I have a new role model for parenting - Miranda Priestly. She's the character Meryl Streep plays in "The Devil Wears Prada." Through the whole movie, Miranda never raises her voice, never yells, yet she inspires terror in all of her staff. I don't want to inspire terror in my children, but a little respect would be nice.
So I'm trying something new. Instead of raising the volume when I'm trying to get the girls to listen to me, I'm taking it down two or three notches, and I'm staying very calm. I'm very polite, with lots of pleases and thank yous as I give the girls their instructions. And so far it's working - they stop talking/arguing/playing to listen to me. More importantly, they do what I'm asking them to! The first time I tried it, they cleaned up the living room in record time, mostly because they weren't arguing with me about who needed to clean up what.
I'm also using Mirana-like responses when the come to me to complain or tell on the other. Ella was dumbstruck the other day when I told her I didn't care that Lily had spit at her. "I don't care. Work it out yourself." Again, I was very calm, and very quiet. She didn't even try to argue with me and wandered off. I didn't give her anything to argue with me about.
The hard part is remembering to stay calm and quiet. Yesterday morning I was trying to get everyone out the door to meet friends at the zoo. The girls were refusing to put shoes on, and the cleaning lady was trying to work around us. I wanted to scream in frustration, but I kept myself in check. Amazingly, we got out the door and to the zoo on time without anyone in tears.
Let's see if it continues to be effective, and whether I can keep it up.