For Crying out Loud ~Screaming | Teaching Self-Government

For Crying out Loud ~Screaming

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"I have listened to the cd’s from your mini-seminar at our LDSEHE conference. I am so amazed at your system! I can see how it would work wonderfully in my home - especially with my 3 older children. My fourth child is turning 2 Saturday. I love her! She is so cute and so smart and very spirited. She is my first screamer squealer and it is driving me bananas! Especially in the car. I don’t feel she can be reasoned with but she does understand some of what I say. How would you recommend teaching her that screaming and squealing is not part of our vision! Unfortunately it has worked for her in the past. Especially in public. I can ignore it at home but in public we all tend to give in. I know this is wrong but we are a family that is out and about a lot and I need to find a way to deal with this in a better way. Help!!!I forgot to mention that she also tends to be extra loud during family meeting time and family reading time."

Screaming is used to get attention.  This means that somewhere along the way you daughter felt that she wasn't being heard.  She has probably decided that if she always screams she will get immediate attention.  Now, don't feel bad, we have all put off our children before.  Maybe our minds were engaged in something really important, maybe we were talking on the phone, or perhaps we were talking to a friend or family member and chose to "tune out" our child.  

When the child wanted your attention, you didn't give it, so the child got louder and louder, until finally you responded.  Even if it wasn't in the kindest way, you still responded, which was what they were going for.  They see the loudness as a successful way to get attention, and don't associate the negative feedback from mom and dad with the loudness, because they see no other way of getting attention.  

I have done this too.  One of my children went through a loud stage too.  Finally, I realized that I had created the problem and I needed to fix it.   

The first thing I did was vow to respond to my child for every appropriate communication that they transmitted. 

The second thing that I did was teach them how to interrupt me and when.  We practiced like a game.  Just like when you teach them how to follow instructions.  I taught them to think about if what they had to say was really important.  Then I told them it is really bad manners to interrupt people when they are talking to someone else.  (Let's be realistic here.  If I am with a friend or on the phone, I could be talking forever, so it is not reasonable for me to expect them to observe this social rule during these times.  I never wanted children who were "just seen and not heard" anyway.)  I do want polite children though, and I do want to have uninterrupted conversations some time.  ;) 

So, I taught my child how to interrupt me.  They are to come to me and say, "Excuse me Mom,  may I ask you something?"  I then immediately stop talking to my friend and say, "Thank you for saying excuse me, what do you need?"

I also tell them that if they ever interrupt a conversation more than three times, they are being rude, so they need to decide if what they want to ask is really important enough to use one of their interruption times. 

Third, the moment my toddler started screaming, I would say,"Porter, you are not speaking in a clam voice tone, if you want to tell me something, you need to speak softly, like this...."then I would show them how to talk to me.  Then I say, "If you talk to me in a calm voice, I will always listen to you.  If I ever don't listen to you in a calm voice tone, you can say, "Mom, I am speaking in a calm voice right now.  I need to talk to you."  This is designed to remind me to reward good with good. 

Finally, if the child chooses not to change voice tone when communicating, then they need be gently brought to time-out to calm down.  When they are ready to talk calmly then you quickly go to them, praise them for being calm and then show them the appropriate voice tone.  Have them practice and then tell you what they wanted to say when they were screaming.  I also tell my children that I really want to know what they want, so I am so happy that they calmed down, so I could understand them.  

They should be able to choose to stop screaming in a few days.  I would imagine that you could get calm voices back in a week or so if you are consistent about consequences, responding to calm voice tones, and trying not to tune your child out. 

As far as family meetings etc. go, the same applies.  Pre-teach calm voice tones as soon as they begin getting loud.  And, DON'T EVER RESPOND TO THEM WHEN THEY ARE YELLING OR SCREAMING.  They need to know that you only talk to calm people, but if they are calm, you will always talk to them. 

The principle for this is easy.  See what is not seen.  What do they need or want?  Ask yourself this question and then really decide if you are giving them what they need or want.  Then make sure they have the skills they need to do the appropriate communicating. 

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