How Do I Get My 2 Year Old to Stop Screaming "Ow Ow Ow"

Updated on August 13, 2010
B.B. asks from New Haven, CT
14 answers

ow as in ouch! at least that is how any adult would take it. it is awful. anytime he gets upset and starts crying or screaming he will scream "ow ow ow ow". and there is nothing that is hurting him, he is not in pain at all, he is just upset. i'm not sure how to get him to stop doing that! it is awful and embarrassing when we are in public. example: we went to the beach the other day but were there to fly a kite not to swim. i didn't have him in a bathing suit. we went down to the water to put our feet in and he wanted to go for a swim. i tried to get him to walk back to the car and he wouldn't, so i carried him. the entire way back to the car he was screaming "ow ow ow ow". i was just holding him, i was not in any way hurting him. i was so worried that someone was going to say something to me.

i'm at a loss, but i really need to do something to try and stop this. any advise is greatly appreciated.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Try being playful. My son at 2 was very, shall we say, expressive in his emotions. I found that having a fun attitude and inviting eyes then doing something 3 Stooges-ish like slapping my hands on my face and peeking out through the fingers or making weird sounds would catch his interest and his sails would change direction as quickly as they started. It was weird.

He did outgrow it. :) Now, I quietly smile to myself when I see other toddlers doing stuff like that because I (and probably thousands of other people too) had been there and done that at one point as well.

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answers from Washington DC on

in public just ignore it. really. any attempts to control this will result in exactly the sort of power struggle and negative attention he's looking for (not consciously of course.)
but at home i confess i'd have fun with it. i'd yell 'OUCH OUCH OUCH!!' even louder or pretend to be pinching him or all manner of other immature dumb things that wouldn't help one bit, but would amuse me mightily.
:) khairete

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answers from New York on

I hate to say this but you are just going to have to ignore him when he says it unless of course you know he is truly hurt. Even if someone says something you have nothing to worry about, you are doing nothing wrong. My son used to yell "no hit me" and cry whenever I wouldn't let him do something, try having your son say that in public. One day my in-laws were over and he grabbed the pot on the stove, all I did was tell him it was hot and push it out of his reach, the next thing I know he started screaming and crying "no, no, no don't hit me" my mother-in-law was in shock and scolded him which did nothing but make the situation worse. Then he did it at Lighthouse Beach in New Haven/East Haven when I took a can away from him, I was so upset I grabbed the kids and left. A few days later we were at the pediatricians office with the baby and he did it, my pediatrician told me to make sure he is safe and walk away. Oh and yes she laughed while I turned beat red. It was really hard at first but let me tell you it worked after a week. Let me know how you make out.

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answers from Chicago on

I don't think there's anything you can do other than ignore him. If he gets any positive or negative attention, then he "wins".

If you're at home, I'd put him in his room or somewhere where he's allowed to "have his moment". I have found this helpful when my kids tantrum. I tell them, I'm not mad and they are not in "time out" but no one else wants to hear the screaming. When she is done "having her moment" and is ready to use her words, she's welcome to come talk to me. Until then, she gets NO attention otherwise.

If your out, you can either ignore him or tell him if he doesn't use his words then you will need to take him home since no one wants to listen to him screaming. It's important for him to know that he does not get to play or continue to have fun if he behaves in that manner.

As for you, try to keep your cool. I know you said it's embarassing. But I think most people realize that small children do anything to get attention when they are upset. Just remain calm yourself...that signals to other people that you are not mistreating him and you can handle his outburst without being angry.

Believe me, ignoring it as best you can will make this go away faster. I have stepped over a screaming child in my own kitchen giving NO attention whatsoever. Once they realize they still won't get what they want, they have no reason to behave that way...especially if it's a "given NO"...if you yell, you automatically don't get what you were asking for. Next time, use your words.

Best wishes.

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answers from New York on

It is hard, but I think it is really important to separate a child's behavior from how you feel others might think of you. This issue won't go away ever and kids pick up on it with their incredible sensors. He knows he can get away with it because you are embarrassed.

I have found it important to take a step back and think about the problem - am I simply embarrassed or is there an attitude or action which does also need changing.

Boys it seems mostly need quick, short, action to teach them to stop doing something - not long discussions with lots of words. Decide on the discipline (short, direct, something which is meaningful to him) ahead of time, explain it in a few concise words before anything happens, and immediately (not 2,3,4,5 chances) fulfill what you said you would do. Repeat until he stops. He has built up some 'muscles' in this area so it make take perseverance on your part.

But we're not here to raise children, but children in to adults who have self control and who care about others. We all come in to the world ego-centric = self-centered. We don't change unless our parents, day by day, year by year, mold it out of us in to being other-centered.

You can do it - it's our highest calling.

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answers from Bellingham on

I'd probably say to him mid tantrum, because it's his version of a tantrum (which by the way is only a kid learning to deal with their emotions. He's mad, sad, hurt emtionally and this is how he's dealing. How you react to him will teach him what he can get away with when he's upset and if he's learned that "ow ow ow" gets you to give in to get him to stop he'll keep it up) "I know you're angry, sad, etc but you're not hurt" Then when he's calm explain to him that "ow ow ow" is what we use only when we're hurt. If we say it when we're not hurt then someone might think you're hurt and take you to the doctor or think Mommy hurt you by accident, I don't want to hear that kind of thing anymore. Then I'd probably do whatever it is you do when it's a tantrum.

He'll grow out of it, but you've got to find a way to parent him and keep in mind that when you're out in public you can't parent for those around you. Be consistant to whatever you do at home, it's not about us being embarassed but about teaching our kids proper behaviour. I can understand the fear that someone will think you're hurting him and take him away, but unless you're beating him, or physically hurting him most people understand kids have fits and this is just one.

Good luck, let us know how it goes!

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answers from New York on

My daughter will sometimes do things like that - I can sometimes tease her out of it -is the ow on your nose - then give her a kiss on the nose - is it on her toes - then kiss her toes...

Sometime I flat out bribe her - if she is a good girl she can have M&M's or a peanut butter cup (really a treat, she almost never has sweets).

Other times, if it not something we need to do (ie beach being optional, not mandatory, like swimming lessons) I will tell her that if she does not stop she will not get to come back another time.

Good luck!

PS - I read the previous answer form Mom on teh GO and I have a differnt philosophy, I do not ever ignore my daughter when she is upset. I get eye to eye with her and tell her if she wants something she needs to calm down and speak not whine cry etc. Because if I can't understand her, I can't help her - this way she knows ai am listening to her and I care about what she wants - she also will typicall accept the "No" a lot better - the second two suggestions I had above will only work if you are communicating with your child, the first is a way to calm him down so you can get to a point you can communicate.



answers from New York on

my friend has the same issue and turns out it was a phase. it went away on its own.


answers from Columbus on

I had to laugh when I read your question - my son is 2.5 and has taken to yelling "help me help me" when he's not getting his way. I'm always afraid people will think I'm kidnapping him or something when he starts doing it. I think kids this age just yell whatever is gonna get the biggest reaction! I'm eager to see what advice you get on this. Good luck!



answers from New York on

Sorry, I think its funny. Since it upsets you, he is getting the reaction he wants. Ignore it, or better yet laugh. Do NOT ask him ever if he is hurt. And enjoy his strange behavior. All too soon he will be off to college and you will be longing for the ow ow ow.



answers from Portland on

Absolutely agree with being funny and fun - use different voices and say "Ow ow ow" yourself! Talk about it with him... "I wonder how a dog would say ow? Owwwww... Owwww! How about a cat? Mowwww..." Be a little more enthusiastic about it than he is. Be silly about it!
A good book I am reading right now about being fun is "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence J Cohen.


answers from Detroit on

I say similar to Liz. When my 2yr old does that, I start tickling him even if I'm holding him and start laughing and saying ow, ow, ow myself... That usually stops it and makes him start laughing.

Good luck.



answers from New York on

My son did this...he would do it at bedtime - I swore the neighbors were going to think I was beating him b/c I know they could him yelling - especially in the summer when the windows are all open! Its a manipulation tactic - they are so darn smart. Ignore it!



answers from Portland on

Check out The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. He deals brilliantly with exactly this kind of behavior. You can also google his name or the book title for some great little videos showing him putting his techniques into action. The guy is good!

Next question: "No" Is No Laughing Matter!