Our two year old has never been what you would call a quiet child. He came out screaming and never stopped. As an infant that was to be expected; babies cry full force because they have no other means of communication. Now, as a toddler, he continues. And as a bonus - he's realized his full octave range. In other words - he could break a wine glass. In public this is horrible because it means, for now at least, that we can't enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant that doesn't serve kids' meals in a box. Unfortunately it also means problems at home when we are on the phone (a prime time for him to scream apparently) and when we don't want the neighbors to think we are beating him senseless. Seeing as he has no developmental issues I concluded this must be a somewhat normal toddler behavior (Hello, Terrible Twos!) and decided to research what the pros say you should do to either get through it or, in the best case scenario, quell it. I know there are other moms who are suffering the same ruptured eardrums with their toddlers so here are a few tips from child psychologist Kenneth N. Condrell.
- You could ignore the screaming and allow this habit to run its natural course. Many toddler habits disappear as suddenly as they appeared.
- You could begin to teach your son how to control the intensity of his voice. This is done by making a game out of whispering. You play the whispering game several times during the week. First you whisper and then your son tries to whisper. This game gives your son practice on how to raise and lower his voice on purpose. You can make this game a lot of fun so you capture your toddler’s attention.
- You could also begin to teach your son the difference between an "inside voice" and an "outside voice." Take him outside and encourage him to yell and shout and scream. Help him label this his outside voice. Once you’re back inside, show him how an inside voice sounds. When your toddler learns the difference between an inside voice and an outside voice, he has a better chance of listening to you and asserting some control. By the time your toddler is 2½, he will have an easier time understanding the difference and you can signal him that he needs to use his inside voice.
- Some parents try to train a toddler who screams. You might want to try this approach. The moment your toddler screams, you walk away and ignore your child for a minute or two. In other words, your toddler loses your attention. Then you go back to your toddler and say, "If you don’t scream, we can play or we can talk or we can read," or whatever suits the situation.
Dr. Condrell also advises against raising your voice to speak over your child. By doing this you are creating two problems: 1. Your child now thinks you are playing a game to see who can be the loudest. Toddlers don't like to lose. And 2. Your child now thinks, "Mommy and Daddy scream to get my attention - so it must be ok to scream so I can get their attention."
Unfortunately, our almost 3 year old thinks it's funny, especially in the echoing bathroom, to shriek, scream and make the largest ruckus possible. My mantra is this phase, too, will pass. She does understand inside voices and we do withdraw attention (and occasionally cover our ears to protect them) and we don't yell but little progress yet. Hang in there!