Q&A: How to stop toddler from screaming to get his way?
I have a very busy 13-month-old son who often screams to get his way. These screams are loud and at such a high pitch that it is painful to the ear. Any suggestions?
First, let me assure you that you are not the first parent to experience this admittedly disturbing behavior, and I feel for you (and your eardrums). That said, it’s best to handle any less-than-desirable behaviors from a toddler who is clearly testing out his newfound independence—including one who screams bloody murder—by first taking a step back and reminding yourself that a) it is a child’s job to test his parents’ limits in order to figure out how the world works, and b) it is a parent’s job to set some limits.
In figuring out how best to deal with your son’s screams, first recognize that it only makes sense for him to try out ways to attract attention and get what he wants. By acknowledging that his behavior, however disturbing it may be, is in fact normal, you will hopefully find it easier to resist the natural tendency towards anger, frustration, and/or embarrassment. That said, make sure your response(s) to your son’s screams don’t send him the message that he who screams loudest gets what he wants. Simply respond to your toddler’s undesirable behaviors (which may show up in the form of biting, hitting, screeching, or screaming) by either not responding, setting him down, calmly but firmly showing your disapproval, and/or turning your back. I find that this sort of parental disapproval goes a much longer way towards getting important messages across than yelling or anger. After all, in a child’s view of the world, negative attention is better than no attention, while parental approval is very important. So stay as calm as you can—and remind yourself that when handled correctly, this type of behavior is fortunately short-lived.