Skip to main content

What to do when your child won’t stop screaming

Screaming can be pretty unpleasant, but researchers have found that people feel better after crying if they have emotional support, it leads to a resolution or better understanding, or if they cry because of a positive event. Your goal doesn’t always have to be to stop your child from yelling or screaming. Shedding a few tears may be good for children (and adults!). Before deciding what to do, ask, “Why is my child screaming?” Identifying the source will help you give the best answer to the situation.

Reasons for screaming

Young girl is screaming with fingers in her ears

The following are reasons why parents find their baby crying, as well as some tips on how you can respond to the causes:

Your child is tired: One of the most common reasons children scream is because they are tired. Rampant tiredness can lead to outbursts of anger and other outbreaks of seemingly irrational behavior. You cannot avoid fatigue that frequently causes outbursts in a child, but you can minimize it by establishing a routine sleep program. Depending on the time of day, if your child is about to have an outburst but seems to be sleepy, it may be appropriate to give them a nap to regain control.

Your child is hungry: Adults also call it “hangry.” Your child most likely will tell you when they want a snack — unless they’re have too much fun playing and get distracted. Another reason is if your little one wakes up from a nap and it’s been three or four hours since they’ve eaten anything. If your child hasn’t eaten for some time and heir mood quickly darkens, try to give them a bite to eat. Keeping a few healthy snacks on hand can promptly reduce tears when you’re away from home.

Your child is overstimulated: Exciting playgrounds, bouncy castles, or birthday parties are precisely where a child wants to be. At some point, however, the excitement may become way too much for some children. Sometimes, your child may be unable to express what is wrong in those types of situations. You may see tears when your child is overstimulated. If your little one seems to be screaming for no reason when you are in a noisy or busy place, try to give them a break. Move them outside or to a quieter room and let them sit for a few minutes to calm them down.

Your child is stressed: Stress is an excellent reason for tears, especially in older children. They can be stressed by what is happening around them, such as problems at their parents’ wedding, a move, or change of school. A child can become unusually tearful when they’re feeling the weight of stressful life events, even those that do not directly affect them. Younger children who are stressed need the help of an adult to change the environment. By helping them reduce stressful situations, it will help them learn how to successfully manage their emotions.

Your child wants attention: Sometimes, it seems that tears come from nowhere. In a minute, your child is playing happily, you turn your shoulders, and they begin sobbing. Your child knows that screaming is a great way to get their attention. Attention, although negative, strengthens that behavior in a child. Ignore attention-seeking behavior. Avoid eye contact and don’t start a conversation if your child seeks your attention. Your child will see that it is not fun to whine or shout out loud if they don’t have a captive audience.

Your child wants something: Most young children do not usually understand the difference between their desires and needs. If children want something, they typically declare it — right now. If your child insists on playing with a fragile object or want you to take them to the park, tears of disappointment and despair will happen.

When to seek professional help

Young boy crying against blue wall
If your child seems to scream more than you think is normal or cannot be comforted, talk to your pediatrician. Sometimes, an underlying medical problem, such as an undiagnosed ear infection that causes pain, may be the cause of your child’s constant tears. Once you know that everything is all right physically, you can work together to reduce your child’s screams and have a quieter and more enjoyable time.

Editors' Recommendations

Are your kids watching TV too much? The screen time guide every parent needs
Everything you need to know about screen time and your kids
Two siblings lying on the floor watching tv together.

By now, every parent has gotten the message that the time their kids are watching TV should be limited. Parents are inundated with messaging around screen time and how much is too much, but the reality is that kids watching TV can often give parents a much-needed break. Whether it's to get a meal ready, throw in a load of laundry, or simply enjoy a few minutes without a child asking you for something, letting your kids watch TV feels like an easy and harmless way to keep them occupied, but what amount is okay and how much is too much?
Watching TV can impact children in a few ways, and it all depends on multiple factors. For instance, are you spending time with them while they watch? How many hours per day do they spend glued to the tube? What shows do they watch? We've collected the important information so you can make the best decision about your child's television intake.

What age is too young for kids to watch TV?
According to pediatrician Dr. David Hill, MD, FAAP, "it takes around 18 months for a baby's brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world." So, it's important that babies get real-life social interaction, and not stare at screens all day.

Read more
Are baby walkers safe? 5 dangerous reasons you shouldn’t add one to your registry
Learn why baby walkers are unsafe
Infant in baby walker

Baby walkers are a common shower gift and considered a must-have item in some circles. While in others baby walkers are considered taboo. So, what should parents know about baby walkers? Are baby walkers safe for your child to use? These are questions you may be asking as your infant is getting to the age where he or she is starting to walk and explore. Although baby walkers may be a popular gift and toy, the reality is they are actually quite unsafe.

Even though you may have used a baby walker as a child yourself, in this day and age, there is quite a bit of information about just how hazardous baby walkers can be. If you're considering getting a baby walker, putting one on your registry, or if you already have a baby walker in your home, keep reading before you pop your toddler in.

Read more
Should your kids have an Apple Watch?
These are the pros and cons of an Apple Watch for your kid
A person checking their Apple watch.

If there’s one thing on every kid’s wish list when they get to a certain age, it’s a smartwatch. Wearables are the coolest and fun new gadgets for kids, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight with the demand for one. Smartwatches are the height of convenience, allowing users to leave their phones in their bags and do everything right there on their wrists. But since there isn't a kids' Apple Watch version available, children are getting the real deal.

With all the convenience, though, some people have major privacy concerns about wearable devices, especially when it comes to their children. When used correctly with appropriate parental controls, smartwatches, especially the Apple Watch, could be a boon to both kids and parents alike. But should your kid sport a device designed for adults? Let's see if children should wear an Apple Watch or if it's one more device they shouldn't be left alone with.

Read more