Parenting Matters: Secret talk


Sometimes when you are out with your children, you want them to quiet down. That seems reasonable. But if you really want them to do that, you need to practice. 

Practice whispering to begin. If you don't teach your child to whisper, who will? Besides, it is fun to have a whispering session together. You can even record it so she can see how much quieter it is when you whisper than when you talk normally.

But when you are out, to keep telling your child to quiet down can be embarrassing to you and to her. The first way to handle this is to tell her before you go out that she needs to use her quiet voice or to whisper when you are at dinner. But you still may need to remind her. 

Rather than to repeatedly say to quiet down or use your inside voice, have a code. Maybe it is a word or a number. So when you say "ooops" or "cow" or "40" that means be quieter. She likely will respond positively to this code.

This also comes in handy as your child gets older. When your child is in elementary school or middle school and wants to come home from a friend's house, have a story she can call you and tell you that means she wants to come home even without saying that. 

She can ask you how dad's golf game went or if her older brother called. Either of these things can mean "Come get me."

Secret talk is especially important when your high school student is out with friends and they begin drinking or she is with them and one is a really bad driver. Either way, she needs to let you know she is uncomfortable and needs a ride home — no questions asked.

When any of these situations come up and no matter what your child's age, let her know how pleased you are that she took the time to call, let you know she needed you to come or even just responded to your message to quiet down. 

All of these responses are far more important than the reason she asked for your help or you asked her to quiet down. 

At times parents punish their child for the wrong behavior rather than praising her for her correct response. 

When she was loud in the store or restaurant shouldn't be the issue; the fact that she quieted down when you gave her the signal is what you should respond to. 

If she is punished for being with youths who are doing the wrong thing, she learns that she is better off not to let you know. 

Secret talk works. Plan ahead and figure out your code.


Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250. 

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