29 answers

My 1 Year Old Won't Quit Screaming!

My son will be one year old on Feb 6th. He's recently taken on the most annoying habit of screaming at the top of his lungs when he wants something or wants your attention. Even after he has it he keeps screaming and then laughs like he thinks it's the funniest thing ever. I've been told that he's just doing it because he's learning to use his voice and the "power" that it has. We've tried talking low or in a whisper to him like some experts suggest but it's not working. We've also tried the "use your inside voice" approach but it doesn't work well when the little guy has no idea what we're saying. Any suggestions? HELP! I'm afraid I may run out of hair before we can break him of it!

What can I do next?

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When my daughter was going thru that stage I was advised by her Dr. to put something she didn't like on my fingertip and then put it in her mouth. It doesn't need to be soap, or anything like that. It can be mouthwash, a food she doesn't like that is kind of bitter, mild hot sauce, any thing that she didn't like the taste of. It only took once or twice before she got the idea. Then all you have to do is show them the bottle and that's all it takes.

I have a 2 1/2 year old little boy and let me tell you, little boys have more energy than they even know what to do with. I do have the same problem with him yelling and have tried the same things. One thing I have found that seems to be working for me right now, is I won't give him what he wants until he asks me nicely. I tell him to ask nicely and than I will listen. It seems to be working. But he will still yell not as much, but I too have been told it is a power test to see how far he can go. Hopefully I gave some good advice. But you got to love them they are so cute and watching them learn so much in a short amount of time is just amazing.

My one year old is doing the same thing! I notice he quites down if he doesn't get any reaction at all from doing it.

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It sounds like he makes you feel like giving in (this is not the universal response, but probably the most common one!). If he has discovered that _works_, you have taught him to do it again, and you will have to (fight all your instinct and) teach him otherwise.

At one, putting the kid away someplace felt like punishment (to both of us) because I was often angry/frustrated--and punishment changes the whole equation and adds emotional components that are damaging. If the baby wants something, disengaging (continue calmly with your already established activity, or if you can't be calm, leaving the room and start another non-request-related activity somewhere else) will teach him that screaming "doesn't work" (to get what he wants, which, for a baby, is NEVER "to be ignored' ;) ).

I had screamers who just thought it was fun to scream--I mean, what a turn-on, right? Look at this HUGE thing they can do! And how much MORE fun if it's not only loud, but the people around them freak out! (Sometimes hitting and biting are that innocent too--just "WOW! Check it OUT!") For that, quick consequences (which despite his young age you should tell him in advance, he'll catch some of the words and learn to recognize the reminder and logically associate (x) with (y)) often work: put him down if you are carrying him, or immediately move him to another room/his crib, or you simply "shut down" to him but stay in the same room--all of these remove the "I'm impacting people!" part of the "WOW!" For these to work, you have to not do them in anger, all of them--otherwise the situation becomes about affecting Mommy again.

And when (not if!) he does it at the store? I have finished shopping with my hand over a kid's mouth, them still screaming (be careful not to get bit, and be ready to be very slobbered). Mostly during the screaming stage I didn't take them shopping/out. But reinforcing that no "good" reactions and only annoying or boring reactions happen when they scream mostly defuses that, plus in public there are so many other things and people to see! I think that helps.

Now, when there are two or more kids, they can ramp eachother up ... and then separating (the trigger from the screamer) becomes more obvious. In your case, you just need to figure out if the trigger is you or not!

---
oh, and--sometimes violence from kids (hitting, biting, screaming) is a reaction to an event. In my kids' case, two of them get violent when they need to pee. (No joke.) So you could watch for that type of trigger too!

2 moms found this helpful

M.,
This can be the most frustrating thing. One thing I had to learn and figure out after the third child was to not give him what he wants until he says it in a quieter way. Of course this will take a little time. Keeping cool is key. I wanted ot give my first child back at 18 months I was so frustrated. Prayer each day helps too. Good luck.
S.
Mother of three girls 12,8 1/2 and 4 1/2

1 mom found this helpful

Well, this may sound weird, but we had the same issue with my 9 month old. She didn't screaming for long periods of time, but it was so loud, she didn't understand "no" yet, and I didn't know what else to do? My neighbor recommended that if she didn't stop it after the first time of asking her not to scream, was to get a spray bottle and on a mist setting, to just spray her in the face and say firmly "no screaming". It seemed strange and felt like what people do to cats when they get on the counter, but it startled her enough to get the point across. So far, it has seemed to work. Now when she gets to screaming, i just have to say "no". If she does it a second time, then I just have to show her the spray bottle and she stops. I figured that it was worth trying and probably wouldn't scar her for life. It was hard at first, but she seemed to catch on after a couple of times.

1 mom found this helpful

Oh, bummer, bummer, bummer, the lessons we end up learning. Having lived through those my-God-make-it-stop days, I can empathize with you.

Your mistake was in giving him what he wanted when he screamed for it--he now has the equation SCREAMING=getting what I want. That is very powerful, why would he ever want to give that up?

You will have to let him know that this was okay when he was 'little' but now he is getting too big to scream anywhere except in his private space, his bedroom if possible. When he screams, calmly let him know that it is fine to scream as long as he does it only in his room. Take him there and let him know that he may join the rest of the family when he is done screaming. If he comes out while he is still screaming, take him back.

This will be challenging for you because you are disrupting something that has been very powerful for him. YOu can model that screaming only happens in one room, those times when you feel like you just have to walk away, you can say, "I am going to go to my private space", then go to your room and scream. it may even release some of your frustration. And you and your husband can 'mock' that this rule applies to everyone. You can scream and your husband can explain to you that it is okay to scream as long as you only do this in your private space. Or he can scream and you can do the same. Your son will learn that this rule applies to everyone, not just to him. And he will learn that it is not him but the habit of screaming that is publicly unwanted.

1 mom found this helpful

First of all ((((hugs))).

You're doing what you can do manage this behavior, and he's trying to figure out how he can get what he wants. If he screams, and you give what he wants it's reinforcing the behavior. Keep modeling the behavior you want to see from him, speaking to him in a normal voice even when you want to scream right back. Walk away if you need to. Try to distract him by offering a favorite game, book, snack - anything to try and end the behavior without drawing more attention to it. But giving in to keep him quiet will reinforce the screaming.

What I have found is that when I get to the last hair on my head (or as my 8 yr old has said "getting on my FIRST nerve) often the very stage that has me going crazy shifts and they are on to the next big stage. Isn't that Murphy's Law? ;)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,

You have my deepest sympathy on this one. My daughter is now 3.25 years old and finally stopped screaming at the very top of her lungs at about 2.75 when her verbal skills became very solid. Please do not pull out your hair. It will pass and it will ebb and flow. I noticed it starting around 1 year (a little before) and cycling every few months. And, yes, she too would laugh like it was so much fun at times and at others she did it hoping to get her way. Of course, you can't give in because you don't want him to think it actually works. I was always horrified. Fortunately, I notice that other mothers and fathers understand. You are not the only one who has to deal with this. It is mortifying for the parents of the child screaming but not for those of us who have been there. I now smile remembering what it was like.

You are blessed with a vocal, probably very intelligent and soon to be verbal child. It will end eventually.

Good luck and try to relax about it.

S. V.

1 mom found this helpful

I went through the same thing and still am dealing with it at times. Then I read the best book and it has changed things dramatically! Read the book, The Happiest TODDLER on the Block. Dr. Karp has a sure fire method for dealing with these screaming tantrums. It is a little silly and you feel strange doing it- especially in public, but, man, does it work! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I remember this stage (I now have a 3 and half year old). I tried really hard to not give in to him and he went into a 1 minute time out until the screaming stopped. It worked for us, it's worth a try!

{{{{M.}}}}

I remember that phase. At about 9 months old, each of my 6 kids "found their voice". That was what my mom called it. I didn't call it that!!!! :^) Believe it or not, he's not doing it simply to drive you insane. He is just experimenting with his new-found ability. Options: ignore it. This too shall pass and the next phase will probably make you wish he'd scream again. OR redirect. Probably a combinationn of the two options will work. Gently say, "Shhh. Quiet voice." Don't reinforce by giving a thing he appears to be screaming for. Actually, I remember gently tapping the child's mouth with an open hand and firmly saying, "No screaming." Gently is the operative word here. It's not a slap. It's very slow -- just to cover the mouth so the baby understands what you're saying "No" about. Try reinforcing his "quiet moments". This may not be encouraging, but I think that the next phase is incessant banging on every imaginable surface to elicit the loudest and most obnoxious sound possible! Enjoy!!! :^)

Upside: I've heard that the harder they are as babies, the better they are as teens. So far, I'd have to agree!

My son is also just one, he doesn't scream but he will break down crying and throw his head forward and back. Also makes a mama want to go crazy.

My two suggestions are ignoring the behavior, even leaving the room for a moment if you need a mini-break. I know it's easier said then done, but try not to react. Deep breath for the mama.

The other is distraction. If Micah is freaking out I can often grab a book he loves or a treat and "break his state" - grab his attention some other way.

Best to you and your little Patience-teacher. :)

It sounds like you are doing good things, the only other tip I got from a child development book is that children at this age are just doing cause/effect - for example, they are learning that if they press a button on their toy then the lights flash or something. So, when he yells you have to look at what happens next. You want to make sure he is not getting ANY reaction from you, whether it is getting the toy, giving him a look, gasping, etc. I don't know if it will work, but you can give it a try. I think you would need to do this for awhile before he catches on and doesn't get the reaction he is looking for. Good luck!!

my children are 3 and 18months and they STILL have this problem, some days its so bad I get my ears ringing. We have started sending the 3 year old to his room with the door shut which seems to work very well. Ignoring it is the best but also isolating them from everyone else. They do it for attention, wether good or bad and if you dont give them it then they wont try it very long.
Teach him signs if he isnt talking yet. Drink, eat, all done (as in get down from the table or done playing), bath etc are very easy and they pick it up very fast. That way, he can use his voice to get your attention (not by screaming though) and his signs to show you what he wants. Its very effective to use the signs each time you ask if they want something and then help them sign it while giving it to them. Always respond quickly if possible when they sign so they learn thats the way to get what they want. Good luck, and stock up on tylonol.

Hi M.~
I also was tested with a very loud and crazy attention getter. Now I have 3, lol, testers. Patience and maybe the minute he starts to scream you need to leave the room and quietly, enter again when he is quiet and ask what he wanted. There were a few times when I snuck away out to the backyard. I could hear him still scream and then a bit scared but it worked. He stopped and I came right back. I did not ever think for a minute that would work but because I gave the screaming no attention and he got what he wanted when he was quiet I finally got through it. About 2 weeks later. Good luck I know how hard it can be, I am 38 and have a 3 year old, 9 and 10 (almost 11)! Distraction even being scared sometimes helps. Emotions are tools we all have to learn and using those may help you. When it started again I used to scream too, then go dead silent and seeing the shock on his face would send us all into giggles because now I was laughing and he was laughing then we would get whatever after he said it nicely. Good luck to you. Lots of Patience
~A. mother of 3 in Oregon

Unfortunately I am going through the same thing with our 3rd boy, who is now 1.5 yrs. Our first boy (now 7) used to scream a little, but more often just whined, until he turned 2, but this was related to the fact that he was a very late talker, and finally ended up in early childhood intervention (which improved him VASTLY). Our second boy (now 4) was completely different. He was walking at 9 mos (well ahead of our other two) and talking at 1 yr. By the time he was 1.5 years old he was babbling away and could easily communicate what he wanted. He is very mature for his age. But our 3rd boy is not really a candidate for early childhood intervention because, although he's late at talking, he isn't late at anything else, and isn't exhibiting other warning signs like my first boy did (such as spinning wheels for an hour, or not making contact). In fact my 3rd boy made excellent contact since he was an infant, has always been very attentive, and he was the quietest and most attentive and patient boy we had until he started CRAWLING. Then all hell broke loose.

Now he SCREAMS for everything. For fun, for demands, for temper tantrums, for being tired, what ever. It'll split your head. I have tried everything I know as a daddy to break him of it, within my own ethical limits, and he still screams. But I have noticed is that he screams more often with Mommy around, because Mommy answers his scream with what he wants... He wants a particular food, a particular TV show, to get out of his play room, what ever. Whereas when I'm around, I order him to stop screaming, and as long as he can see me, he'll stop. Or at least lower the drama.

Therein lies, I think, the answer. When a child learns he gets what he wants from screaming, you'll lock him/her into a pattern that is very hard to escape from. You have to do what he DOESN'T want you to do when he screams. Such as: put him in his crib, turn off the light, and close the door. (Timeout.) If he hates timeout, and he learns he goes into timeout EVERY time he screams, he will stop.

My challenge is that Mommy doesn't do this. To be fair, she is very busy and is very good at ignoring chaotic noise (whereas I have an extreme deep-down intolerance to chaotic noise). She may sometimes ignore him for a long time, and he'll just sit in the play room and scream so loud I can hear it from the neighbor's house... Maybe because he's frustrated with some toy or another... She'll finally intercede, but the point is that he doesn't learn there is a consequence for screaming unless daddy is around. He's learned that if he screams long enough he'll get what he wants eventually.

I have a 2 1/2 year old little boy and let me tell you, little boys have more energy than they even know what to do with. I do have the same problem with him yelling and have tried the same things. One thing I have found that seems to be working for me right now, is I won't give him what he wants until he asks me nicely. I tell him to ask nicely and than I will listen. It seems to be working. But he will still yell not as much, but I too have been told it is a power test to see how far he can go. Hopefully I gave some good advice. But you got to love them they are so cute and watching them learn so much in a short amount of time is just amazing.

All you have to do to get your 1 y/o to stop screaming is not show him that it bothers you. When he screams, don't acknowledge it at all, and simply keep on doing whatever you were doing. As soon as her sees that his screaming no longer has an effect on you and therefore not so funny to do anymore, he'll stop. The same with almost any irritating behavior. My daughter is 3, and almost NEVER throws tantrums because from the first time she did, I walked away and kept doing whatever I needed to do. She would kick and scream for a few seconds and then come to be comforted, and which point we could talk.

The tone of your voice conveys what is acceptable. I'm sure you have a warning voice to the no touch situation. In a firm but convicted voice you can say 'this is unacceptable' and not reward it. Teach when not screaming how to ask for some thing such as pointing and saying, "please" then reward that 'please' with a smile and gentle voice. You teaching communication and respect. If he starts to scream again then just calmly take it away and shake your head no and again say in the voice that he will understand this is unacceptable behavior.
It's work but worth it.

Oh my goodness, I can't even express how much I appreciated reading these post. My son just turned one Oct. 9th and he's doing the same thing! I feel like I'm starting to lose my mind here. He screams when I try to feed him because he wants to hold the spoon. His scream is so loud that I give in and give him the spoon but then I have a huge mess to clean up after. He is screaming about everything. Now when I get a phone call, I immediately put him in his crib so I can get a minute on the phone without him screaming in the background. On top of it all he has been skipping his morning nap, I think he may have out grown it at this point. I rely on his naps to get things done and have some peace and quiet. I just hope this phase ends soon, I'm starting to consider getting a job and doing the daycare thing.

Maybe ignore it, just as you would a temper tantrum or whining. When my children do annoying behaviours, I use "extinguishing" behaviour, which is ignoring it until it goes away. He probably loved the reaction when he first started doing it, and loved the attention, so now you can't get rid of it. Tell him, "Mommy won't listen until you use an inside voice". Also, there are kits you can buy that teach you how to sign with your child, prior to their being able to speak. This eliminates a lot of screaming and crying as well.

God bless.

It's a phase... put your earplugs in.... if he seems in pain, then maybe he's teething. OR if it's just a temper tantrum... I've read the best thing to do, is walk away... if they get a reaction out of you now, then it's only going to get worse.

My one year old is doing the same thing! I notice he quites down if he doesn't get any reaction at all from doing it.

ignoring it won't be easy... but that may be the trick. if he is doing it to get attention. then don't give him the attention.

I told my kids.. you can scream in your room where I don't have to hear it.. and that they can't come out until they stop.

and this might sound silly.. but try screaming back at him once..so he can hear what it sounds like. Do it when you don't have family or guests in the house... so you can talk with him afterwards.. it might scare him.. but you might make a point with him

kids do go through phases.. so he should outgrow it... but in the meantime.. I would say if he is doing it for attention.. don't pay attention. It will wear off soon enough.

good luck

Don't know what to tell you because I am having the same problems and I just don't know what else to do. It's stressing me out enormously. I need help myself. I've done tried everything. I have ran out of options.

My oldest who is now almost 15 was a screamer. I used to put him in his crib until he was done screaming. When he was calmed down then he would get what he wanted. I continued this technique with my other three children ages 11,8,5. My youngest still likes to throw tantrums sometimes. When she does I tell her to go to her room. Usually she will stop right away and sometimes she just starts laughing and the trantrum is over. Othertimes of course she has to go to her room. I have had great success as other parents have told me that my children are well behaved and my children think twice before throwing a tantrum.

Good luck and use what works for you :)

I think that your one year old knows exactly what you're saying. Children understand so much more than we give them credit for...they are SO SMART...but they can't always vocalize everything at that age. I would talk to him in this manner...as if he does know what you're talking about (and I bet he does). Like other mamas have mentioned, I would also make sure that he's not getting rewarded for the action by your behavior. He's learning to push your buttons and may find that it's funny. Have you started any sign language with your child? I found that it worked miracles with us in terms of being able to communicate directly at a very young age. The sign language stems some of the frustration that might cause the screaming. (We watched "Signing Time" DVDs with Alex and Leah - they are available through the library. We both loved them). Have the expectation that your child needs to communicate appropriately with you to get what he wants. Like another mama said...after 100 or so tries, it will happen. Just takes a while. Hang in there!!!

My goddaughter did the same thing. Her parents had her hearing checked, and it turned out that she wasn't hearing much. She had a little fluid in her ears, and now the problem is resolved completely. It took about a week to clear up with proper medical treatment.

If you've tried everything else, perhaps a hearing test in order. Don't let them tell you baby's hearing is fine by looking in baby's ears. You just can't tell that way.

Or...if his hearing is fine...you just may have a rock star on your hands!

I feel for you, but it sounds like what he is doing is working for him. You have to make it not worth his while to scream. I would with my child NEVER give them something they at first screamed for even when they asked in a nice voice. She got it right away. Also, a little spanking may do the little man some good!
Good luck, and DO NOT give in to him, or it will get worse as he gets older and bigger.
Katie

Hello, one question I have is, do you give your child what they want when he screams? If so, then his behavior is rewarded, and he will keep doing it, as it gets results. I'm not talking about hugs, etc...but objects. It's hard when a child is so young...but try not to give in to screaming demands. I take it these are not screams of pain, which would be a different matter altogether. Be strong, and reward quieter requests quickly! Good luck!

Ugh. Isn't this frustrating?

Two suggestions:

1. My nieces (twin girls) went through this; their mom would first put her hands up to her ears, wincing, while she said, "You're hurting mama's ears!" If it didn't stop, they went in to a time out.
2. A little girl at my church does this when I teach Sunday school (screams everything at me). I'll say (calmly), "I can't understand you when you're screaming. What? I'm not understanding you. Can you talk in your normal voice so I can understand what you're saying?" After three or four tries, she began talking normally.

Now here's the thing: These kids were all slightly older -- I'm not sure if your little boy is old enough for this to work, but thought I'd offer these ideas just in case. My little girl (at 18 months) would be able to understand the first idea, but I don't think it would have worked when she was year old. I like the other mom's suggestions of just trying to be as oblivious as possible, but know that after about 30 seconds it can feel like your brain is melting. ;)

Good luck, and please keep us posted.

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