Two foam earplugs and a megaphone

WE’VE RECENTLY STARTED HAVING A PROBLEM WITH SCREAMING IN OUR HOUSE.

Oh, sorry about that. I’m just used to having to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY TO BE HEARD.

I’ll try to use my inside voice with people who aren’t 21 months old.

Like I was shouting saying, some people (spoken: toddlers) are having trouble controlling the volume of their voice during daily activities. Drop your toy? SCREAM. Can’t reach something? SCREAM. Someone told you “no”? SCREAM. Time to get up! SCREAM. Time to play a super fun game! SCREAM. OK, dude, you can do anything you want if you’ll just shut up. SCREAM.

And then just when things are finally quiet and I get TWO SECONDS to check my email, this happens:

God Bless you Crayola for inventing washable markers

It’s exhausting. We have no real idea how to deal with the screaming or make it stop. We’ve set up a time-out spot (a pack-n-play in the dining room) but he doesn’t seem to understand the connection between the screaming and the punishment. I suppose it’s my own fault for not being as consistent with the TO’s as I should be but it can be hard to judge what infractions against the noise ban are worth punishing. I mean, he’s a kid, he makes a lot of noise. Some yelling is happy and fun. Sometimes the happy fun yelling just gets a little loud accidentally. And then sometimes what I think is just laughing and shouting turns into THE SCREAMING. Most difficult is the screaming while stuck under a nursing baby. Do I put down the baby to enforce a time-out and risk a screaming infant? Do I use some other kind of punishment? Do I have to learn to nurse in a Moby wrap and be ready to SPRING INTO ACTION at any given moment to deal with toddler angst? Because that sounds even more exhausting than just living with the screaming.

Hey, did you know parenting is HARD?

I know poor Little Evan is still adjusting to being a big brother. I know he’s having a hard time sharing his mama (evidenced by his constant requests of “down? down? down?” while patting Caroline’s bouncy seat anytime I’m holding her). I know he’s only two months away from turning 2 (sob sob sob) and this is normal behavior for that age. I know his language skills haven’t yet caught up to his emotions and that leads to a lot of frustration. But NONE OF THOSE THINGS help when your head is splitting open from the screaming. I would normally wrap up a post like this with a plea for advice but I suspect the best advice I’m going to get is “buy some earplugs and start counting down the days until he’s 3 5 16 30.”

It’s a good thing he’s so cute.

Go ahead, try to stay mad at me.

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17 Responses to “Two foam earplugs and a megaphone”

  1. Swistle says:

    Pardon me for going off-topic, but you have to tell me RIGHT NOW where you got the D is for Dino shirt so I can buy one for Henry.

  2. Amanda says:

    The only slightly helpful thing I can say is try whispering. Maddie is older so she gets it a little more but when the screaming starts I whisper so she has to quiet down to be able to hear me.

  3. MKP says:

    My brother had what my mother refers to as a “powerful instrument” when she’s feeling charitable, and is goddamn loud the rest of the time. Her two responses when he was little was to a) speak softly when speaking to him even when he was shrieking, because he had to shut up to hear her, and b) to liberally deploy requests for his “inside voice”.

    Also, and this is 75% facetious but might would actually work, back in the day when I was drunk my boyfriend would tell me to imagine I was speaking into a tiny microphone right in front of my mouth – maybe giving him a phone or a mike to speak into so he’s not trying to reach the rafters with his voice?

  4. Brigid Keely says:

    I have some friends who are parents who use the afore-mentioned whisper-trick with their kids. It works for them!

    I don’t know if you read amalah.com, but when she had her second baby there were some sibling rivalry issues (as happens when a new kid is introduced to the mix). One of the pieces of advice she got which sounds good, is to remember that the older kid is going to hear a LOT of “I can’t do this, I’m Xing the baby,” “I can’t hold you right now, I’m Ying the baby,” etc. So if the baby starts fussing/crying and it’s not an urgent thing, tell the baby “I’m sorry, I can’t do X right now, I’m holding/playing/getting juice for/ your brother.” Then finish what you were doing and tend to the baby (or if someone else is free, have them do it). It’s not ALWAYS practical, but it can help level the playing field and reduce frustration.

    I don’t know how keen you are on reading books about babies, child development, etc. You might find http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Years-Understanding-Handling-Childhood/dp/0684825503 this book helpful. My BFF is a professor of cognitive psychology and she says that this is one of the best cog sci books in existence. It’s not a parenting manual or anything, but reading about why your kid does some of the jacked up crazy shit kids do can help you react in an appropriate, positive, constructive way instead of just being all “what the hell, dude. seriously. what the hell.” which, honestly, I think a lot of us parents spend a lot of time wondering that, and it’s frustrating for the kiddo and for us both.

  5. Julie S. says:

    I am with you, except in addition to the screaming, there is stomping and head shaking. And no talking, so I NEVER know what he wants. So frustrating. I haven’t done the time out thing, simply because I don’t think Brayden would get it, but I almost wonder about it some times. Hang in there! :) you aren’t alone!

  6. Natalie says:

    Oh I feel you. I SO feel you. But, I can attest that it has gotten slightly better for us in the past couple of weeks. We did not employ the whisper trick, but I did the “Oh, what kind of crazy noises are you making? You sound like a chicken.” AND the “I can’t hear you when you scream, you’re very hard to understand!” Also. We laugh. Which sounds mean, but we only do it when we KNOW she’s okay and she’s just trying to get her way with the screaming. We laugh and say “When has that EVER worked for getting our way in this house?” She gets pissed but also quiets down usually and starts to giggle too.

    If all else fails you can ship him here and Sophia and him can scream it out in the backyard.

    I know Sophia is about 8 months older than Evan, but I promise it gets better.

    • I second the laughing. We do that with some of the more annoying things Spencer does. He likes to scream EEEEEEEEEEEEEE to hear the sound of his own voice. We told him that hurt the sound of his favorite stuffed kitty’s ears and put him away when he will not stop doing it.

    • Jennie says:

      We do this too. “I can’t hear you when you scream.” and more often “Is that how you ask?” I’ve also been inclined to say things such as “excuse me”… insert SCREAM…”excuse me”… etc. until an appropriate decibel is reached. (Of course at 21 mos the latter may be too much to understand.)
      Don’t think time out is too early (Although many will argue that it is). Just before two is when we started with all 3 kids, and its another thing they have to learn. They learn that it is a punishment. When Isabelle was that age and bringing home bad habits from daycare, I’d make her sit on the bottom step until she was “ready to act like a lady.” I still do this several times a week.

      • Jennie says:

        By asking what an appropriate way to ask, isn’t necessarily forcing him to use words that he doesn’t have. Language will come, but the behavior of screaming is what you want to curb. So- he needs to gesture politely, or make nice noises to “ask” or convey his issue.
        Isabelle at 18 months would walk up to me put her arms in the air and immediately begin “EEEEEHHHHHH, EEEEEHHHHH!” I wouldn’t pick her up until she’d make a nice “uh” sound or pat me gently.

  7. Robyn says:

    i’m not sure if you are really looking for advice, or just wanting to vent, but in case you want advice…

    i’m part of an online parenting group for unconditional parenting and we recently had this come up. most of the suggestions were to use distraction and explain why the screaming should stop (as this type of parenting is anti-punishment), but i thought it was interesting they most parents said their kids went through this phase too and it’s part of learning what their voice can do.

    they also suggested giving the kid a place where it was ok to explore their voice…like outside, and take them there when they want to scream.

    he’s probably screaming partially because it’s fun for him, and also probably partially because he does want your attention. maybe you and little E can come with a better way for him to ask for you attention. maybe giving him some power in the situation would help.

  8. Kimberly says:

    We’re dealing with this now too- and I think JD is even regressing a little with words because he is screeching. all. the. time! He also directs me to put O in the bouncy seat whenever he sees him out of it. (He does like showing him his toys while he is in it, so I’m trying to tell myself that he just wants to play with him instead of what it probably is- that he just wants all of my attention.) When I was still preggo, my pediatrician told me to get JD used to the idea that I will not cave immediately every time he wants something, so eventually he will learn that no matter how he screams, when I am feeding the baby, I will not get up and go to him (unless he’s in danger), and the screaming will stop. Apparently it helps them learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them and gets them ready for school… blah blah blah. This has been working except for when he decides it is fun to climb all over mommy while she is feeding O. So far my only solution for that is putting the tv on.

  9. merin says:

    Cora doesn’t scream a lot but she does a lot of whining, crying and moaning. Frankly, I’d prefer the screaming. I think E is too young for time outs-I don’t think he can make the connection yet. I know everyone has their own opinion, but I feel like as long as Cora is not going to hurt herself or someone else (or be super destructive), we treat a lot of behaviors with redirection vs. typical discipline. Easier when you don’t have a tiny baby to nurse, I know :)

    Does he like it when you sing? When Cora is being kind of annoying, sometimes singing songs or chants can bring her around. Especially Old MacDonald, because then she wants to get the animal we’re singing about from the LP Farm and is totally distracted from whatever pissed her off in the first place.

    We also do the “I can’t understand you when you’re crying/whining/etc.” and it works pretty well. Sometimes I just get frustrated and I tell her to “lock it up” in a really firm voice. But I save that for really special times.

    Good luck!!

  10. Hey, at least he’s screaming! The Babby squeals at scream volume. It was cute the first couple of times – okay, it’s cute all the time, even though your ears are bleeding. But I’m not looking forward to the first time she does it outside of the house.

  11. Molly says:

    Gosh, it brought back so many memories when you wrote that he is 21-months-old. That is how old Landon was when Brigham was born. Ahhh, how hard it rocked his world.

    I understand the frustration of being torn between the two. But nothing can help it. It will always feel like that. I wrote once that I feel like a piece of taffy being pulled in opposite directions. It doesn’t feel good to be pulled. But they are pulling you because you’re sweet and they love you so much :)

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