Just wanted to introduce myself as one of your newest fans 🙂 My name is Anna. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area in California and have a 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son. I’ve been following RIE since my daughter was about 6 months old and feel so confident in that it’s the best approach for my family.
My daughter is definitely a tough cookie but I think we’re figuring it out! My biggest struggle right now it how to help my two littles get along. They don’t spend a lot of time together but when they do there’s some toy snatching, pushing, hitting, and lots of screaming. I’m especially lost on how to deal with the screaming. I currently say something like “A, look at little brother’s face. I think he’s telling you that he doesn’t like it when you’re that loud with him”. My tone is one of curiosity and I’ve been trying not to make a big deal of it because she would do it more. I guess I just feel sorry for my little one because he’s being screamed at. I’m not a yeller myself so I know she’s not getting it from me or my husband. If you have any resources you can direct me to, I’d love to look into it.
I am so glad that I clicked on your youtube video and am really loving all of your videos! I really like how you combine RIE with Dr. Shefali Tsabary and Laura Markham who are all favorites. You do an amazing job and your kids are soooo lucky to have you! Keep up the great work.
I’m looking forward to more videos 🙂
Anna is not the only one who’s been asking me about screaming in the last few months! Honestly, uncontrollable screaming is an issue for so many parents because it is both so common and so infuriating! It triggers the zennest (is that a word?) among us and leaves us competent, has-it-all-together adults in a puddle of helplessness at the hands of a tiny human.
One of the main reasons screaming persists in our children is what Anna said about feeling “at a loss” – I believe that whenever we feel “lost” as to how to handle our child – they will reenact that exact behavior that has us feeling helpless. Call it their unwavering benevolence – teaching us to step into our power whether we like it or not.
Why do babies and toddlers scream? Where does it come from?
I think there might be several reasons and it will vary from child to child. Tapping into the need or reason behind the behavior is an absolute key to reducing it’s favorability. If you can answer the need – the screaming will subside – but first, what is the need?
It might be…
Frustration – Babies and toddlers can be frustrated by their physical and verbal limitations, they want to do more and have more power but they Just. Can’t. Get. It. Someone else is always deciding for them and shuffling them around. Frustration is pretty much par for the course if you’re a toddler, but for us adults – the best thing we can do is to understand and acknowledge their challenges.
Non Verbal – Screaming can be an emphatic expression of something that can’t be expressed using words… just yet. If a child doesn’t have the language and hasn’t practiced expressing their desires through words (ala “I wasn’t done with that, please wait your turn”) – a scream is far more accessible and usually gets the right effect, pronto.
Curiosity – Especially when it garners such a fascinating reaction from the adults around – children can be curious about this newfound power. Wow, when I just apply my voice like this – mummy and daddy jump! And yell! I wonder if they’ll do it again! Like a button that produces a delightful result, this type of screaming will continue so long as it remains interesting.
Efficacy – Some children learn quickly that it’s worth screaming because I get what I wanted. If we adults are brought to our knees by the screams – so much so that we’ll do anything – give anything – to make it stop – chances are these are shows that will have repeat encores. Our kids figure: why fix it if it isn’t broken? Screaming makes my parents give in, I should do this more often.
Now I’m talking about screaming here – but when our children are in full on emotional melt down, or tantruming – it calls for a whole other level of mindful response. If you’re facing difficult, prolonged and even violent tantrums – you can catch my (free!) online training about Peaceful Tantrums here:
So what to DO in the face of these loud explosions?… Here are some thoughts:
7 Steps to Handle Screaming
Regulate Yourself You HAVE to calm down and detach, almost ignore the screaming itself (which doesn’t mean you have to ignore the child, the need or the frustration – more on that soon).
Ask yourself why you’re getting triggered? What’s so hard about tolerating a little screaming? Can you get comfortable with the uncomfortable? This is even more important if you have other children around who react strongly to their sibling’s screams – they need to see you model a detached, calm, centered response.
The sound itself needs to be rendered uninteresting. You need to do your best to treat it like something really boring – something that hardly scrapes a reaction – no one really cares. This renders it less interesting and less likely to repeat.
Check Hearing It’s always good to rule out any medical conditions that cause a behavior. Make sure nothing is going on physically to ensure there’s no reason for them to be screaming (that they are not in pain or screaming because of hearing issues).
Back Off Losing Battle Limits Notice that setting a limit on screaming is a losing battle – because we can’t actually control our children’s volume. And so, rather than punishing or bribing or (trying to) set a hard limit – you need to create the conditions for the screaming to peter off.
There’s not much you can actually do (legally and ethically!) to stop a child from screaming. So it’s all about our approach to it – taking the long view of guiding our children through and out of a behavior.
Avoid Power Struggles The way to avoid power struggle is by sharing power with them rather than powering over them. So instead of trying to stop the screaming through fear, anger and threats – get down on your child’s level and see if you can meet a mutual agreement, calmly. Help your child to get their needs met, so that their screaming isn’t helpful or necessary to them anymore.
Don’t React to the Scream, but Rather to the Need Rather than focusing on the scream (the media) react to the communication (the content). React to the frustration or the need – and help them express themselves, while empathizing with and meeting the underlying need.
If you want to address the screaming itself you could say: “I can’t hear you properly when you scream, could you please try to use a quieter voice?” or offer them the words that would help them express themselves more effectively: “I can see how hard that is! You can say I’m so frustrated!”
Trust Your Child (and that this shall pass) They won’t be screaming in college.
Don’t Join Their Chaos Invite them to join your calm – our tendency is to escalate and to get triggered by their chaos. Instead of getting louder yourself – project a field of calm around yourself.Become a powerful generator of a soothing energy and it will encompass your child too (or at least help you, while you help them). The more they scream – the louder they get, the calmer you get. Talk even quieter. Be even more silent, observant and calm so that their screaming isn’t escalated by you. You don’t reflect their turmoil, instead you share your calm.
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Give Anna a “LOVE” in the comments if you’ve ever been there… juggling needy buckets with the introduction of a new sibling or feeling disconnected during the transition with a new baby.
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