was the fact that I’d be working alongside that family. It’s taken some time, but I’ve actually gotten pretty good at blocking out the distractions and getting down to business when a deadline is approaching. Coffee helps. So do headphones.

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Even still, I feel like all I do is shush my kids. The problem has only gotten worse since making the move from Los Angeles to Florida. We’re temporarily staying with my parents until our new place is ready next month. In the meantime, my mother also works from home as a reservation agent for a major airline. The fear of one of her passengers making a noise complaint has turned me into the quiet police. At one point, my dad legitimately suggested electric collars for the dogs.

This has naturally accelerated the hunt for our own place. Of course this comes with its own challenges. When I called a guy about renting a condo I was interested in, the first thing he asked was, “How loud is your family? If the dogs bark and the kids make a racket, it’s gonna' be a problem.”

My reaction? I lied through my teeth, painting the picture of a quiet, serene family who enjoy needlepoint and early bedtimes. My heart stopped for a second when he asked to meet the dogs to judge for himself. But he was no match for me in my quest for housing. I had some leftover tranquilizers from our recent cross-country flight, so—and it's mortifying to admit this—I drugged the pups when we brought them to the walk-through of the condo. Maggie (my overweight, old lady of a dog) waddled around the place in beautiful, quiet contentment. The other one settled in for a nap on the carpet. Not a peep. It was glorious.

Perhaps, like the rest of us, they just want to be heard.

Even with that epic subterfuge, we ended up passing on the place, mainly because I couldn’t handle the stress of having to tiptoe around my own home. Plus, the thought of my children feeling constantly hampered was enough to scare me off. Shouldn’t I be encouraging them to be themselves? If that comes with some noise, is that really such a bad thing? Why am I always shushing them the way that I do?

To get some answers, I turned to Dr. Stephanie Mihalas, a licensed psychologist who works with kids and families at The Center for Well-Being in Los Angeles.

“Kids at this age are pretty jubilant and excitable, and being loud is often just a way that they express themselves,” said Mihalas. “They actually don’t have that internal working model telling them what’s too loud and what’s not.”

When young children get excited, Mihalas says that their brains only become more stimulated. The skill of slowing down their bodies and self-regulating is something that’s still developing.

“Kids actually have to learn how to self-regulate,” she said. “It doesn’t come naturally and sometimes adults take that for granted.”

In other words, it’s totally normal. She advised that if I want to help my girls learn to quiet down, positive parent feedback will likely do the trick. This includes encouraging the use of “inside voices.”

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But the more I think about it, the more I feel like what I should be encouraging them to do is use their own voices—regardless of the volume. Perhaps, like the rest of us, they just want to be heard. Maybe instead of quieting them down, I should just listen (a skill I’m really working on).

In the meantime, here I sit. Laptop open, head down, typing (and shushing) away as the kids scream and play beside me. It’s only when I pause mid-sentence to look up at my girls, entangled in a laughing heap on the floor, that I feel like a little bit of noise never hurt anybody.

Image via Getty

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