How to Help Loud Children Quiet Down in Public

Getting them to sit still doesn't have to be a fight

Church, weddings, movies, restaurants…

In some scenarios, you can’t just let your high-energy child run loud and free. They need to sit still and stay quieter. But if they fight it, what do you do?

In this episode, Anne and Carol share helpful insights about age, Type, and expectations. With some preparation and perspective, you can move through quiet events, while also helping your louder child get what they need.

This episode’s Parenting Practice

Listen to this episode for tips that can help all 4 Types (even the quieter ones). The next time you need to enter a situation where your little ones are expected to sit still, prepare for it with this episode’s tips, practice having a realistic expectation, and praise your child for how well they’re doing.

Transcript of podcast episode

Anne: My one-and-a-half-year-old Type 3 was just like, “Ugh, like, why?” I had to hold onto him.

Carol: Yeah, yeah, I could see that.

Anne: And you couldn’t give snacks because the birds might swoop down and steal it. So I’m like, “What are you doing?”

Carol: Welcome to The Child Whisperer Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the bestselling parenting book, The Child Whisperer. I’m with my cohost, Anne Tuttle Brown.

Anne: “When I first listened to the chapter on Type 1 children in The Child Whisperer, I knew immediately that my three-year-old son was the poster child for Type 1 energy. He’s always bouncing and is so bright, cheery and animated. I love that about him, but I am really struggling to figure out how to redirect or rein in his energy and enthusiasm during church and other situations in which he’s supposed to be quiet and reverent without just telling him to be quiet and covering his mouth with my hand. It’s infuriating and endearing and baffling all the same time. Even in the midst of his punishment for being too boisterous he’s laughing and having a good time. Any advice would be appreciated from this Type 2 mom.”

Carol: That’s why I say children are not…they’re different nowadays. They laugh at your trying to shut them down.

Anne: Yeah, I’ve experienced that where I’ve, like, tried to punish my daughter…

Carol: “You’re trying to shut me down, ha-ha-ha.”

Anne: …She’ll just give it right back at me. I’m like, “Okay, we’re going to try a different situation.” But okay, so we have a three-year-old Type 1, who you’re sitting in a meeting either at church or there’re other situations, let’s say you go to, like, a play for an older child and you take the whole family and they’re supposed to sit quiet, or at a restaurant, you know, nice behavior is expected. Or even recently, we went to the bird zoo…went to a bird show, and you literally couldn’t let the kids roam because you had birds zipping over your head, and…

Carol: Well, they told you that it would be a risk to move through the stands because the birds might land on you.

Anne: Yeah.

Carol: Or you think you were part of the show.

Anne: My one-and-a-half-year-old Type 3 was just like, “Ugh, like, why…” I had to hold on to him…

Carol: Yeah, I could see that.

Anne: And you couldn’t give snacks because the birds might swoop down and steal it. So I’m like, “What are you doing?”

Carol: I looked around the audience in there in our vicinity were at least three or four Type 3 toddlers; the parents were wrestling.

Anne: Yeah, you know, because you’re, like, at the zoo, like, “Roam, be free, let’s be loud.” But it was like, in this situation at the bird show, it was like, “No, you have to sit on my lap.” So there are scenarios, and I would say most of the time, avoid those scenarios when possible. Don’t take your two-year-old to a movie because they’re just not ready for that, you know?

Carol: Well, and it depends, again, I teach in The Child Whisperer, you’re looking at two criteria determine what to expect from a child. First, their Type A Type 1 and a Type 3 are not going to be able to sit still at younger ages and then their age. And so, can a Type 2 and a Type 4 learn to sit still at three years old? More capable of that than a Type 1 or Type 3. So you have to create that.

Anne: Realistic expectation.

Carol: I don’t think you should expect a three-year-old Type 1 to sit still for 50, 60 minutes. If they can make it 30, they’ve done a phenomenal thing at that age. And so, again, it’s that making sure your expectations are aligned so that you can set your child up to succeed rather than continuing to fail.

Anne: And that’s a good point that you bring out. Like, if you are in a situation where it’s an hour-long meeting or scenario, aim for 30 minutes and then at that point take him out or take a little break and then come back for the last 20 minutes or whatever. And so, yeah, I like that. Like, where’s your there’s your expectations and they praise them for that, “Good job, you’ve done awesome. Okay, let’s…”

Carol: When you take them out, maybe they can talk louder, but don’t let them run around because then they’re thinking if they can…

Anne: “Yeah, if I can get out of here…”

Carol: So you’re still keeping them in a quiet manner, but maybe they don’t have to whisper now and maybe they can have a snack. You know what I’m saying? They maybe can bring the energy level up a bit, but you don’t let them run all around and do whatever they want. Because then there’s this contradiction and it’s almost like a reward. So you’re just trying to increase their capacity to sit still over time.

Anne: And allow yourself an opportunity to talk to them more directly if you don’t want to be making noise and you can take them out and talk to them, have them… So I have this situation, you know, at church on a weekly basis where we’re trying to have our kids sit still for an hour meeting. And so, what has helped with me is sometimes you think, “Okay, if I just bring a bunch of stuff to distract them and to keep them busy, then that will help them keep quiet.” I’ve actually found the fewer the distractions the better. And so, snacks are always handy for me. Quiet snacks.

And then, just some book or some coloring things. And so the few, like, if you don’t want them to play with toys and get busy with toys, then don’t bring the toys. And so, you set an expectation of, like, this is what… you can color quietly or, you know, a slinky. Those are really quiet toys, well, unless you start throwing them around across the aisle and stuff or like silly putty or something where they can just play quietly with their hands and keep busy, but it’s more contained. Those are good. But look at what are you bringing and will add to the movement, add to the distraction.

Carol: You’ve got more “Child Whisperer” coming up right after this brief message.

Narrator: Knowing your Type and your child’s Type changes everything, doesn’t it? It helps you to understand one another better. It can help your outside too. When you wear clothes that express your type, you feel better, you look better, and people understand you more easily including your kids. Carol Tuttle created the Dressing Your Truth program to help you dress true to your type and create a personal style that expresses who you really are. The best part, you can learn all the basics for free. Start loving how you look and feel

Carol: I think there’s a perception from parents that they’ve got to train a child to sit still. Children will respond to your encouragement for them to sit still because, in our human nature, we’re capable of understanding this is a situation where this is appropriate behavior. And so, you kind of have to work with that so that you’re supporting your child in learning to sit still without having to force something. It’s that forced behavior that becomes difficult to then instill a love for where they’re at, because it’s now, “This is not a place I want to be because I’m being forced and I’m now being punished and I’m being put in my place.” And so you just have to kind of balance, you know, really look to what degree is that being…is discipline being a part of the experience that they have now this perception of, “Where I’m at is a negative experience for me.” And they’re going to act up even more because it’s like, “I don’t even want to be here because my parents aren’t very nice to me when we’re at this location.”

Anne: And they might get louder to get your attention, even more, you know, like be crying out for attention. So, the mom who sent this email in sent it a couple of months ago, and before this podcast, I emailed her to just see how things were going to follow up with her. And she said that they have seen some improvements for a couple of reasons. He’s maturing a bit. He’s almost four now, so, yeah.

Carol: There you go. That’s a big part of it right there. Maturity allows a Type 1 and a Type 3, especially, to be able to understand, to be dealt with with reason. I think, say, three and under to try and reason with your child, “This is where we sit still. Now you have to sit…” See that’s all tell trying to reason with them and they’re like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Anne: Yeah, with our one-and-a-half-year-old Type 3, we’ve taken him out of the meeting more than our Type 2 but our Type 2 can be loud. And so he’ll just be talking in his normal voice I’m like, “Whisper voice.” So we have had to practice that, which, you know, it’s funny like, Type 2s and 4s can still make noise as well.

Carol: Well, his Type 2 grandfather does that and I’m like, “Do you know where you are right now?”

Anne: And that’s funny because my husband will shush me in movie theaters. I’ll be like I think I’m whispering and he’s like, “Quiet. You’re very loud.”

Carol: Oh, honey.

Anne: Okay. So another thing the mom mentioned, she said, “We did see improvements in all the children’s behavior when we stopped allowing the kids to have any screen time before church, restricted entertainment during the meeting, to looking at chatbooks or drawing on paper and not allowing the kids to have any snacks during part of the meeting.” And so, I liked that she mentioned no screen time before. I think a good activity is…

Carol: She’d stimulate them.

Anne: …you know, if you know you’re going to be sitting for a while, say you’re going, you have like a big family wedding or something and the kids need to be sitting for a while, like, “Go play outside, go be active. Can you get that…?” So then they can rest. They can sit and so they’re not looking for, you know, they’re not being so busy. So, when you know that you’re going to be in a scenario like this, look at the bigger part of the day and what’s happening before that situation.

Carol: Yeah, it’s great. Great feedback.

Anne: Another thing to consider is their energy level. If they are tired, lethargic or, you know, that they may just be more whiny, more squirmy, even, it’s, you know, sometimes when kids get tired, depending on your kid, they can get more boisterous and louder. And just give yourself grace, like, know that some days are going to go a little bit smoother than others and some days are going to be a little bit harder just like…as you as an adult, you know, some days it’s easier for you to sit for longer periods of time and some days you just want to get up and get moving.

Carol: Yeah, that’s okay.

Anne: Yeah. And I think just continue to teach and set the expectation, but then also have realistic expectations for your kids where they’re at their age and their energy type.

Carol: Keep rewarding the behavior that you want to instill in them rather than disciplining the misbehavior to try and always getting to correct it so that the bigger attention is going on what you want. And they’re recognizing that. We all respond, especially children, favorably to being acknowledged, validated and encouraged.

Anne: So, your parenting practice this week is the next time you’re in a situation where your little ones are expected to sit still, have a realistic expectation and praise them for how well they’re doing.

Carol: Thanks for listening. For more support and go to where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly parenting practice email, and find a transcription and audio of “The Child Whisperer” podcast.

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving a review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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