Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Anyone who reads this regularly or knows us in real life knows that Grace screams. All the time. Although I have an advanced degree in child development and have taught parenting classes, I have no idea what to do with this little girl of mine. I've tried everything that I can think of and quite frankly, I'm at the end of my rope. It takes every last bit of self control that I have not to get right in her face and scream back.

So, my Works for Me Wednesday (backwards edition) question is this. What would you do was your 16 month old child? (Please believe me when I tell you that any apparent egging on was done strictly for the purpose of getting it on video.)

I hear this scream in my sleep. She does it constantly, when she wants something, when she gets something, when she's happy, when she's sad, when she's tired and when she first wakes up. I'm at a loss. My 3.5 year old son NEVER did this. Is it typical girl or second child behavior?

Any thoughts, words of wisdom, offers to adopt (kidding, kidding, kidding...) would be greatly appreciated. I'd also love to hear from you if you had a child who did this and who has since turned into a normal, pleasant and well adjusted member of society. 'Cause let me tell you, when she walks around saying "Happy, happy, happy!" while doing the scream, I really start to worry.


Michelle said...

It is shrill, isn't it?

I'm not a parent, or expert and I only just watched a one and a half minute video, but do you think she just likes the sound of her voice? I mean, that she likes that she can make that sound and be loud? If she does it when she's happy, then it can't be an anger thing, right?

Erica said...

We went through a period of shreiking here as well. I think the biggest thing that worked for us was giving her words to use. As she got older, and her language developed more, Cate had words to explain what she wanted and was less likely to scream. When she went through a tantrum phase, we found that when she could tell us what she was feeling, she slowed down on the tantrums, too.

Unfortunately, this just takes time. If you're not already doing something like this, get down on Grace's level and talk to her, telling her, "I know, you feel angry that you food is gone" (or whatever is appropriate for the situation.

I feel for you, and I hope something I said might help.

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy to send you our copy of baby signing time (DVD and CD) I swear it made a huge difference at that age, email me your address and I'll mail it to you

Life In Progress said...

My 16-month-old does this when she wants something, but doesn't know the word for it (she's not a huge talker yet). I'm hoping that once her vocabulary expands the screaming will stop.

I'm sorry that's not much help in the short term. Hang in there!

Life In Progress said...

Oh, my daughter knows a few signs & they do help her communicate what she wants. At this age, they'll pick up on the really quickly so that might be worth a try.

Sue G. said...

Here's a suggestion that works for me when working with preschoolers. When the screaming starts, break into a song like "Wheels on the Bus", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", etc. The hand motions and song should be a distractions enough to stop the screaming while engaging her in language development and interactions with you. Whispering the song can also help as they have to listen carefully to hear what you are saying. Hope this helps! Good luck!!

We are THAT Family said...

As the parent of a 15 month old SCREAMER, honey, I feel and hear your pain. It's awful. My only suggestion is to teach her a few baby signs. Our screaming has been cut in half around eating time because she can say 'more' and 'all done' with her hands. Google baby signs and start with 'more.' Amazing how quick they can get it. And remember, she's just trying to communicate and SHE'S A GIRL!

Monica said...

You'll think I'm crazy, but we tell our kids to scream with their mouths closed. We say, "If you want to scream, you have to close your mouth. It's too loud and it's hurting everyone's ears." People laugh at us when we say it, but it's worked.

At first we hold their lips together gently and soon they figure out that it's impossible, so they stop trying.

We also don't let them scream when they play (like at the McDonald's playground). I'm always yelling up the slide, "Are those the (our last name) kids screaming up there?
Remember, the(our last name) kids don't scream." We just tell them that is who we are and they've bought into it:)

Whenever I'm babysitting a screamer I use the same line, "At our house, we don't scream. There are no screaming voices here." It's amazing that it usually works.

Once, I had all of my kids watch Nanny 911. We popped popcorn and made it a big deal. Some of them were having problems with fits at the time. It didn't take them long to figure out that those kids acted ugly. I didn't have to say a word. They were telling eachother, "Those kids are bad. They are acting crazy."

I think that this has gotten much easier to teach because the older kids model the right behavior. If you can train your first few the way you want the benefits are long lasting.

Hang in there and pray for God to give you patience and wisdom for your little one. You are the perfect parent for her.

Gretchen said...

I'm with those who think you simply need to give her time to outgrow her screaming tendency. My 17-month-old daughter screams sometimes, too. But as she is developing her vocabulary, it is becoming less frequent.

It could be a girl thing, too. My four boys never shrieked or screamed. My oldest daughter is nearly 11, so I don't remember what she did. My 3yo niece was a screamer---she'd literally make your ears hurt. She doesn't do it any more.

Your daughter is adorable, though, despite the screaming.

lisa (lost pezhead) said...

well she can understand words by now and what i would do and have done is time out. (ha - it will make them scream more, but hey, that's how it goes). is she still in her crib. if she starts to scream for something...stick her in her crib. don't even say, now don't scream or you go to time out. just pick her up and even if you have to walk up stairs to her room, do it! put her in for oh, 2 or 3 minutes, close the door (don't ever turn the lights out on her, some people do that - it's just mean). she'll probably scream and cry, but hoepfully she won't like it. go in and say honey, do we scream when we want something? make her say no. then next time she is screaming you can give her a choice before time out, say excuse me? is that how we ask? we don't scream we say nicely can i have more. she'll start to catch on and if she doesn't just go to time out.

it works for my kids. it sometimes doesn't seem so effective at home, like they don't care if they have a time out. but for some reason we'll be at the park and they're going too close to the rd i get away from the rd come back here or you have time out and they listen.

i know that screaming is awful! stop it now, it can also seriously ruin her vocal chords if she starts thinking it's a funny thing to do or how she gets her way.

lisa (lost pezhead) said...

oh yes, the sign language suggestions are genius! we have a bunch of signing time dvds (maybe your local library has them). i would get the first one at least My First Signs, stuff like food, more, kids love to watch and hey, i know a ton of signs myself now!

or take up ebruggles on her offer!

mindi said...

I think you got some good advice, I always wanted to do the sign language :)
She is so cute, but I can understand your pain. Lex screams when he wants something, is tired, not feeling well, can't get a toy out of the bin, can't get the lid off a marker . . . the list goes on and on.
Good luck and keep us updated!!

Bethany said...

Sarah that was hilarious. I watched it in the am with Adelee on my lap and couldn't comment then. She was screaming right along with her....uhhhh ohhhh. Maybe it is a girl thing. I do think the signing thing might help...but I know you know sign language. Don't really have any advice because I haven't been through it myself but I did enjoy the video. And I love little Sams comments. Too cute.

Anonymous said...

ok, I'm sure I wasn't supposed to think how cute she was while she was screaming, but she was!

before I read anyone else's comments, my thoughts were that as soon as she could use words, she would most likely stop screaming as much.

when Camryn was born, she cried (shrilled, shreiked, screamed; whatever) for the first time in the hospital room and Chad and I looked at eachother like "what, is that our baby?"!!!! Since then, we are still shocked that she has as high pitched of a voice as she has. She cries very loudly still.

I also agree with the crib thing. Remover her from the situation and eventually she probably will figure out that when she screams, she is left alone, when she doesn't scream, life is good :-)

Best of luck! She'll be fine, I'm sure.

Janel said...

We did the signing thing and it worked wonders.

We have a loud family. Well, let me correct that. I am loud and my kids are loud. My poor hubby is a quiet one and is constantly putting a pillow over his head.

Anyway, I think learning more words and signing might help with Grace. As she gets older now you can just let her know she will only get what she wants by using those words or signs quietly.

I don't think you will ever have to worry about her expressing her feelings, though. I think that is a good thing, btw.

She is really just too cute. And you son in the background - what a sweet voice.

Claire said...

Well, it'snot just a girl thing! My little guy is now 2 and I swear I am going to go crazy if he doesn't stop screaming. His vocabulary is coming along really well, he can talk very well, so I don't get why he is still screaming. I have tried everything, ingnoring him, giving him a time out in his crib, smacking his hand, getting down on his level and talking softly, holding him and sadly even screaming back at him and still nothing is working. He screams about everything..if a toy is taken, if i put on the wrong show, if I put on the right show, if I change his diaper, if I hold his hand walking to the car or across the road, if his sister has a toy that he didn't want, if he wants a drink...thelist is never ending...I apologize that I have no good advice, but if anyone has any other suggestions, before I go mad...please help, oh and by the way now my 8 month old little guy is starting to screan too!!!