Let’s revisit kids who are making incessant noise with their mouths.
Often this is non-stop chatter, but it’s also loudly humming, making siren sounds, clicking their tongue, making random sounds with their lips, etc.
It’s driving a lot of us kind of crazy!
Let’s talk about what this is, why kids are doing it, and how to respond when it’s driving you up the wall.
Children will often do something called filtering.
Filtering is something we all do most of us learn to do it very unobtrusively by the time we’re adults.
A really common example of filtering is using a white noise machine to sleep. The white noise creates a filter which blocks out all the other house noises around you so your brain can shut off and have a relaxation response. That’s an example of using an external filter.
This is basically what happens when children are using their mouth to make lots of random sounds. They’re producing a sound with their mouth to act as the filter though, instead of using an external filter like a white noise machine.
This isn’t exclusive to sound though, we can filter physically too.
Children who tend to smash into things or who are pickers, nail biters, chew their lips- those are all examples of physical filtering.
I used a physical filter when I got my Covid jabs!
I use a vibrator on my neck to filter the pain signal from the needle to my brain. Sunglasses are an example of physical filtering.
You can taste filter when you mix medicine in with chocolate milk? That’s a taste filter or you eat a bitter veg by loading it underneath a pile of pasta on your fork? Filtering.
Basically, it’s using one kind of input to mask or dilute another kind of input.
If a child is experiencing sensory overload or sensory under stimulation, they’ll filter to get the right level of input. It’s actually amazing. The problem is that their filtering can often be the source of our overstimulation!
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Last time I spoke on this topic a lot people came to me afterwards and were like: this is stimming.
When a child is creating output in order to filter, that is a kind of stimming, for sure. But not all filtering is stimming, and not all stimming is filtering. They’re part of each other, but they aren’t the same.
How can we combat this?
Well, the easiest way is to provide our own filter!
Generally, this looks like music or a podcast.
A lot of people live with their TVs on all day as background noise, same idea, we’re just removing the screen aspect because that can cause its own stimulation issues.
My son loves to sing to filter and that’s amazing but he will sing the same MarioKart or Zelda theme song in his adorable tone-deaf voice all. day. long. And I can’t handle it.
We generally have a Spotify playlist playing in the background over our Amazon Echo system.
If he’s playing in his room, he has his own playlist, he plays.
If we’re in the car, I always have music playing. And often he’ll sing along or hum along which is way easier for me to handle than the same video game themes all day long.
If I need quiet like right now I give him Bluetooth headphones to listen through.
If we’re somewhere that it’s not appropriate for him to be wearing headphones, I either put on ear defenders or I use wax earplugs to dull the sound so that I’m not getting overstimulated by his filtering.
Option 2 is to filter ourselves.
I like the soft wax ones that mold to your ear. I think my ears are an odd shape, ear plugs never fit in correctly but the wax ones are just little balls of soft wax that you smush in there and it plugs all the holes.
I’ve been using Calmer ear filters from Flare Audio lately I actually have them in my ears right now. mThese are just little silicone.
Funnels? That fit in your ear and they help sound not to bounce around your ear so much so that it isn’t as annoying.
I get really overstimulated when my kids are playing loudly or whining or whatever and it’s not because it’s too loud it’s because the way my ears are receiving the sound is overstimulating so this help.
Ear defenders work well too. My kids know that if my ear defenders are on that I’m not available so they leave me alone to work or cook or whatever it is that I’m doing. It doesn’t completely remove the noise, but it dulls it enough that I can go about my day and still be responsive to them.
A final option is to ask them to stop or put a boundary around it.
Some kids don’t even realize that they’re doing it and when you ask them to stop, they do or you can put a boundary around it.
I need quiet right now, so if you want to sing or make that sound you need to go do that in your room, outside, on the balcony, in the basement whatever! Just not here.
Then enforce that boundary- take them to one of the spaces you mentioned that you can’t hear them.
It’s okay if your kids get upset when you put a limit around the sound.
Remember the sound is what is helping them stay regulated, so when you take that away, you need to be prepared to deal with some dysregulation.
Often you can offer an alternative calming activity so that they can get back to just right.
I know when my kids are making incessant noise, that’s my red flag that they need some help co-regulating.
I’ll pull out one of their calming activites or suggest they go do something I know is preferred that they find calming, and that generally resolves the non-stop sound but by giving them space to make the sound somewhere where you just can’t hear it they often kind of do their filtering thing, it regulates them, and then after a while, they come out and go on their way.
this why your children are making non-stop sounds.
I hope that gave you some ideas of different ways you can address it while still meeting everybody’s needs and limitations.
Remember kids do well if they can.
If they’re doing something over and over and over and won’t heed your pleas for them to stop it’s usually because it’s performing a function that is maintaining their regulation.
We need to find a container for it, we need to find an alternative, or we need to replace it.
We can’t just make it disappear.
If you find your child is filtering constantly that is likely an indicator that they need some help with learning to regulate.
This is something we can help you with in ParentAbility!
In Parentability we walk you through identifying what the stressors your child is experiencing are, and help you make a plan to reduce or eliminate them while building their coping skills.
If you’d like to learn more about that I have a free class available at allanarobinson.com/freeclass that will explain how this all works together in more detail.