We’ve got a shrieker! 9 ways to handle a toddler or preschooler who screams

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

Most kids are generally pretty loud but then there are those special little ones who turn screaming at the top of their lungs at every opportunity into a hobby. If you’re at your wit’s end then here are some tricks and tips to help stop the headaches AND public embarrassment

Child's emotional expression flowchart

1. Yelling etiquette 

Children should be allowed to be noisy, but only in the right environments! The first thing to do is explain to them that it’s okay to shriek away when you’re outside, at places like the park, back-garden or on a roller-coaster; but that a quieter voice (and no shrill yelps!) is required for when you’re inside at home or other establishments like the supermarket, library or grandma’s house. 

2. Distraction action

When all else fails: distract distract distract. So your miniature banshee won’t quit it in the post office? Distract him by saying something like, “Oooh look at that cute puppy dog.” Everyone losing their minds over your screecher at the neighbour’s barbecue? “Here darling, have some watermelon.” Switch gears whatever way you need to, using the power of distraction.

boy tantrum supermarket 

3. The calming cuddle effect

Rather than get cross at your little one who is screaming for joy at the piece of fluff he found on the floor at the local cafe, try picking him up and gently stroke his back. It will encourage him to “come down” from his overexcited state without making him feel bad for his exhilarated play.

4. Give attention

We live in the modern age of smartphones and other constant parental distractions which means that many little ones are literally screaming for attention. So put that phone or book down whenever you can and acknowledge your child. Even if you’re in the middle of chores or an important conversation, you can still give him a quick smile, pop him on your lap, or show interest in what he’s doing so he doesn’t feel the need to yell for Australia. 

Read more about young children’s behaviour:

5. Abort mission and move on

If Little Miss Shouty-Pants is on a rampage that won’t quit and you’re just not coping, then it’s time to abort your mission and get the hell out of there. Abandon that shopping trolley full of groceries or the morning tea playdate with your mother’s group. It’s just. Not. Worth it. Often, the change of scenery (or sounds in the environment) can stop a screamer in his tracks. Even if you’re just at home, it can help to take him from indoors to outside (or vice versa).

6. Avoid and prevent

While it’s not possible to stop all seasoned screamers from going at it, you can swerve quite a few tricky situations by not allowing your child to enter any of the danger zones like hunger and tiredness. Nothing ticks off a yeller more than not getting what he wants or needs. You might also want to skip a few things for a while, like swimming classes or fancy cafes if they’re prone to letting loose in those sorts of environments.

little boy screaming

7. Disguise it

Don’t want people even to realise your child is screaming so beautifully? Pick noisy restaurants to eat at, arrange all your play dates at busy parks or whack the music on LOUD!

8. Game on

“Let’s play the quiet game!” Children love a game, and if telling them you’re going to time them on how long they can be silent makes them stop screaming, well win, win people.

9. Keep calm and scream on

Ultimately, try not to lose it yourself. It might be tempting to yell back at your child to be quiet, but that will only add to the noise, making you both upset. A lot of the time young kids scream because they lack more effective methods of communication, so like most other trying toddler and preschool phases, this too should pass. But in the meantime – shut your eyes, breathe deep and hand us the Panadol! 

How do you handle your tiny screamer? Share your tips with us on our Facebook page.


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