The Sneaky Way To 'Control' Your Family That They’ll Actually Enjoy

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dad carrying child on shoulders with mom and sister in background

It’s the end of a long day. You walk through your front door feeling exhausted and over-stimulated, eager to rest and connect with your family now that you're finally home. But as you enter the house, you're assaulted by a cacophony of noise coming from all directions. (So much for 'home' feeling like a peaceful sanctuary). 

The "My Little Pony" theme song blares from the TV in the family room. Your daughter's heavy metal music upstairs competes with your son's actual live drum practice in the basement. And in the kitchen, someone’s using the Ninja blender to crush (what sounds like) ... large rocks.

If this is what your "Hi, I'm home!" moment is usually like (and it makes you want to scream, run away, and never return) — you're not alone. 

It turns out, the 'soundscape' around us each day impacts our sense of calm, connection, and overall wellness in powerful ways. Yet, we rarely pause to reflect on that aspect of our environment, short of screaming "Will you please shut up!" or "Knock off that racket! I can't hear myself think!"

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Why does the noise drive us so batty? 

Basically, that tidal wave of jarring noise triggers the lizard part of your brain to think you're in danger. Before the thinking part of your brain has time to actually figure out what the sound is (a.k.a. NOT an immanent threat), your lizard brain has already flooded you with adrenalin and your heart rate has gone up, activating your fight-or-flight response.

This, of course, feels upsetting and agitating. By the time you realize it's "just" music, or "just" the TV, you're already angry, irritated, and defensive. 

So, when you come home all ready to rest and relax and, instead, you open the front door to auditory chaos, what do you think your reptilian brain does? It only knows fight, flight or freeze, none of which are ideal ways to greet your loving, caring, enthusiastic family, right?

Well, good news! There is a secret weapon to combat the agitating noise pollution on your own. (Bonus: You might already know what this secret weapon is!) 

And, if you strategically use this secret weapon on your family, you can actually turn that crazy, frenetic, end-of-day chaos at your house into a harmonious, connection-building family happy hour.  

In fact, this is a secret technique that therapists, teachers, and businesspeople already know. There are even at-risk folks out there right now whose psychiatrists prescribe this technique instead of psych meds. Yes, it's that powerful. 

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The secret weapon is music 

More specifically: Use music to deliberately create the soundscape you want in your home. 

Believe me, if there was a way to license this stuff, I could sell it for millions, but it’s really just common sense to remove the annoying background sounds and replace them with sounds that calm, energize, and create the ambiance you crave

So, let's think about how this applies to typically chaotic points in your family's day:

  • How does my family wake up in the morning? Cranky? Rushed? Disconnected? ... OK. Well, how would you like your family to wake up? What sounds would help create that feeling? Do you need soothing nature sounds? Do you need positive, upbeat music? Identify the types of sounds that would create the feeling you want in your house as everyone's date starts. 
  • How does your family unwind from work/school/homemaking? Is everyone off in their own corner on different screens? Are family members lethargic, or impatient? What would you like to happen so that you feel like the family actually comes back together during that transition time? What kind of sounds or music would help create that space? The music you can dance to in the kitchen? Energizing, yet soothing Latin music? 

Knowing what feeling you ultimately want in your home is 99 percent of this technique. 

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Time to create those soothing playlists

Once you’re aware of that, all you have to do is create a playlist with the right sounds and songs already queued up and ready to go. Simply hit play on your stereo, laptop, or smartphone and there you go ... an instant shift in the soundscape around you. 

At my house, we have a morning soundtrack that kicks in for breakfast and while getting ready for school. There’s also a playlist for the workday (both my wife and I work from home). Then, there’s an after-school down-regulate playlist for the whole family that shifts us into the right energy before dinner, before switching over to an actual playlist for dinner itself. We use a laptop or even a smartphone to play the music. (We play it quietly in the background, as the lizard brain is VERY sensitive to stimulation the ears send it.)

Does this technique help get the entire family on the same page mentally and energetically? It sure does for us. And I'm willing to wager it will do the same for YOUR family, as well.  

Why is this so magical? Because a family that's on the same page is a powerful, compassionate, deeply connected, problem-solving machine. 

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What soothes one might not soothe all

In my family, we've learned (through trial and error) that one person’s delightful sounds or songs might be adrenalin-producing stress inducers to someone else. So, we simply adjust. We tweak the lists until we all feel good about it. And the process is actually fun! And who wouldn’t want a family that works like a team that way?

The truth is, the sounds around us shape our mood, impact our energy, and shift our mindsets in a matter of moments. 

I’ve used the barely-audible sound of heartbeat played on my smartphone at the start of meetings to entrain everyone in the room (people just seem more attuned to each other when the meeting starts that way). 

A third-grade teacher told me her students ask to listen to a particular CD when they are doing work in class. And a student in my unhoused music class who has bipolar disorder says his shrink makes sure there’s plenty of smartphone music available to him rather than expensive symptom-suppressing psych meds. 

Don't let end-of-day noise frustrate and fracture your family's sense of togetherness. Give this technique a try. You'll be amazed how well it changes the feeling (and the sense of connection) in your home! 

Try it. If you get great results, tell your friends. It’s time we reclaimed our soundscapes and make them do our bidding!

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Bill Protzmann is the founder of Music Care Inc., a for-profit corporation dedicated to teaching practical ways music can be used for self-care. His latest book, More Than Human, explains how and why re-engaging the human spirit can make a practical and positive difference.