Screaming and crying - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 01-09-2012, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
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DD is almost 3.  Lately, she has been going through a phase of screaming, yelling, crying, stomping, or banging things when she becomes angry.  In short, she throws a fit.  This includes any time we enforce a boundary or something isn't working the way she wants or she wants us to give her something or do something for her.  I draw limits when it comes to banging things, but I strongly believe that children's feelings deserve respect, and it is unjust to punish them for their feelings.  The past month or so has just caused me to wonder what the balance needs to be between allowing and encouraging children to express their strong emotions and helping them to find more acceptable of handling/responding to their strong emotions.

 

It is absolutely acceptable to have whatever emotional response one has to a situation, but not every action that one could choose to respond to an emotional situation is appropriate.  I am trying really hard to speak calmly with her and ask that she speak calmly with me when she wants me to do something, that she use words to tell me what she wants, and that she talk to me about it if she disagrees with one of my boundaries.  She's actually very smart and much more capable of communicating these than I would have ever expected of a not-yet-3-year-old.  She surprises me every day with how she can communicate with me about complex and unfamiliar situations and topics.  Her issue is not one of not having the communication skills.  It is one of not yet having the emotional skills to calm down on her own.

 

I think she's in a very developmentally appropriate place.  I'm just trying to figure out the best way to lovingly guide her through the difficulties of this phase.  There have just been a lot of days recently where she is getting upset and screaming about something every few minutes for most of the day.  I'm not exaggerating.  She'll go through days when she screams for almost every thing she's asking for, and she asks for things quite often.

 

The screaming really gets to me.  I feel like I'm losing control of myself.  My head hurts, and I'm exhausted.  Try very hard to say what I mean and mean what I say, but I find myself saying things I don't mean, and I find myself going back on boundaries or being unwilling to draw boundaries that need to be drawn, such as when she is physically hurting me, in order to avoid conflict.  I find myself just trying to fix the situation for her when she screams because I can't stand the screaming, and I know this just makes things worse.  Inconsistency will just give her more reason to scream.  Sometimes, I snap or even yell at her, demonstrating the hypocrisy in my trying to teach her to deal with her strong feelings appropriately when I can't even do it myself.  It sometimes helps me to remember that the emotions she is dealing with are no less difficult to respond to calmly than the emotions I am dealing with when I am yelling at her, but it doesn't mean that it's really OK for either of us.  Also, I try to be very proactive in parenting, meeting my child's needs to set her up for success, and it's really difficult to think in those terms when I am reacting to her outbursts all... day... long...

 

The way things are going, it is very easy for things to turn into a vicious cycle where her outbursts are driving me crazy, and in that state of mind, I am not helping her to manage her emotions well and am actually even encouraging more outbursts, and I'm trying to figure out how to keep things from getting into a downward spiral.  Basically, there are two questions I'm trying to answer.  First, what can I do to find control for myself?  I can handle it the first twenty times she screams at me in an hour, but how do I keep control over myself the next 50 times she screams at me in the next three hours?  Secondly, should we be giving her consequences for outbursts, and if so, what?  The only consequence I am completely comfortable with is requiring her to ask calmly and politely before addressing her request (and I try to do this consistently).  Refusing her request just because she screamed for it doesn't sit right with me, especially when some of the things she is requesting are things that she needs (help washing hands, a drink of water, food, etc).  I'm not a big fan of most of the more generic consequences such as time-outs, etc, either.  I prefer to stick with natural and logical consequences.  I just don't know what to do that would tip the balance to help us make quicker progress in this area.

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#2 of 4 Old 01-09-2012, 08:08 PM
 
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Three things come to mind when I read your post:

 

1.) Can you eliminate her need to scream for many things?  Put a step stool in the bathroom, or set out a drink or snack she can access?  I find that the more often I can say to my kids, "Well, you know what to do," and then just let them, the happier they are.  Mine have never responded very well to choices, but they love responsibility.

 

2.) Does she scream to get your attention?  And then repeat it nicely?  I've found that sometimes I've confused my kids about what I want them to do.  Being really proactive for a few days has helped reset us.  I just try to be really hands on, and prevent as much as possible.  Our youngest was screaming so that we'd look at her, and then be super sweet.  Asking nicely wasn't really the problem, our inattention was.

 

3.) What are you doing to teach her that you are "a people, too"?  I remember watching my ds, when he was smaller, yelling and just being so angry, and I suddenly saw him acting that way to his future wife.  I realized, then and there, that I needed to begin teaching him how to interact appropriately with people.  Respect for each other (not in an authoritative way) is huge in our house.  That's probably our one rule, and every thing stops until we've got that under control.  Imo, it's not that she's feeling her emotions, or whatever, it's that she is being mean to you.  I'd work on helping her to see the effect of her action on people.


"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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#3 of 4 Old 01-10-2012, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for your response!  I also talked with a friend about it for a while last night, and I think I'm getting more clarity.

 

1) I think we're actually doing pretty well with this. She has a stool in the bathroom and another in the kitchen. She has dishes she can reach and snacks/drinks that she can get for herself.  There are still some things that she can't handle by herself like preparing meals, getting the last bits of food off her plate, or pulling her stool over to the sink when her hands are really messy.  She's going through a phase of wanting me to do things for her rather than doing them herself, and she's got a lot of work to be done to go from being upset that something isn't right to thinking through what she can do about it for herself.

 

2) Yes, she does at times.  What do you do to be proactive about this?

 

3) I'll need to contemplate this one some more.  I teach her respect in many ways, but I do think that I need to look more at how to ask her to respect me in this area.

 

Thanks for your ideas!

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#4 of 4 Old 01-10-2012, 08:23 PM
 
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In short, if I think that my children are behaving in a way that isn't working for me, I really try to figure out what the need is.  So, if the need is to get my attention, I am sure to give it to them all the time.  I don't mean by hovering. 

 

For example, if the baby is throwing food on the floor because she is done eating, and my response is to have her help me pick up the food, and get her down, what she is learning is to get down, you throw your food on the floor and pick it up.  The best way to get her to stop doing that, is to watch for little cues that tell me she is almost done.  Then I go to her, and say, "Are you all done?  Want to get down?"  And when she gives the affirmative, I say, "Down, please", while getting her down.

 

If a child is screaming for my attention, then I pay very, very close attention to prevent that need.


"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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