You’ve heard of one-upping, yes?
Kid 1: “I scored 10 points in last nights game.”
Kid 2: “Well I scored 12.”
Brother: “I can jump as far as that stick.”
Sister: “Well, I can jump as far as THAT stick which is farther!”
Mom: “I make my own granola.”
Another mom: “Oh, well, I love to make granola. And I diffuse essential oils.”
First Mom: “Oh yeah, me too. Doesn’t everyone? But I also make all our own soaps and toothpaste…..”
Well, I’ve noticed in myself a tendency to try to one-up my kids as they escalate a situation. They’re running around screaming while I’m on the phone, so I shout over them to try to get them to stop.
Or, they’re fighting back and forth in the next room (MINE, NO MINE, NO MINE, MIIINNNEEEE!) and I try to yell over them: “STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER.”
Come on, you do that too, right?
Besides the fact that it’s funny that we yell at our kids to stop yelling at each other, it’s also 99.9% ineffective. At least, in my experience.
This was true when I was teaching too. I taught music, so the classroom could get particularly loud sometimes. (Think small children + instruments.) Instead of bothering to yell over everything, I would just stand in a specific spot, and raise my hand until every single kid (and instrument) was completely silent. At first, it took a while, but the kids eventually got pretty fast at it. I could raise my hand, a few seconds later, everyone would be quiet and looking in my direction, so that I could calmly announce or explain whatever, and then they would go back to whatever they were doing. (Seriously, if you’re a teacher – do this!!)
When I was teaching high school, the choir classes had 50-90 students. If they got loud (which they did!), I just couldn’t compete. Why bother. So I’d just assume a certain posture in a certain spot and wait quietly, without saying a thing, until the whole class was quiet. The kids actually thought this was really funny because it was so different from what they were used to, which was yelling. I wrote about it here.
I know our homes aren’t classrooms, and there are a lot of things I do differently as a parent than a classroom teacher because the roles and responsibilities are different. But, I think this volume thing is applicable in both settings.
Sometimes I call it one-downing, sometimes I call it robot-mom voice.
The principle is this: as the child gets louder, I will get softer.
As they escalate, you deescalate.
& when initially dealing with a “situation,” I use my robot mom voice.
Here’s what I mean:
Take the running around and screaming while I’m on the phone scenario. One-downing-robot-mom asks the nice person on the other end of the phone to please hold on a minute. Mute button optional. Walk over to your loud children and say in a very quiet robotic voice, (no hints of frustration allowed): “I am having a conversation the phone and your screaming makes it hard for me to hear. Please stop yelling. I’ll let you know when I’m done. Do you understand?”
Or, in the children yelling, MIIINNNEEE at each other scenario, one-downing-robot-mom walks over to the children and says, again with no hint of emotion in a very quiet voice, “It is rude to yell mine at each other. Take turns with it, or I will take it away.” (Or verbalize whatever your household sharing policy is.)
Our kids are still really little, so they occasionally throw a tantrum over something… Depending on the situation, I will often calmly pick up the child, and as I carry them to their room say (in my robot-mom-no-emotion voice), “You may not scream and throw yourself on the floor when you don’t get what you want. I’ll come back in a few minutes when you’re calm and can talk about it.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not 100% A+ perfect at this. I often find my heart rate rising in frustration as we deal with the same repeated behaviors and attitudes for a few weeks or months… and it makes me want to explode sometimes!
Also, I’m not advocating never showing any emotion towards your kids. In the tantrum situation, I usually go back to the room, sit on the floor with them (if they can calm down), and we talk, snuggle, and move on. My voice then is totally different. We need to be real with our kids, but their moment of extreme meltdown is not the moment to retaliate with all the big real feelings you’re feeling towards them.
In the middle of an escalated situation – whether it’s a kid being naughty or a kid just being 3 and running around screaming at an inopportune time – we’ve found that if we one-down the child, everything and everyone gets calmer sooner.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends do this with their kids over the past couple years, and it is very effective across the board. Even with different parenting styles, discipline opinions, kid personalities, etc.
It can be really hard to one-down your kid. Especially when you have to do it 100 times a day for years and years. Or when you are walking through something personally very difficult. Or when you’re exhausted. Or when your emotions are all over the place.
We won’t be perfect at it. But finding a way to channel your inner robot and deescalate the situation can be super helpful for you and your kiddos.
Do you ever do this? What does robot mom (or dad) look/sound like at your house!?