HANDLING MY 16 MO SCREAMING TODDLER

So... it has begun. One minute she's as happy as a lark - smiling, humming and casually strolling around the house, and the next, she b...

So... it has begun. One minute she's as happy as a lark - smiling, humming and casually strolling around the house, and the next, she becomes a ball of rage - screaming, shrieking and trashing. Temper tantrums can literally be a headache, but unfortunately, it is a fact we have to face when there is a toddler in the house. Despite the term 'The Terrible Twos', I read that temper tantrums can start as early as 12 months and continue til the age of 4 or beyond.

Entering the Terrible Two Territory.

Why is this happening?

There are a number of causes, which include:

  • They learn to assert their independence and start to want to make their own decisions
  • They are opinionated and feel that they are lacking control over emotions, circumstances and people
  • They are at a stage of development when they have very strong feelings (frustration, jealousy, rage, disappointment, boredom etc) but they have limited ways of expressing them through words, so they will do anything they can to get their point across 
  • As they grow older, they figure out that screaming will sometimes get them what they want or to get our attention. Once they realize their voice is loud and gets our attention, they will use it.
  • If they are throwing a screaming fit for no apparent reason, probably they are just experimenting on something new that they can do with their voice and just love hearing themselves scream!
No matter what the cause is, it requires a lot of patience, attention and discipline to make the screaming fit stop. When a toddler is old enough to know how to disobey, he/she is also old enough to know how to obey. Just remember to make sure that Daddy and any caregivers are on the same page with you on this. 

This toddler stage is an important period in a child's development. It's a pretty huge transition from baby to kid. I searched, read and found endless posts concerning terrible twos, that's why I decided to write down and share my personal experience:


Try to understand their feelings.

Since I can't tell you what I feel in words yet, I'll just scream!
Are they feeling insecure or uncomfortable with the situation or environment? Do they want our attention? My LO screams, wails and cries whenever we leave the room, or when we text, browse or watch videos on our phones sometimes. 

My approach: Perhaps she's scared of being left alone/not able to see or hear us, even though she's in our very own home. Try to pick her up and hug her firmly but gently. Let her know she's not alone and that she's safe at home. If it's not urgent, put down the phone and pay attention to her til she calms down. The power of touch can be soothing, especially since losing control can be scary for a little kid.  

Stick to routine.

If they’re hungry, tired, or in between, they’re often cranky. So are we, of course, but they don't have the ability to say it yet. Therefore, its better to stick to a daily routine: regular mealtimes, nap times and bedtimes. It offers them a sense of what to expect at various points in their day, which makes them feel more secured, in control and comforted. Nowadays when she's hungry or tired, she just screams non stop without warning.

My approach: Try to schedule outings or activities after she has napped or is well rested. Prepare some snacks if our lunch/dinner appointments are past her meal time.

Don't try to reason.

Inside a 2 yo's brain. Lol :P
When a child is throwing a tantrum, the reasoning part of the brain is shut down. Even if they can sort of talk (depending on kid), their reasoning sometimes don't make any sense. Though she clearly needs a diaper change/bath/sleep/eat, she goes all stiff/heavy and screams when I try to lift her up. At times, it's just plain drama because she knows she'll be tended to when she cries or fusses.

My approach: Let her chill out. It is best to ignore the screaming til she calms down. Once she does, talk/explain to her that she will feel much better after we settle her needs. But if it is an act, give her the cold shoulders. Just ignore her and continue with what I'm doing, as long as she is safe and isn't doing anything that might hurt herself. This can be an effective way to de-escalate a tantrum since she knows I can see through her act.

Walk away.

Of course I don't mean leaving the child in a mall or something. Hehe. Just leave the room for a few moments, take a breather when you feel that you need one. Self control is better than regrets. I know this is easier said than done because toddler screams definitely aren't music to the ears. I've lost my temper before, a couple of times in fact, and started screaming on top of my voice too, but when I calmed down, I regretted it. Remember the idiom: Monkey see, monkey do. Children watch and learn from their parents. It's like I'm showing her that all she has to do is scream when she wants things to go her way.

My approach: Constantly remind myself that I have to leave the room when I'm about to lose it. Go to the balcony and look at the scenery outside (trees, the sky, cars, people or whatever), or go to the kitchen and get a drink to help 'cool' me down. When the storm is over, have a talk with her and try to address her logic. I know some people say they don’t have logic at this age but they are very clever and know clearly when they have done something wrong.

Stay strong, don't give in.

When it comes to discipline, stand your ground and never give in to unreasonable demands. Giving in to bad behavior only teaches them that tantrums are a means to an end and this will prevent them from learning how to express themselves in a more mature way. Sometimes she screams when I strap her onto the high chair to eat, take her to the bathroom to bathe or take her to the room to nap, just because she wants to continue playing or watching nursery rhymes on TV. I've seen many cases of parents giving in and letting them continue watching/playing, or chasing the kids around the house with the bowl and spoon while trying to feed them food. This, to me, is unacceptable.

My approach: No means no. There are certain basic rules that she needs to follow. I'll keep my voice even, my face neutral and repeat the rules over and over til she knows that I mean business. 

Ignore bystanders. 

The most dreaded thing: public tantrums. Young children have little impulse control, and they also have little idea of how to behave in public. Bystanders love to pass judgment, express their disapproval and make it clear they would do a better job - it's written all over their faces. So, just ignore them and concentrate on your toddler. There were a few occasions where we took her out for dinner with family and friends, she was all smiley during the first half and out of a sudden, she started whining, howling and shrieking. Then, we could see the people sitting on tables around us staring and giving us their dirty looks. 

My approach: I believe we aren't alone on this. Any parent who have gone through this would understand, and if they didn't, it's either they are one of those very few lucky ones or someone else looked after their kids for them. We tried playing music for her, speaking to her using very soft tone, carrying her out of the room, but when she still continued screaming, we ended the outing. However, DON'T give up or stop bringing your toddler out. 


Sometimes....

No matter what you try, nothing works. Only thing I can do is keep telling myself that this is just a phase and it will pass... It's just a matter of time. I'm still learning to be patient and try to offer my LO lots of encouragement. 

Always remember that you are not alone and never be embarrassed if your child loses control in public. We are all in the same boat, so cheer up ladies! A woman who can cope with 'The Terrible Twos' can cope with anything!! 

*The sequel of this here: Tackling my screaming toddler! :P





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