My kids won’t do anything I ask unless I yell. And they won’t stop doing anything unless I yell some more.

I suspect you weren’t always in such loud shape. At one time — though you might strain to remember — you were probably calm when disciplining. But if words acted as your discipline, and not consequences, as usually happens, they lost impact. Then you were hooked into using even more and louder words to get yourself heard. Alas, habituation is a stubborn phenomenon. Once it grabs you, it’s easy to use more of the same approach only to get more of the same response.

You see the end of all this. Yelling makes you feel mean and guilty, and your kids ignore you anyway. Nobody benefits. (Doesn’t it seem that kids can outmaneuver us just by being themselves?) A nice thing about parenting, and discipline in particular, is that we get a lot of chances to get smarter.

So how do you withdraw from the yelling addiction? Probably the least painful way is to go cold turkey. Cease yelling and return to normal speaking volume. I know, that’s easier yelled than said. But to get Serena to hear soft words again you must start using soft words again. Otherwise, you’ll just start yelling at her to listen when you talk softly.

Sometimes, merely talking softly works for a while because it’s such a shock to the kids’ systems. They’re so stunned, they listen — if only in a mindless daze. Sometimes a quiet tone works because Everhard wonders why all of a sudden you’re so calm. He’s wary about what you’re up to.

Even if the kids start to listen again, don’t expect it to last. It’s a honeymoon phase. To get durable listening, speaking quietly is only the first step. The second step is where you’ll really make yourself heard.

You must provide a reason for your children to listen. In other words, you must make it in their best interests to heed you. How? By backing your quiet request with a quiet statement of the consequences for ignoring you. Examples: Hazel, please have your room cleaned by 6pm or you’ll stay there until it’s spotless. Wyatt, don’t squirt your water pistol at the dog or you’ll lose it for a week. Angela, please leave your brother alone or you’ll sit on the couch for 20 minutes.

To paraphrase an old saying, one deed is worth 1,000 decibels. Your consequences are doing your talking, not your words. Will your kids ignore your quietly conveyed choices? Most likely. But, in time, they’ll find out you mean what you softly say. You don’t need volume to be reckoned with. You are willing to act in the event that diplomacy is unsuccessful.

The doctor is always

in at