Toddlers are impulsive and have a hard time stopping themselves from doing things that:
- Feel good (yup, screaming feels good to little ones)
- Worked in the past (chances are that every time your toddler screams someone looks at them or reacts in some way – kids are built to seek your attention)
Learning to do something different, like use their words, takes patience, practice and repetition. Here are some effective strategies to use when your child screams:
- Remain non-reactive and matter-of -act. (Yes, this is challenging. You have mirror neurons in your brain and when your child gets aggressive, your brain wants to do the same thing. You’ll need some tools to be able to calm your own brain.)
- Say in a really calm voice, “You are having trouble getting your socks on” or “You really don’t want your diaper changed right now.”
This approach gives your child words to what they are feeling and trying to express, but doesn’t really pay any attention to the screaming.
Usually after you narrate what they are thinking/feeling, children stop the screaming and may give you some sort of affirmative sign. Then you can offer another option in a positive, expressive voice:
- “Instead of screaming you can say, Help me please or I need space!”
Your child may not be able to say those words right away, but the more you respond in a calm, matter-of-fact way with minimal emotion, offering a different method of communication, the more likely your child will catch on.
Learning to be your child’s calm center is a gift that will strengthen their well-being and your relationship for a lifetime.
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