It never occurred to me people assumed I was angry or yelling at them. It's so hard to be heard above the din. I grew up with five siblings, and have six total. My father had hearing issues. I was in the military. It just never occurred to me that people thought I was angry or upset, because I'm neither. I just want to be heard!
I have no problem speaking to large groups of people. Put a microphone in my hand or on my person, and I'm a chattering fool. And I'm generally enthusiastic. I've come to realize all that enthusiasm can be sometimes misconstrued as anger.
It's hard for me to communicate that to kids. I bet some other grandparents are experiencing the same issue, especially grandfathers who don't realize just how loud they can be with a hearing problem. Kids themselves are loud enough, and getting things across to them without tears and overreaction can be a challenge.
SO, in an effort to make things might quieter, calm down thousands of kids, and help grandparents raising grandkids everywhere communicate effectively, some tips:
- STOP. If this isn't an issue of immediate danger, stop what you're doing. Just stand or sit there. Say nothing. Do nothing. Wait until everybody is looking at you, wondering why the heck you're not doing anything. Then, say something. Quietly. As softly as possible. Only bring up the volume as necessary.
- THE SIGNAL. Anybody who's run a scout troop or the like knows to place one's hand high high above one's head and say, "When the hand goes up..." to which the scouts reply, "...the mouth goes shut." You don't have to use the universal signal of your hand above your head. Come up with your own signal that it's time to quiet down.
- MAKE IT A GAME. Ever heard of the quarter game, the dime game or the nickel game? If a child can be quiet for 5/10/15 minutes without one peep, that child gets a coin. There are dozens of ways to make children listen to you, and to be quiet. One of my favorites I learned from a first grade teacher. It's called "Marshmallow Toes" and it involves simply walking quietly on tip-toe. The name makes it fun.
- POLL AND CLARIFY. If you're not sure, ask, and try to ask neutrally, without making the kid feels as if this answer hinges on all that is holy. I learned this when I did a tour with the Census Bureau. Most questions have a dozen answers. Make sure you have the right answer. "Is this what you're telling me?" "Do I have this right?" "Do you have another idea on how we can do this?"
- LOOK ME IN THE EYE. Look the kid or kids in the eye if at all possible. Focus on what they are saying. Make them look you in the eye. There is nothing so frustrating as not being able to read a face simply because the kid is talking to the wall or the floor! With the hearing challenged, even those equipped with various sound input devices, it is imperative that we look at them while we speak, and in turn look at them while they speak.
- SPIT IT BACK. "OK, then (smile), you're telling me you need a new notebook because you used up the old one. OK then. "So, what you're saying is, you have to finish the report by Friday. Is that right?" No need to grill the kid. But spitting back what was just said clarifies without shouting what is actually being said. No need for sarcasm. No need for defensive moves. Just check it out. It will save you yelling later on.