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Screaming Kids Driving You Nuts? Four Rules to Help You Keep Your Sanity!

Often I will hear parents say, "I just ignore Jr. when he has a fit or screams."

Though there may be times when this is appropriate it is not appropriate when Jr. is less than 5 years of age! Why? Because your child needs to receive training in proper and acceptable behavior. Screaming to get your own way is not proper or acceptable! If your child is screaming to get something, there are reasons he is doing this and I caution you, you may not like them!

First, your child has been taught to scream. That's right, taught. I know it isn't pleasant and I know you didn't do it intentionally, but bear with is true, you taught him to scream! When babies begin to gain their independence they develop personal tastes for foods, people, their environment and even situations. In other words, they start to know what they want in life. The problem? They have a limited number of ways to communicate what they want because they have not mastered language yet. So what do they do? They wave their arms, they kick their feet, they point, they make noise, and when that doesn't work, they muster up, and let out a blood curdling scream. Yikes!

What do you do?

Guess what??? Mom comes running and often dad and sister too! So, the kid screams more. If they want something else? They scream again. The problem is if you react to this screaming by moving faster, it will stop, temporarily. It will stop until the child decides he wants something else. In reality, reacting by moving faster will make the screaming worse! Yikes again, right? The child will condition you to move a little faster and then? Then, you begin to anticipate the child's needs so that he won't scream at all. Does the word servant come to mind here? Wrong! Pretty soon the child is screaming about everything and it he sees that it works much better than the new language he is learning so he screams instead of talks! Ouch! Next thing you know, mom and dad are screaming at each other for the screaming to stop. Sound familiar?

Do you want to know the rules so the insanity will stop? (view definition of insanity here)

Rule # 1 Don't ignore it.

This is the number one thing I hear parents say that they do. It is your job as the parent to teach and train the child proper behavior. If you ignore the crummy screaming the child doesn't know the difference between acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Children need to know the boundaries if you want happy, independent and responsible children. Do you see happy people screaming to get their own way? Only unhappy adults do that! If you really want your children to grow up and respect other people, (including you), you have to teach them "why" screaming is disrespectful to others. They need the "why" behind the discipline. Train them not to scream and then give them the reason why they shouldn't scream. Remember to talk at their level. You might say, "Other people don't want to hear you scream, it hurts their ears. You must learn to control your emotions and make yourself happy. We must all respect the rights of the others in order to get along." What you are really doing is teaching them to master themselves. It is a young lesson in self-control. Mom and dad might be able to ignore screaming and fits but do we all have to endure your kid screaming? Ignoring is not the answer.

How do you do it?

Now that you know why you should train your child not to scream, how do you do it? Tell the child in a calm, level voice to stop raising his voice. Put your index finger firmly over his mouth and set him somewhere out of the way. In our household we use the bottom step of our stairway. The child must go sit on the step until they are ready to ask in a nice voice just what it is that they they want. The child is always in control of the time frame. It is their decision to stop screaming and ask nicely. As a parent, you are there for guidance. You are simply making it inconvenient for them to scream. This is incentive for them to change their own poor behavior and it avoids power struggles. If they get up from the step and they are still screaming...take them back and sit them there over and over until they get it. If they are calling your name and asking if they can get up, explain to them in a nice voice that it is their choice when they get up and they can get up when they change their mind and decide not to scream anymore.

Rule # 2 Be consistent.

If you are in a store or public area. Again, put your finger firmly over their mouth and say, "No, you may not scream, you must use a nice voice and ask for what you want." (If the child is too young to talk, consider teaching them basic signs to ask nicely for what they want. watch future issues for more on baby signing). If they continue to scream, stand your ground and discipline them according to the parenting plan you are currently working. If you haven't created your parenting plan, you may not have a course of action for this behavior. I would encourage you to get one. (Check out our parenting plan, Family by Design) If you don't have a plan, you will most certainly fall into emotional parenting and that is not good for you or the child.

Rule # 3 Don't scream at your child.

Gandhi said it perfectly when he said, be the change you want to see in other people. This is especially true with your children. Be what you want them to be because they will be what you are. Learn to control yourself and your emotions and your children will reflect that back to you.

Rule # 4 Never, ever, ever, EVER, give in to the screaming.

It is your job as the parent to teach your child to be aware of others around him and respect their rights. He is not the center of the universe. Please don't treat your child like he is or he will be an unhappy adult. If you really love him, teach him to get along with others through teaching the importance of proper behavior.

The next time you are tempted to ignore screaming, ask yourself, do you like to hear someone else's kid screaming to get their way? I think not.

Michelle Shelton and her husband Paul live in Gilbert, Arizona with their five children. Michelle is a full time licensed Real Estate Agent for Keller Williams Realty Southeast Valley. She specializes in Arizona Horse Property. You can visit her on the web at or contact her directly at

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