Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toddler Shrieking and How-To Deal

Now that Nate is 14 months old, he has begun this annoying little habit of shrieking/yelling when he wants something. He isn't upset when he does it, but he is definitely trying to get our attention. Imagine a squealing pig combined with squawking parrot and you've got Nate's shrieks.

When we are at home, we can deal with it, but it's when we are at a restaurant that it becomes really frustrating, even a tad embarrassing. It is so tempting to just give him what he wants. But that just perpetuates the problem.

I've been doing a little online research(as well as reading a book called, Charismatic Kid: A New Breed of Superhero) to educate myself in ways to deal with it. With him only being 14 months old, he's a little young for some of the methods that are commonly referred to, but with a bit of modification, I'm hoping that we can curve this little habit of his.

1). Ignore the bad and reward the good.  As the saying goes, "easier to do than say." However, it is something that we are really trying to push ourselves to do. Instead of focusing on the negative behavior, we need to remember to focus on and reward the positive. When he indicates that he wants something without shrieking, then he can have it. Reversely, instead of calling attention to the negative behavior, we need to ignore it.

2). Teach him to sign. Not only is sign language a great way for toddlers to communicate, but it is silent. Signing results in no noise, which is definitely a welcomed break. My husband began signing the word, "eat" to Nate a few months ago and it has been successful. Now, I am beginning to teach him to sign, "please" when he wants something.

3). Baby time outs. This is usually a last resort for me, but if he continues to shriek, we place him in time out.  We have an exersaucer in our living room that is perfect for baby time outs. These do not last longer than a few minutes.

4). Consistency is key. My husband often reminds me of the importance of consistency in life.  This rule especially applies in parenting. If I am going to ignore the bad and reward the good, then I need to do it every time

5). Just breathe. Repeat this mantra: "This is only a phase. It too shall pass."

Do you have any tips for encouraging positive behavior?


  1. Oh Shoni.. this kind of goes under the ignore and reward one. Instead with Maddison we use correct and praise. Its hard with the fussing/yelling/whining to not just constantly give in. But the constant reminding to "use our words/signs" and not responding until she does so has worked wonders. Not saying we don't have our "bad" days, but it works. Just get down on his level and correct him using a calm voice, if he continues leave it alone for a minute or two then try it again. When you've got success he gets what he's asking for/or praise. Then again this does only work on things that your willing to give him at the moment... things that your saying no to... that's a different story. Best of luck though! ~Lo

  2. With Ethan, he doesn't shriek only when he wants something, but Shay and I have noticed that meal times are the absolute worst. He's not upset when he does it, either, and it doesn't even mean that he wants something; he is simply exercising his voice, and according to everything I've read, we're supposed to allow him to do that, not punish him for it. I can't say that I totally agree with this, though, because at 19 months, he's plenty old enough (I think) to start learning that this is inappropriate behavior, especially when in places like a restaurant or even the grocery store. I've noticed that instead of shushing him or trying to tell him to be quiet, if I (and Shay, if he's home) progressively speak more and more quietly, until we're almost whispering, it helps Ethan to calm down and be quiet, too. If he wants badly enough to hear what we're saying to him, he will quiet down and listen. We reserve time-outs for full-on tantrums, and when that happens, he goes into his crib, no toys, no pacifier, complete isolation until he's done crying and is playing happily by himself. Only then can he come out of his crib. This is per the Baby-Wise Method, and it has served us well from the day Ethan was born!

  3. I've gone through the same thing with Jesse. He's not over it by any means--he still finds plenty of moments when he enjoys a good scream, but I have taught him to say "please" when he wants a certain kind of food, rather than shrieking about it. I simply wouldn't give it to him until he said "please" nicely. Sometimes he says "please" rather loudly, but I still prefer that to the shrieking. :)

  4. I have a 16 month old that is shrieking too (of course so does my 5 year old and 8 year old). I'm really considering starting sign language...just didn't know if it's too late now?!

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  5. Great tips...

    with our daughter (she is three) we praise the good behavior and time-outs for negative. We try not to use the word bad instead we say less than good. Bad just seems so negavtive. Plus she is three, too young to be bad. My son's time-outs (he is one) are in his crib and he generally falls to sleep shortly after being placed there.

    I never used sign language- I was worried they would use that form of communication over speaking.

    Everyday is a leaning process for us all and the best advice ever is consistency.

  6. I can say my daughter Ivy was aweful. Yes, she is my daughter and I will say she was aweful. I loved her dearly but did I mention she was aweful. Being a mommy of five I have yet seen a child like her. She would actually pass out from tantrums. I use to see "bad" kids and think it was the way they were raised but after having 4 other kids and Ivy I now know kids are just different. She was so "bad" I use to think she was in pain and would constantly have her at the doctors and they would actually tell me she was just "bad". She would cry from morning til nite. Now she is 10 and the best kid EVER. She is so good natured and loving. She's calm and peaceful. She will tell her siblings how it is but usually she would rather not disagree (unless it's with her brother Logan). Best advise is to stay calm, if I survived Ivy anybody can survive their babies.

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    and gfc

  7. Great tips! Baby sign has worked wonders for us. It makes it so much easier when they can "tell" you what they want even if they don't have the words yet. And I agree, consistency is the key!

  8. In the past I have tried two tricks, the first is mimicking back the noise to get the child's attention... can take a few shreiks back and forth! Then I shreik softer and softer getting the child to do the same. At the same time I use a second trick of make a sign for diminishing noise... so that later I can make this sign and get the same affect.

    It doesn't happen over night and each child is different but words are confusing for a young child who is just trying to communicate. At least this way the child knows they don't have to be loud to get attention.

  9. When my (now grown) daughter went through this phase, I fought fire with fire. I would get down on the floor and mimick her shrieking and body language. She would look at me and laugh, thus ending the shrieking. By the third or fourth time, she gave up this behavior because it did not have the desired effect she was seeking. And yes, I had to do this once in the supermarket (lol) just to prove to her that I would not be held hostage by her behavior.

    I'm happy to report that she is a productive member of society and very well adjusted. Good luck!

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