Children Who Scream

( This post is NOT directed at toddler shrieking!  Toddler shrieking is a normal phase of development.  If you need help with toddler behavior, please see the Baby/Toddler Header at the top of this blog.)

This post is for children aged four and over who scream.

 

Some parents have developed the following general strategies:

  • A place for screaming:  Some families feel a screaming voice is an outside voice, and therefore screaming belongs outside on the grass. 
  • Making sure their children get their energy out in a physical way every day – please do remember that three to  four  hours outside is probably about right.  
  • They model respectful behavior for their children.
  • They work hard to make sure their children are not tired, hungry, over-stimulated. 
  • They make sure  they are spending time with their child and filling up the child’s tank in that child’s love language.
  • They work with their child’s temperament if that child is aged seven or older. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, there are several types of screaming during the ages of four plus  years: 

1.  Screaming during a complete melt-down.  If you need help in handling temper tantrums, please see this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/

2.  Screaming whilst you are talking to another adult in person or on the phone because the child really wants attention. 

Many times, we ask children to please not interrupt us.  However, when they do, we answer their request or respond to the request!  Sometimes this is necessary in cases of utmost urgency, but if your child is interrupting you with an issue that really can wait until you are done with your conversation, then you can politely request that they wait.  Tell that you will be with them in just a moment. 

Importantly, one can think about how and when to have adult conversations.  I think adult conversation is important for mothers in order to garner support for themselves, and I encourage all mothers to take time to meet with other mothers by themselves.  Play dates are often difficult to have adult conversation with four and five and six year olds as they may still need assistance with play dynamics. 

With children of all ages, you can make up little stories about animals who interrupt and what happens.  This is a nice sideways kind of way to address interrupting. 

Children that are older than 4 or 5 often love to be in the vicinity of adult conversations/phone conversations so they can listen in and hear what their parents are saying.  Many parents will schedule returning phone calls at night after their child goes to bed. 

3.  Screaming/whining which is really complaining. In this case, we model using our calm voice and we do not grant requests until a normal voice can be used.   Do not respond to a whining, screaming voice!  Explain to your child that you can help them when they use their normal voice.  If they continue to whine and scream, you may need to calmly repeat this phrase more than once (and yes, this is the hard part). 

Sometimes children are not aware that their voice even sounds screamy or whiny, so you can  model in your calm voice how you would like to be spoken to.  And please do consider instead of “Stop screaming!” to tell your child what you DO want in a nice, calm voice.  “Please use a quiet voice in the house.  Quiet as a mouse.” 

I would love to hear your particular challenges around screaming or whining children; let’s talk about this as a circle of supportive mothers!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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7 thoughts on “Children Who Scream

  1. Hi Carrie,
    I was wondering if you could give an example of a story about animals or similar for a child who likes to interrupt adult conversations?
    Our ds does not scream, but he likes to interrupt conversations that are going on if he is not kept busy by playing with other children or people.
    Any suggestions would be most welcome!
    Maggie

  2. thanks Carrie, this is just what i needed to hear right now. my just turned 4 year old is particularly whining and whinging when she talks. sometimes i feel like i rarely hear her ‘normal’ voice. she is also very very LOUD! i know these are the years of imitation and i have noticed i used to be quite whiny too when making requests of her, so i have stopped this now and talk more directly however it feels like her whinging is never going to stop.

    Carissa x

  3. What a great post!! This is the exact issue I’ve been having with my Miss 4. Non-stop attention seeking full volume screaming. So loud that sometimes my ears hurt afterwards. When she starts usually her older sister joins in, and if it happens at the end of the day they are very difficult to settle or distract. My tired frayed nerves shred completely and I quickly get to the ‘I hate my life’ point of things.

    Miss 4 also starts the screaming when I pay attention to Miss 6. If I have Miss 6 on my lap, she comes up close and will stand there and scream until poor Miss 6 slips away, unable to take the noise.

    That said, the situation is improving – we’ve only had two big scream-a-thons in the last week. And I’m finding it helps me to focus on how often it happens. Other things that’ve helped enormously are getting Miss 4 outside more and letting her yell her head off, not letting her see any loud or violent so-called kids cartoons – we watch pre-schooler type programs like Playschool, turning the TV off except for planned watching, getting her involved in daily activities (like cooking dinner, unloading dishwasher), and just saying yes to her more often, so that she doesn’t get so frustrated.

    I’ve also been making special effort to make sure Miss 6 is getting extra attention ‘on the sly’. Basically grabbing every opportunity that Miss 4 is busy for a conversation, or a big hug. It means I don’t feel awful about being endlessly drawn away by her sister, and she is getting that mummy-time she needs.

    These strategies have come in part from this website and conversations with other Mothers, and I’d love to hear if anyone has any other ideas/strategies.

    Hubby and I don’t ever fight in an aggressive way, yes we bicker and disagree, but rarely in front of the kids. We’re not a yelling, screaming household – just for a bit of background information.

    Best wishes
    Cait

  4. Hi Carrie,
    I have a little different kind of screaming that I am currently trying to tackle. My 8 yr old will sit quietly at a task for a while, but then when he is done and gets up from it, it is with a burst and screaming, like all the energy he was saving while he was sitting quietly must be released in the form of loud screams. The best I have come up with is to send him back to where he was and make him get back up but quitely this time. I have no idea if it is working or not, Hoping after awhile he is going to get tired of doing that and just remember to get up quietly. Any ideas? ~Renee

  5. BLESS you for bringing up this topic tonight! My just-turned-five daughter (oldest of our 2 children) is a real screamer when she doesn’t get her way, when her toddler-sister is too loud, etc. I really, really don’t like constantly correcting her- she’s a charming girl, brilliant and kind, but lately most of her replies to questions are definitely sassy, her response to requests is whining and explaining why she can’t possibly do that task, picking arguments with her dad and I about anything and everything…I know it’s just a phase, and I know she desperately wants to be our equal. I’d love to hear what other mothers say.

  6. Hi Carrie

    I have a little boy (3.5 yrs old) who has always screamed and lately started to whine. A few weeks ago on a really trying day I said in desperation “O dear, I hear you have lost your nice voice. Maybe we can look for it.” (I don’t know where it came from, must be your influence) We looked evrywhere for it and it quickly became a game. We finally found the nice voice in a chest of drawers. Now often we play the game and it always ends with much laughter. I don’t know if it is a long term solution, but it does help me to relax and not get worked up by the whining and screaming.
    It was good to be reminded that kids often don’t know how loud they are.
    Take care.

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