My 3-year old son Will is testing his yelling skills these days. Usually the hollering starts over something simple, like, how I put on his pants. He’ll fuss with the waistband, look at me disapprovingly and say, “I don’t want the pants this way! I want them this way!” And he’ll tug them a little to the left. To manage his frustrations, I offer the usual parenting advice—use your nice words, your inside voice, your manners, etc. But after awhile, the yelling, paired with a fingers-on-the-chalkboard whine, had me rattled. I fought the urge to shout back, then one day, something altogether surprising came out of my mouth:
“Spell it, don’t yell it.”
I could have shot flowers out of my nose. Will was remarkably silent.
“If you want to me to help you,” I said. “Please don’t yell at me. Spell pants instead.” Again, silence. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a preschooler can’t spell pants, unless he’s taken a crash course in Your Baby Can Read, but asking him to spell pants piqued his curiosity.
“Momma, can you spell it for me?” he asked.
He repeated the spelling back, smiled and returned to the floor to play with his Star Wars figures. I was beyond pleased.
Of course now, like anything that’s too good to be believed, Will is asking me to spell everything. New Jersey. Underwear. Pneumonia. The last of which tripped me up. Seriously. Try spelling pneumonia out loud.
But I’m not complaining. R-e-a-l-l-y. It’s a lot quieter in my house. And my son is learning, which is so much better than yelling.