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My 3½ year old has never had any sense of music, rhythm, notes, or anything resembling the musical arts. (Motor skills is where he truly excels; he's a sports person, not a musician.)

Recently, he has begun to sing loudly all afternoon, literally for hours on end. It's not words, just random sounds, but he sings at near maximum volume.

I'm sorry to say it but it's awful to listen to, and it is also extremely stressful. We also have a 6 months old baby who isn't sleeping enough as it is; the noise and the irritation it causes isn't helping. We need him to be more quiet -- not "quiet", just "quieter" -- or we will soon lose our minds.

When sent to his room, he makes sure to sing loud enough to be well heard anyway. When asked to use a softer voice, he will lower his voice for less than 30 seconds, then yell again. Our usual disciplines don't work (timeout; sending him to his room; ignoring him) and he will just sing louder.

He's normally well-behaved and fairly balanced, and responds well to our requests. He can spend half an hour playing in his room, or in the living room, without making a racket.

Because of the baby, and house construction going on, we haven't got the time or energy to engage in musical practice, and even if we tried we don't feel that it would work (see first paragraph).

How does one make a person shut up, or at least be quieter?

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I wonder, from all the things you mentioned, if he isn't acting out to seek and hold your attention? Perhaps try spending some focused time with him when he begins singing? Good luck! –  Erin Apr 18 '13 at 2:52
    
@Erin: I was wondering the same thing. Plus, he's 3. Three year olds excel in NOT doing what they're told or asked to do. –  Meg Coates Apr 18 '13 at 15:41
    
What I meant with we haven't got time was for more activities. I don't think he isn't getting enough attention, although it's a very good observation and worth thinking over. Thanks! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 18 '13 at 19:15
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Torben, when my little sister was little she used to sing all day long with no sense of tune whatsoever. She grew into a remarkably good singer later on, and her guitar teacher thought she was talented as well. The fact that your kid isn't good at singing at 3.5 doesn't necessarily mean he'll stay bad at it! Be careful with the messages you send him when trying to quiet him down. As for my sister, she learned to hum :) –  Ana Apr 19 '13 at 19:30
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Just to be sure, check if he does not have some problem with hearing. That could explain both the lack of musical skills and the loudness. –  Viliam Búr Apr 22 '13 at 11:24
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5 Answers

Some thoughts:

  • There's a new baby and many requests for quiet, so a bit of sibling rivalry or age appropriate rebellion may be at play.
  • There's construction noise going on, and his singing may be a way of "controlling" the noise.
  • He is quiet sometimes (yea!), and this is probably just a stage that will go away if you don't let it become a battle.

Suggestions:

  • Play music on a stereo. He may sing along or he might just listen.
  • Sing along. Teach him some songs. Enjoy his lack of musicality, and be sure to film it to share with him when he's a teen.
  • Get him a child's CD player or other music playing device and some headphones. He may still sing, but he may not need to sing as loudly.
  • Make sure he gets 30 minutes of 1-on-1 time with Mom or Dad away from baby each day - special time.
  • Make sure he has a special big brother job - something he can do that baby can't.
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Lots of good ideas - we're covering several already, but giving him his own player for the childrens' CD's we already have is a good thought. (Btw, there's no construction noise; we don't live there yet. My question isn't clear on that.) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 19 '13 at 9:40
    
I tried fixing that link too but somehow failed. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 19 '13 at 18:48
    
@Torben square brackets around the text, parentheses around the link. –  KitFox Apr 23 '13 at 14:02
    
@Kit I know :-) but it doesn't work in that comment. Odd. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 23 '13 at 17:49
    
@Torben You've got it the other way round there. –  KitFox Apr 23 '13 at 18:02
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First of all, don't discourage him. That is the worst thing you can do.

If you tell him he's bad at something, that will create a very judgemental culture in your household. "You're bad at this so don't do it.", means later he may be afraid to try new things.

No one is good at anything when they first start. He may become a great singer in time.

Anyway deal with it like you'd deal with any annoying thing. Don't treat him specially just because he sucks at something and telling him to stop will "bring to light" that he currently sucks. Actually he won't notice he sucks unless you tell him. You can simply say when you're that loud it annoys me. When he annoys you too much find a means to make him stop (as in stopping any other kind of disobedience).

So I think the key point here is not to handle his feelings about house rules with kid gloves. He won't interpret you tell him to quiet down as "YOU REALLY SUCK!!" unless you say it that way.

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Just to clarify: we don't tell him that he can't sing but I felt it was relevant to state in my question to you. :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 24 '13 at 14:17
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It definitely seems as though he is getting some sort of satisfaction from this, whether from the attention you give to his volume or just pure joy of doing the activity.

When my kids were younger, at that age, the time outs, etc didn't work either. What I found that does work is first, not to pay too much attention to the issue to where he knows its driving you mad.
At that age, they are learning to push boundaries and buttons. That doesn't mean you cannot tell him that he needs to lower his voice. Saying something like, when you talk or sing too loud, it really hurts my ears.
Usually, kids that age don't want to hurt their parents in any way so that might help. When my kids would do physical things that would hurt me such as kicking and screaming during a tantrum, I would calmly, firmly but sadly tell them that they are hurting me, it doesn't feel good and they are hurting my feelings.

I would definitely reassure them that you think they sing beautifully, ahem lol, but you wish you could enjoy it better if it was a little quieter. This is to not put the child down to make them think they are good at what they clearly enjoy doing. They'll find out when they are older, by peers, if they stink at it or not lol.

Another thing that works for children of that age and even a little younger or older is distraction as a behavior changing method. When children do not respond to other forms of discipline, the distraction technique tends to work very well.
When the child is doing something inappropriate as far as you're concerned, divert or distract his attention to something else, in this case, an interesting quieter game or activity and enjoy it with him.

Try games that require thought such as the game memory, where you actually have to be quiet to think of where the matching pieces are. Or any other thinking games.
Make sure when offering your diversion/distraction, you make it sound fun and appealing with enthusiasm so they get excited to join in. Other games that require some quiet thought, are building games such as legos, building blocks because they have to focus on what pieces go where, what pieces fit together, how to create a structure of some sort.
Thinking games are great that way. Praise them for using their indoor voices of course while playing nicely.

Also, reading is a great way for you both to sit and enjoy , hopefully semi quiet time, depending on the book. Picture books also if he isn't reading yet.

One key thing to remember is to catch them "being good" or doing the behavior that you'd like them to do. When he is absorbed in a thinking game, for example, try saying, "I love how you are using your indoor voice while playing this game!" , cause chances are they aren't going to be silent lol. There will still be chatter. Remind them that during these sorts of activities that they need to lower their voices in order to focus and concentrate to play the game, activity, etc correctly.

Also, there is nothing wrong with asking if they'd like to sit and watch a favorite movie or t.v. show to take their minds off the singing for a while. There are some great dvd's out that help relax children as they are watching. Also, dvd's that teach children about indoor and outdoor voices. Barney was always my sons fave, that's how we got him into the indoor voices. Play a whispering game and see who can be quiet or whisper the longest and maybe have a reward for the winner.
Drawing is also usually a quiet activity as well as coloring.

I hope you find some of this helpful and good luck. He may be the next American Idol someday :) As always, positive reinforcement works better than negative attention. Catch him listening to what you ask him to do. Take Care!

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Hi Rain - welcome to the site. Quick suggestion - this answer is actually very difficult to read. It seems like a long stream of consciousness paragraph, so many visitors to the site will probably just pass over or mark it down. I would suggest distilling it to a few paragraphs to get your point across clearly. –  Rory Alsop Apr 21 '13 at 10:05
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Though not specifically related to singing, a great trick to get children to be quiet is to fairly quietly do something interesting that requires them to listen. This could be playing a favorite song/cartoon on low volume or talking to them about their favorite subject. Just make sure it's so quiet that they have to be nearly still and silent to listen.

This certainly works on babies though your son may be getting too old. Usually by five they'll blow you off when you try this unless you have an unusually good listener.

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As you know, three year olds need a lot of attention especially when there is a new baby in the house. When they don't get the attention they need, they Demand it. Based on the fact that your guy is specifically singing loudly - I'm guessing that is his intention.

  • First, be glad it isn't worse: The little guy I baby-sit (full time) is going through exactly the same thing, except he doesn't sing to get his attention, he throws temper-tantrums - and they are ROYALE tanrums. His parents are really struggling with it, though most of the tantrums I see are at times when they are about to leave.
  • Second, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Try to have some fun with it. Maybe you could also start singing - loudly. Join in (when the baby isn't sleeping). Your little guy will suddenly be getting funny and silly attention rather than annoyed attention - you might both find yourselves laughing.
  • When the baby is sleeping, there is nothing wrong with simply stating, "it is too loud!" Kids have short attention spans so you *will have to repeat yourself. You also could try to have babies nap (or at least one of baby's naps) be quiet time to spend together. Cuddle up and read a couple of good books together while baby is sleeping. OR have your three year old help you with something that needs getting done - wash the dishes together for example. A three year old can safely rinse most dishes.
  • Make sure he gets some time with only mommy and he every week at a regular time when he knows he can expect it. Time with Daddy is important too, but he is probably getting Daddy so that Mommy can feed baby, get some rest, etc. A Lot. To a three year old, this can feel like he is being replaced. It is tough to get away from baby during the earliest stages - with nursing an issue etc. . . but, it might be refreshing for Mommy too in the end to get a half hour to 45 minutes to go to the park or for a walk or something with only her eldest.
  • Back to "if you can't beat em, join 'em" Have a family kareoke night (sp?) After baby is tucked in for the evening and before the older one's bed-time, make a special night of his new-found enthusiasm for singing. have fun singing to your favorite songs at a volume level that is appropriate. Then you are modeling for him, celebrating his passion (with-out complimenting the horrific singing) AND spending some time together.
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