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Is your kid screaming for no reason? 4 ways you can deal with this behavior

If your kid won’t stop screaming, it can make you want to scream, too. Tension is high, frustration is bubbling, and it can feel entirely hopeless and like you’ve lost control. If the behavior happens again and again, it’s enough to drive you up the walls.

Don’t worry, there are ways to deal with this situation so you both feel better! Your child is feeling just as frustrated as you are and with some patience and understanding, you can hopefully get to a place where you both feel calmer. With these four tips and some expert advice, your house will hopefully be quieter soon.

Young girl is screaming with fingers in her ears

How do I get my child to stop screaming?

When your child won’t stop screaming, the first thing to do is stay calm. The situation is enough to make you want to scream yourself and that is not going to help get your child to stop. Take a deep breath and tap into remembering that your child needs help expressing something and needs your help to figure it out and feel better. They’re not doing this to annoy you or provoke you. They’re a child who hasn’t developed to a point where they know to do anything else.

Next, you have to figure out the cause of their screaming. There is a cause, no matter how random it seems. You can try asking, but your chances of getting an answer may not be high. If they’re lost in a tantrum, it may be nearly impossible to figure out what the cause is if you don’t already know; your best bet may be to wait it out. In some cases, the simple but disappointing answer is that you may not be able to get your child to stop screaming.

If you do know the cause, like you said they can’t have ice cream and they started to scream, you have a few options to try.

  1. Redirect. Turn on some music and turn the screams into singing. Dance party!
  2. Make it a game. “Wow, you can go really loud! Let’s see how quiet you can whisper next.”
  3. Don’t join in. Don’t scream, too, even if you’re trying to make it fun. This will only encourage the behavior.
  4. Give them space. Designate a space where they’re allowed to scream it out. If you have one, this could ideally be the yard outside. If they associate this place as the only appropriate place to scream, you can always have them stop screaming in the kitchen and have them go there if you can’t get them to stop otherwise.

What causes a child to scream?

Babies had no other way to communicate other than crying because they couldn’t talk. While toddlers and young children can talk, they don’t have a fully developed vocabulary or emotional understanding to express themselves, and sometimes screaming is the new crying — the only way to express to you that they’re upset.

They may scream out of anger, excitement, overstimulation, pain, frustration, or any emotion or physical sensation they’re unable to find the words to express. Screaming gets your attention and you can’t stop them from doing it, so it’s a kid favorite. Unfortunately for parents, it’s a normal part of toddler development. If you think your child is screaming too often, ask your pediatrician about it. If your child is so overstimulated they don’t have any other way to express themselves than screaming, they could have a sensory disorder or another condition that treatment could help. Screaming meltdowns alone is not a sign of autism, but combined with other symptoms it could be one sign.

Should you ignore a screaming child?

The CDC officially recommends ignoring a whining or tantruming child if nothing is physically wrong, but it’s a personal parenting choice. “These misbehaviors are often done for attention. If parents, friends, family, or other caregivers consistently ignore these behaviors, they will eventually stop,” the CDC says.

“Ignoring can help you reduce your child’s misbehavior. Remember that children love attention. Negative attention like screaming or yelling can be rewarding to a child. This is true especially if you were not paying attention to your child before the misbehavior started. By giving your child attention during tantrums, you may accidentally reward the behavior and increase the chance it will happen again. When you ignore some misbehaviors, you can make it less likely your child will do the behavior again.”

Whether you ignore, redirect, make it a game, give space, or another strategy, just be sure to stay calm and not feed into the energy. Stay compassionate instead of frustrated, as difficult as that can be in a tough situation. You’ve got this!

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Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
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