There is a very popular question where a father says:

My kids (4 and 5) yell a lot when playing games on the computer. I found an effective cure for this. When I hear loud noises, I [remotely] turn off the screen for 15 seconds on Linux. I've told them that the computer doesn't like loud noises. They totally believe this and beg the computer for forgiveness. They became much quieter, but not to the level that I would be happy, and so I need to continue this educational process.

The dad proceeds to automate the process, making the computer do it automatically whenever it detects noise.

I thought this was a really cool idea for teaching the kids to be quiet. However, one user commented:

Instead of using negative reinforcement, what most of the times leads not to the behavior you expect, you should try positive reinforcement, i.e. reward them when silent. See, your approach teaches me the following: I'm loud when I'm emotional -> Being loud is bad -> being emotional is bad -> being vocal about emotions is bad -> it's best to have no emotions or suppress them as good as possible -> good luck with any relationship (because saying "I love you" is so easy) -> congratulations on ruining your child's life.

The comment has 33 upvotes. That is not so much on such a popular question, but still, I couldn't help but wonder whether there's some truth to it. Is this a danger that seriously needs to be considered when we're dealing with such young children?

  • 1
    While emotional repression can be bad, firm control of their emotions is one of the most important skills to teach a child, and it's very under-taught. Oct 18, 2016 at 20:52
  • Like a 5- y/o won't understand how earth rotates in an elliptical path with an eccentricity of .017, they may not truly understand the meaning of your advise and if you take it too far with the advice then you may start to "irritate" them, so sometines a sweet lie is better than a not understandable advise. Nov 4, 2016 at 18:47

3 Answers 3


This is a tricky question to answer. In my opinion, I think the comment is a bit exaggerated because a child would generally be able to differentiate between a computer and a person and know that it only applies to computers. However I would not turn off the computer screen while they are playing, as they could be in the midst of playing and turning the screen off would ruin their progress if the game is timing based (such as racing). Otherwise, their excitement will turn into anger, and that would be much harder to control.

My suggestion is to pause the game if the sound goes over a threshold (only if this is not realtime online multiplayer) and then turn off or flash the screen. If that is not possible (because such mechanism is almost impossible to implement on flash games), make the computer display a flashing warning and a beep sound that tells the child to be quiet, but make sure this does not interfere or inhibit gameplay. (However a possible side effect with the beeping sound is the kids could make an excuse where they are allowed to be loud since the computer is allowed to be loud, so keep that in mind.)

In addition, personifying the computer and lying to a child that a computer screen turns off when voice goes over a threshold is a dangerous idea. Firstly, he would misunderstand how computers work, and this incorrect information can damage his knowledge and others' knowledges which potentially affect tests.

Additionally, the child could be smart and realise from other children that you were the one who did this. And they would be upset that you lied to them and won't trust you.

So overall, that comment isn't wrong and the OP's solution to loud noise is not very good at all. Follow the comment or follow my suggestion which is a modification to the OP's concept.

Edit: Another comment I saw there was very interesting. The OP's idea has a loophole based on manipulative behaviour.

Wait, doesn't this mean that if one child is playing the game, the other can yell and stop them from playing?

With my solution, this loophole won't be as effective. You may need to record the voices with a voice recorder so you can determine who is yelling.

  • I agree about the dishonesty part; the parent should explain that they made the computer act like this. But otherwise, wouldn't this just turn this feature into another game? Like you say, one child can turn off the computer for another child. Unless the children are really invested in the computer game, the whole sound-based interface sounds like a fun game in itself. (But probably not what the parent intended as it doesn't necessarily reduce noisiness)
    – Erwin
    Oct 21, 2016 at 3:31
  • I think that even you're exaggerating it quite a bit. When I was a wee lad, my dad taught me that coconuts were really bear eggs. being a child, I believed him wholeheartedly. Come to find out when I'm 11, coconuts are NOT bear eggs, but a tree fruit. I was a bit embarrassed that I'd ever believe such a thing, but I didn't have trust issues with my dad because of it.
    – tuskiomi
    Oct 24, 2016 at 18:21
  • @tuskiomi The thing is, if I'm talking about a child, they could have ANY kind of behavior. So I may as well pinpoint most of the possibilities. Such as if they knew they were lied to, they can use that as an excuse or something to abuse on.
    – Bradman175
    Oct 24, 2016 at 21:25

Cheating your children into discipline is a very very bad idea, regardless which technique was used or how clever it might sound. One day this will backfire because your children will follow the example you are setting and will start cheating YOU! It will definitely increase distrust between you and your children and eventually destroy your relationship with your children.

Instead, you need to communicate clear rules or "boundaries" as mentioned in Boundaries with Kids and you should stick to your "boundaries" and not allow the children to cross it.

You as the parent's role is to TEACH your children to respect authority. It does not come automagically. Remember, the police, government and even his/her future boss will be not as "nice" as you!

I know every person on this forum has a different opinion on what is right and what is wrong and we can debate forever on this subject. At the end what matter is your relationship with your child and what are you teaching your child.

Do you teach your child to respect authority? Or do you teach your child it is okay to lie and cheat like a criminal?

  • 1
    "(whether spanking, taking away a privilege or whatever suites your culture)" I don't think you should give the impression to the parents that spanking is acceptable, especially when the children are just having fun.
    – Bradman175
    Oct 18, 2016 at 21:25
  • I am not saying the children should be punished for having fun. I am trying to make a point that if you made a rule and they continuously push the limit you should take some sort of action so that they can LEARN that the behaviour is not acceptable. You as the parent need to decide for yourself what those "limits" are and you need to be consistent otherwise the children will never know where they stand with you. For example one parent has no problem with children making noises while playing while another has a house rule that you don't make loud noises in the house when baby is sleeping. Oct 19, 2016 at 4:54
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    Koning: Is spanking a good example of that? CC: @Bradman175
    – Fiksdal
    Oct 19, 2016 at 14:58
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    Bradman175 and @Fiksdal you are missing the point. I think you should rather ask a new question on spanking or not spanking because this is off topic from the original question that was asked. I only mentioned "spanking" as an example but as I also said the in original answer it depends on your culture because I know in certain countries "spanking" is illegal. Do you understand my answer or do I need to rephrase it or put it in other words? (Sorry English is not my first language and I not always sure if people understand me correctly) Oct 19, 2016 at 16:33
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    Right. I was just saying the word spanking disturbs the flow of the text and as you say, it's not particularly relevant either, so you might as well replace it with something else?
    – Fiksdal
    Oct 19, 2016 at 19:09

Comment seems to be hyperbolic, overly dramatic and maybe in need of some emotion restraint.

Turning off a screen for 15 seconds on a computer game when the kids get very loud is "ruining" their lives? Please. Are they being scolded? Hit? Berated? On the "negative reinforcement" spectrum this is very mild.

"How about some positive reinforcement for being quiet" - the computer game stays on. That's positive reinforcement.

Here is another possible interpretation of what this method of behavior modification probably teaches them - 1) When I get louder than is appropriate for game play inside the house, the game reminds me with a very brief time out 2) Appropriate game play will be uniterrupted.

I guess it's all about one's personal perspective and viewpoint.

  • +1. But what about the fact that one is lying to the kids about the reason for it?
    – Fiksdal
    Oct 21, 2016 at 2:11
  • 1
    @Fiksdal - Santa Claus. Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy. For some, belief in God (if the children eventually become atheists). Telling a child they can be anything they want in life. All standard lies we tell kids. Your pet goes to pet heaven. When did this ideologically pure standard of 100% honesty to children get instituted? Children view the world as a magical and wonderful place. Reality will stomp out their optimism and hope early enough in life. This is not a "lie" about anything of substance. It makes the game a fun thing to interact with instead of just programmed circuits and wires. Oct 21, 2016 at 14:05
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    I always told the grand children that the car engine won't start if someone doesn't wear their seat belt. Never knew if they believed it, but they knew the car wouldn't move until everyone wore their seat belt...
    – gnasher729
    Oct 26, 2016 at 20:07

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