my 'demanding', screeching, screaming 16 month old DS.... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 12:11 AM - Thread Starter
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can you guys help me out? DS is *young* ---16 months, so im not sure if this is even the time for any sort of discipline. but right now i feel like i dont know ANYTHING for sure, so i need your opinions.

basically, DS screeches/screams in what others call 'an extremely demanding way' whenever what he wants doesnt happen immediately. this is not a matter of him not having my attention or just needing more cuddles and hugs; he has my undivided attention all day long and i am more than happy to give it to him.

example: he will come up to me holding a book, wanting to be read to. i will be washing my hands (or whatever) and will quickly have to dry them before i get the book from him and sit down to read it. in the 4 seconds it takes me to dry them, he screeches/screams bloody murder and is MAD MAD MAD, and often will try to hit my face. please believe me i respond to whatever it is he wants as fast as i can, but this is kind of ridiculous. or is it? i dont know! is this just how 16 months olds who are frustrated by their inability to communicate well are? or is my little guy particularly impatient or strong-willed?

(that was kind of a lame example but it was the best i could come up with..)

usually when he hits (and these days, he mostly just does 'experimental hitting' when hes happy as a clam but just wants to smack something to see what happens), wether its angry hitting or 'experimental', i will look him in the eye and say 'no hitting mama. hands are not for hitting. gentle touches on mamas face, gentle touches...' while taking his hand (if he'll let me) and touching my face with it gently. is this what i should be doing? or something else? will he ever 'get it'????

and what about the screeching/screaming? how can i start to teach him at this young age what is acceptable and what isnt? do other little ones this age do this? i just want to be guiding him in an age-appropriate, gentle manner but i feel totally lost.

also, did i even post this in the right forum? or should it go in the toddler thingie? im kinda new

thanks, mamas!
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#2 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 12:57 AM
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Good news: it must be a normal stage cause we're going through it
Bad news: we're going on 19 months old with no sign of stopping.

One thing that does help us (sometimes) is to start asking about stuff. "do you want x?" "do you want y?" that can at least stop the scream/crying (sometimes).
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#3 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 10:50 AM
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Yup normal. Yup annoying. Yup what you're doing sounds great.

(Not especially helpful am I?)

The early toddler months can be challenging because of the frustration they may feel in not being able to communicate easily. One thing that might help you is to start teaching him some baby sign language. My friend's son (who is 19 months old) is a bit delayed in language (almost certainly because he is learning two maternal languages - French and English), but he has a lot of signs. Once they started teaching him the signs his frustration level went waaay down.

Thinking of your hand washing example... If you are busy doing something so you can't attend to him *right that second* it can help mitigate his frustration if you let him know that you really get what he's "telling" you. So he comes up to you with the book and you could emphatically say "Ds wants to read the book! Mommy is going to read the book to ds!". Basically affirming, and reassuring while you are (meanwhile) managing to finish getting your hands washed (for ex.).

Another thing that you might try is to "honour the impulse". So if he is "experimenting" with hitting by hitting you, you could say "it's not ok to hit mommy. Hitting hurts mommy. Do you want to try hitting this drum?".

Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#4 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 02:07 PM
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I agree with the signs...I've heard it said that children develop much faster mentally than they do physically (lingually), so at that age it's sometimes frustration with not being able to communicate what they are thinking. Personally, when I was watching my friend's son, I would direct him away from the screeching with "We use nice words like ______" (insert simple word) because the screeching was so overwhelming. I would also sign the word, if I knew it, while saying it. For instance, you could talk to him when it's obvious what he wants: "Oh, would you like Mommy to read the book for you?" while making the sign for 'book' with your hands. My DD didn't really do the screeching thing, and I think part of it was that from day one we talked to her and signed to her as if she understood us. She said her first word at 4 months and hasn't slowed down since!

Aileen, Mama to Hannah James, 4/01/07 Smartest kid I've ever known! And Gabriel Joseph, born at home 3-31-10!! Delaying and selectively vax'ing
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#5 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 02:34 PM
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I found the 12 - 18 months early toddler days the most challenging, way more so than infancy or older toddler. I'm loving 24+ months because we can actually talk about stuff. It's such a relief that he can tell me what he wants, instead of just grunting or screaming, and I can tell him what I want and explain why.
Part of it is just age appropriate behavior. I do gentle discipline, but it is okay to be firm when they do something inappropriate at that age -- not angry at them, but firm. Sign language may also help. I know it was really a breakthrough for us.

Jen, journalist, policy wonk, and formerly a proud single mama to my sweet little man Cyrus, born at home Dec. 2007 . Now married to my Incredibly Nice Guy and new mama to baby Arthur.
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#6 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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thank you ladies!

im defintely going to look into signing!

i did forget to add that in my example, i will defnitely give words to what it is i know he wants, like ' You want mama to read a book? OK! Mama will read a book to Westy; lets read this book together!' and i will get down to eye level and use my quiet voice to say this, to model a non-screeching way of vocalizing. is this cool or is there anything else i can do until the signing kicks in and/or this stage passes?

and he's definitely got 'NO!' down pat........... if hes screeching/screaming and i cant discern what exactly it is that he wants, ill pick him up and start guessing, saying 'do you want the orange? NO! do you want the measuring cups? NO! do you want papa's water bottle? (big smile ). OK! Westy wants papa's water bottle!

maybe these are lame things to ask questions about, but sometimes i just feel like i have no earthly idea what im doing.......... and i just want to do right by my little sillybuns

and i really like the 'honoring the impulse' that from a book? i think id read it before.... which one? i guess that means we will be doing a lot of high fives!

thank you, mamas.

any more advice/tips would be appreciated too! im alllll ears!
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#7 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 03:53 PM
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I rephrase for my little ones frequently.

Dd2 is almost 13 months. She was standing beside my chair habitually screaming and fussing and demanding a bite from my plate. I started saying, "bite, please. Say, bite, please." And when her tone changed I'd give her one right away.

If she brings me something and is fussing, I say, no fussing please. Mama is coming to read. If she still is fussy and demanding, I'll say, "Ohhhh. That's fussy. Say, book, please." And I'll repeat "book please" in a sing song voice while I scoop her up to read it.

It's easy to forget to directly teach them what TO do, and just emphasize what NOT to do, while hoping they eventually figure out how to be polite.

My experience (third toddler now) is that the more I rephrase for them the quicker they catch on and the less whining and demanding we have.

Another thing to consider is that people wait for their children to just start talking, but I advocate listening VERY, VERY closely for words, or an attempt at them. Maybe it's genetic, but all 3 of my kids have had 30+ words before a year old, and gaining rapidly.

Any attempt to repeat a word, gets acknowledgement from me. A sample conversation between my babies and me...

Baby: Uh! (While pointing to the bananas)
Me: Oh! Do you want a banana? BA NA NA. (singsong banana, banana, banana.) BA NA NA. You want a ba na na? Can you say ba na na? (all the while, I'm making good on getting it. I now have a piece ready to offer to them while I'm saying "can you say...")
Baby: BA!
Me: That's RIGHT! Banana! Yeah! Banana! Do you want more BA NA NA?

Repeat frequently. I have now mentally declared banana as the "word of the day", and will find regular opportunities to use it with the baby, and try to ellicit another try at them saying it.

Everytime I hear the word "ba!" now, I'll say, "Yes! Banana! Where are the bananas?" (or something else appropriate.

Mine catch on really, really fast, and their pronunciation gets better rapidly.

And I listen closely to catch any words they may be saying on their own. Babies tend to repeat words you say frequently to them. For example, dd2 says "want some?" and "let's go", neither of which I taught to her.

Another thing, they can sometimes talk backwards, or emphasize the end syllable of a word, or start talking in phrases instead of individual words, and often too quickly to easily decipher. Like, dd2 says "ATDA!" for "tada!" And a friends little boy would point at his cup and say "Puh!Puh!Puh!," and at truck and say, "ckckckckckckck". Coming from dd2, "want some" sounds like "wahhhtum" with an x or k sound in there somewhere. But, it's definately "want some", and she's glad we understand it.

So, to sum up my wordy on the phrasing and the talking.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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#8 of 11 Old 03-22-2010, 07:16 PM
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I totally agree with the PP about learning what THEIR words sound like too...I had a friend who swore up and down that her children never spoke a word before 2 years old, but her 16 month daughter one day was at my house and clearly said "Wawawa" when I picked up her cup, and reached for it. I said "Yes, that's WATER!!!" With a big huge smile on my face, and the mom was completely shocked, since she hadn't realized that her daughter had been using words.

I think that it sounds great what you are doing, in fact I applaud you for it. I don't know how mom's of screechy-guys can handle it. Good for you for finding gentle solutions to what can be a very nerve wracking stage!

Aileen, Mama to Hannah James, 4/01/07 Smartest kid I've ever known! And Gabriel Joseph, born at home 3-31-10!! Delaying and selectively vax'ing
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#9 of 11 Old 02-27-2014, 11:41 AM
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The answer is simple really the result takes commitment. It's time to create new behavior for both of you. Although your child may not be speaking "English" just yet he or she fully understands the language. Talk to your child like the little human being he or she is. Tell them what you require. For instance... Mommy is washing dishes right now I will read you your book when I am finished. If the screaming and crying persists tell your child that crying will not get him or her what they want then mean what you say. No reaction is the best reaction at first. You will have to gut it out for a while. Do not make eye contact. Crying will not kill them. After they stop crying you tell them now that you are calm we can read the book or whatever. It is your job as a parent to teach your child patience. This can be difficult but because you love them it is time we'll invested. No one said parenting was going to be easy. Fact is, nothing worth doing usually is. Child rearing is an ever changing endeavor. This is the first major shift. When baby first comes along baby drives but when toddler comes along you'd best take the keys to avoid crashing!
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#10 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 01:02 PM
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You've got some good advice here from various directions.  I'm not arguing with any of it, but this is what I think works best as the immediate response to loud unpleasant screeching: Cover your ears.  Put a shocked, wincing expression on your face.  Wait.  DO NOT do what he wants you to do until the screeching stops.  Because, look:

he screeches/screams bloody murder and is MAD MAD MAD, and often will try to hit my face. please believe me i respond to whatever it is he wants as fast as i can, but this is kind of ridiculous.

You are rewarding his behavior.  In fact, you are rushing to reward it.  This is likely to get you more of that behavior.  Instead, show him that screaming and hitting is NOT the way to get what you want.  If the screeching continues for a while, when he pauses for breath, say quietly but firmly, "When you are quiet, then I will read the story."


It's developmentally normal for screaming and hitting to be among the first tactics he thinks to try.  That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with teaching him that you do not like screaming and hitting.


Many GD parents respond to hitting the same way you have been, and it does seem to work for some people.  It's true that it's important to control your temper and not yell at your kid or hit back.  But I think it's also important to express pain and shock: Say, "OWW!!", take a step away from him, hold the injured part, say, "You HIT me!" like you can hardly believe it.  Wait.  A year from now, this will be the moment when you can expect an apology, so go ahead and act like you expect it now.  After a moment, say, "Hitting hurts."  Finish what you were doing.  Then read the story or whatever.  Show him that hitting delays getting what he wants because you need a moment to recover from being hit.


Good luck!  This stage will probably last a while, but try to believe he is learning things that will pay off later.

Mama to a boy EnviroKid 10 years old and a girl EnviroBaby 1 year old!
I write about parenting, environment, cooking, and more.
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#11 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 03:13 PM
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Hi ilovewest,


Here are a few ideas:


-Acknowledge and/or validate his feelings (without giving in to his "loud request) by saying something like, "Wow, you're angry that I am not reading the book right now." or "You're yelling because you want me to read this book?" or "It's really hard to wait while I dry my hands, isn't it?"


-Instead of dealing with the book issue (or whatever the main issue is), focus on his feelings at the time and helping him learn to calm down. This can include acknowledging his feelings (as stated above) and offering him some ways to handle the anger. It's tough to teach calm down skills at this age and get quick results - it takes a while for kids to develop these skills over time. You can offer hugs or maybe a stuffed animal for him to squeeze to get out his frustrations. After he is calmed down, then read the book.


-Use this as an opportunity to work on verbal skills. So you might encourage him to say, "I'm mad" or something very simple that he could do instead of screaming. Teaching him to verbalize his words will not happen quickly and he will have to practice tons and tons to accomplish this, but it's a time to start teaching these types of skills, knowing that the results will come very slowly.


-Another idea is to have other people model how to wait after asking for something, so your son can watch this in action. So if "waiting" is the issue he's struggling with, make it a point for other people to ask you for things and then they must wait (only for a short time though since your child is a toddler) and then you comply. Your son will get to see some examples of how other people "wait."


Of course all of those could be combined. Just wanted to throw out a few ideas.


Kelly Pfeiffer

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