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My Child Won't Stop Screaming!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
My son is 18 mos old and has recently taken to SCREECHING so loud when he can't have his way, when he doesn't like what's happening, when he's mad, when he's tired, when he's bored... He also loves to scream when we're in a store and he can't run around all over the place, when it's time to put his coat on (regardless of where we're going or whether he wants to go or not), when I go to the bathroom with the door closed... it's driving me insane. A little whining, I can deal with. Ear-shattering screams, I cannot.

How the heck does a person calmly deal with this? I have been getting down at his eye level and saying in a very firm but quiet voice, "No screaming. Please use a quiet voice." I also verbalise what it is he's upset about because he's not really talking much yet (for instance, "You're really MAD! You want to run around the store, and I won't let you."). The result? More screaming, and louder.

When I'm out of patience, I just hold him firmly against me and say in a very harsh voice, "Stop screaming, NOW," which makes me feel like I'm losing my self-control and is not the way I want to parent.

Today's most trying situation - We were in PetSmart getting some water treatment for his fish tank, and he wanted to walk rather than sit in the cart or be carried. I let him walk, he looked at all the fish, all was well. Then he pulled a bag of coloured pebbles off the shelf and tried to rip it open. I took it from him, and offered to let him carry the water treatment bottle instead. He took the bottle from me, threw it on the floor, and screamed. I calmly picked up the bottle and asked him to use a quiet voice, and he screamed louder. I bent down to pick him up, and he threw himself onto the floor, screaming louder still.

I am 33 weeks pregnant, and with him on the floor squirming and screaming, I could not pick him up - I had no way to get him out of there fast! I knelt down beside him and said, "I can see you are very mad. I will wait right here until you are ready to get up." And he got up and ran off down an aisle as fast as he could, still screaming. I caught up with him, picked him up, and he screamed in my face. By this point I had no patience or gentleness left in me, and said in a very angry voice, "STOP IT RIGHT NOW." Which, of course, led to crying.

That is just an example. I basically don't know what to do to stop the screaming.

For the most part, I avoid situations and circumstances that would lead to screaming in the first place (run errands when he's well-rested, fed, and happy, keep healthy snacks on hand in case he gets hungry, make a game out of getting his coat on, distract him when he seems to be getting upset, etc. etc. etc.). But lately, he's been screaming a LOT more often, and will go from happy go-lucky one minute to pissed off and screeching his head off the next.

Any suggestions?
post #2 of 10
It's the age. The age of the shriek.

My 17.5 mo is perfecting this, as well.

I try very hard not to ever take anything from her forceibly. Her new language skills are helping in this - in you bag of pebbles for a box to carry scenerio, she would have been OK with the switch if I said something like "Oh! We don't need any pretty stones today, but we DO need this stuff! Trade ya!" (complete the exchange) then say something like "Can you carry that box all the way to front to pay? Let's see!"

"Trade ya!" seems to work pretty well these days. Or, if it's negotiable, "Trade?" she seems to get that that means I want her to hand over something, but she's going to get something else in exchange.

It's not easy when you have no energy, but you can spend your energy being creative in trying to get him to cooperate in the first place, or in settling him down once you've started the avalanche that is a meltdown.
post #3 of 10
Oh, no! Mine started experimenting with the screech from hell a few weeks ago and I thought the phase had passed. Is this just the beginning?

No advice, just subbing.
post #4 of 10
I agree, it's the age. DS is 18 mos old and also loves to screech.

Try to avoid direct confrontation; trade instead of taking away objects, or distract like, "You know what! I think there are doggies over there. Should we go see the doggies? Ok, let's put this bag here on the shelf so we can go see the doggies. Where are the doggies? Oh, that's right! Over there!" (All the while, moving toward the dogs and away from the bag of pebbles.)

When I am tempted to feel embarrassed about DS screeching, because someone else is within earshot, I try to just offer a wry smile and say, "My little screeching pterodactyl" or something similar.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well, it's good to know that this is just another thing that can be explained by "Oh, it's the age!"

I do like the idea of trading when I need him to hand something over, I will definitely give that a try. As for distraction, he is not a child who will be distracted by anything - when there is something he wants, he WANTS IT, and no amount of distracting will divert his attention. You can use the most excited, interested voice in the world for the most tempting object in attempts to distract him, and it will fail.

The past couple of days I have been giving him lots of warning before any kind of transition - for example, "Soon we have to get our coats on and go home," about five minutes before the fact, then again a couple minutes later, until it's time to go. That HAS made a difference, however small, and today we left playgroup without a battle and screaming fit over getting his coat on. Progress!

I expect that a lot of this will pass when he is able to express himself with more words, and hence is not so frustrated with attempts at communication.
post #6 of 10
I agree, just the age. Hang in there. You could make your first response:

"Gentle voice." And then address the other issue.

I know some mamams who prefer to take the solution-oriented approach ie/ " I know you are upset and frustrated...." but I prefer to first address the way the child is reacting and then address the issue. That way (in my opinion) you are dealing with what is upsetting you and then you can more effectively deal with what is upsetting him.
post #7 of 10
In my experience, it gets easier at two. I think 18-24 months is the hardest because they are the most frustrated with not being understood. Hang in there mama!
post #8 of 10
Well, I guess ds is a late bloomer on this one (which, I think, is a GOOD thing, considering the subject) because he's almost 3 and just now starting this. Oh, I HATE it.

I realize he will grow out of it, but gah! It's awful.

Here's what we are doing (with only minor levels of success, so advice is MUCH appreciated):

-Telling him he can screech in his room with the door closed or outside. Basically, we are giving him the message that he CAN do this, but not around us.

-We tell him that we don't like that voice, and that we don't like to be around him when he does it. I think that some might consider this shaming or coercing, but we are trying to make him aware that HIS behavior causes a reaction in others. There are certain behaviors that people are not going to like and won't want to be around you if you do, and right now, this is one of them.

-We tell him that isn't the way big boys talk. He likes that he is a big boy and will tell US that he's a big boy (unless he wants to be a little baby, and have us sing songs and wrap him up), so we are trying to utilize that angle as well. We tell him that big boys use their words.

-We also try to describe what he is feeling, but that doesn't really seem to do much.

Suggestions are most definitely welcome. I realize that some of what we do would not work for certain people here, but please don't flame me for any of this (I'm thinking the "big boy" stuff, and having him go to his room when he wants to screech). Like I said, I'm amenable to suggestions, but not so much to criticism!
post #9 of 10
I need help too for my 3 1/2 year old dd who screams at the top of her lungs. As I sit here now, she screams at her brother who is 6 when she doesn't like something. She is so quick to scream. It drives us crazy! We have also done the please scream in the other room, but it hasn't stopped it. Honestly the only thing that has worked for the short term is if we get to the point of screaming back at her. It is like she wants us to get to that point before she feels heard. I don't want to get to that point. I need ideas too.
post #10 of 10
I wonder if there's two different age-appropriate things going on here - one at 18-ish months and another around 3/3.5-ish.
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