Manipulation screams are. Especially when they have learned that they will get whatever they want, or control the room by screaming that way.
My son (almost 3) has started screaming in a similar way. His screams are part of tantrums, which often end in him crying so hard that he throws up. I have tried everything in my repertoire of gentle parenting techniques to help him through these tantrums, but nothing seems to work. I try empathizing, offering alternatives, helping name his feelings--- talking to him just seems to make him more angry. Giving him want he wants is the only way to end the tantrum and 50% of the time I refuse to do this on principle (he wants a cookie or candy or to watch a show...) and the other 50% of the time I'm unable to give him what he wants/needs (his graham cracker broke in half and he wants it to be whole again, the sun is too bright, etc.) Our current solution is to leave the room that he is in, while explaining that his screaming is hurting our ears. I also try to talk/empathize with him first and offer him a hug and a glass of water, but usually anything I say just makes him more angry-- and louder. Eventually he reaches a point where he comes to me for a hug and then I hold him and talk with him until he calms down....but I have no idea how to prevent these tantrums.
It's painful to watch him suffer through these, and it also completely exhausts my patience when he screams with all his power. I've actually been worried that our neighbors are going to call child protective services at some point. :/
So I can't offer any advice OP-- just commiseration. I've considered dietary and sensory issues, but other than always being a *spirited* kiddo and more high needs than most, DS seems healthy and well adjusted. My hope is that this is a phase before a big developmental leap. The month before DS started talking was hell, in a different way, but it makes me think that DS's system just has a hard time before big growth spurts.
Have you tried earplugs?! (that's a joke ;)
Of course children manipulate! They may be pure and precious, but they are still little human beings. If they see that they can control a room, or get what they want by acting a particular way they will keep doing it. I have seen it time and time again and have had friends who go along with it all in the name of gentle parenting. I believe in gentle parenting, and I consider myself to be a gentle parent but I also believe that I am in fact the parent and my job is to guide them out of behaviors that will only harm them in the long run. A child who is allowed to scream in a roomful of people as a way to preserve their feelings or parent them gently, they are being given the clear message that they are the only important one in the room and they are allowed to behave however they want, even if it effects others. That is not healthy and it will only harm their future relationships with people.
Ha! I actually HAVE used earplugs when my daughter is having a screamy day and I'm feeling on edge. I can still hear her with the earplugs in, but it takes the edge off of the sound enough that I can stay calm when I otherwise would have gone nuts. Not something to do every day, but a decent stopgap measure for keeping your cool, I think.
I have replied earlier but I wanted to add that we have started OT and returned to gluten free for my 4 yr old and the straight to screaming, uncontrollable reaction has decreased from daily level 10 to a weekly level 4. Something I can handle and she feels much better. Today she sent herself to her room until she could calm hereself down when her sister was driving her crazy
Im going to completely agree with you that babies don't manipulate. They cry and scream (unless you are awesome enough to meet their needs before they do this) because they need something. I am a huge believer in feeding babies on demand and always helping them when they are vocal. My favorite thing was (and will be in a couple weeks) to carry them around in a sling with my breast out inside it so they could hop on whenever they wanted. No need to cry at all! I know their cues, and they rarely have to become hysterical to have their needs met.
I do have a four year old, and she knows how to communicate what she is thinking and feeling perfectly without screaming. In my mind there is a HUGE difference! She is still a teeny girl, so I am patient and I direct her to use her regular voice on all occasions. If she has a harder time, I assume that something else is going on. Either she is hungry, or tired, or upset about something but doesn't realize this. I do expect her to use her regular voice and talk to me, but I don't expect her to know if she is hungry or sleepy. I can normally figure it out. My favorite thing to do is hug her and try to give her a snack in case that is the right remedy for her. Sometimes after I give her a snack and snuggle her she is all better and her mood dramatically changes. If it doesn't, I recognise that she is tired and I give her a bath and put her to bed a little earlier. I don't think she manipulates us, because we have not allowed her to but I do think that some children do because a parenting style has yielded that sort of behavior. I have seen it with my own eyes, and I don't think it is the child's fault. I think that being loving and figuring out what is wrong but also being firm and having expectations about behavior is a hard balance at a young age.
We are all doing the best we can do, and we all know our kids more than everyone else.
I don't think 4-year-olds only scream because they're in pain, but I'm uncomfortable with the word "manipulate" for some reason. I think they sometimes scream to get what they want, and they think people aren't listening to them and understanding how much they want it, so they scream, but I don't see that as manipulation. I think it's a pretty straightforward way to try to force someone to do what they want. I think of manipulation as being deceitful, and when I see 4-year-olds scream to get something they want, it doesn't seem deceitful to me. So I think I agree with some of what you say, vermontgirl, but I'm not sure about the word "manipulate."
I have a 4-year-old, and I have an older child who was once 4. I think when they scream to get something they want it's more of a plain old tantrum of frustration and disappointment. They want X, we don't want them to have X, they scream to get X because they don't understand that they aren't always going to get their way and that everything turns out OK even if you don't get X when you want it. It just seems like plain old immaturity to me. I treat it as simple immaturity rather than manipulation.
I also agree with the PP (pek?) who said it's worth investigating to see if there is some kind of pain or something. I try to enter into any situation like this with an initial assumption of the best intent possible. I assume, until I have information to show me otherwise, that they are behaving well and anything they do is due to a legitimate need. I gather information (which doesn't always take very long) and eliminate possibilities. "Is this due to pain?" If no, then, check to see if they really need X. Then I ask myself to reconsider whether I'm being reasonable in my decision to not let them have it. If I get past that and they're still screaming that they want X, I empathize with them and try to help them through their disappointment. I don't see expressions of disappointment as manipulation, however I also don't feel a need to eliminate feelings of disappointment by giving in. I guess I don't see it as misbehavior even, just as immaturity. Hmm now I'm rethinking that. It is behavior I expect them to outgrow, so I guess as far as that goes, it is misbehavior. It's just behavior I try to help them outgrow rather than behavior I get upset about.
It's an interesting conversation and it's made me think about the word "manipulate" more than I have in the past.
I would highly recomend reading Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheeda Kurcinka and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber. You basically described my 4 year old! We also cut out gluten and this has helped. Since putting those two books into action and changing his diet, I would say we've cut the screaming episodes down to about once every other day, and that is something my nerves can handle. Much better than the 3-4 times a day that were happening. Plus I was scared to leave the house because I was anxious about him having a meltdown like this in public and it's hard to care for my younger one while I'm trying to comfort my 4 year old and keeping him contained. Good luck!
Oh, poor mama. I am so sorry.