It’s All Fun and Games Til Someone’s Eardrums Start Bleeding

This is my son, Bean.

Bean likes a lot of things.

He likes his teddy bear.  He likes Big Molly.  He likes green beans and cheese toast.  He likes his Daddy and he loves his Mommy.  He likes to crawl.  He likes electrical sockets.  He does not like his high chair.  He likes his bedroom.  He likes his toy cell phone.  He likes blueberries.

He also likes shrieking.

He likes shrieking so much that he does it all the time. When we’re home.  When we’re out.  When we’re in the car.  When he’s in the bathtub.  He’s a shrieker.  As far as I can tell, shrieking is fun.  Though, my eardrums would argue.

And don’t get me started on the volume and frequency and levels of fun that are involved with shrieking in a room that echoes.  Tile bathrooms in restaurants are awesome, according to Bean’s shriekometer.

The problem with this little scenario is that lately, the shrieking has gone from being happy and excited to being bossy.  Now, he shrieks when he wants something.  It’s less of a “YAY!  BLUEBERRIES!” and more of a “GIVE ME BLUEBERRIES, WOMAN!”

It took me a while to realize that a shift in the shriek had been made.  So, for a while I was singing out, “I know!  Aren’t blueberries fun?!?!” and then happily plopping more on his tray.  But then one day this week as I was handing Bean someone for the 1,749th time because he was shrieking for it, I stopped dead in my tracks.

Wait a minute!  What’s going on here?  What’s happening?  Am I being bossed around by my one-year-old son?!?!

I’m not quite sure how to handle the shrieking now.  The first thing I did was immediately stop getting him whatever it was he was shrieking for.  This wasn’t so much a parenting decision as it was a statement to myself that I DO NOT RESPOND TO PEOPLE (even small people) YELLING AT ME.

I’m also using this as an opportunity to work on his words.  When he starts shrieking and pointing to something, instead of immediately handing it to him, I ask him, “Do you want that BALL?  BALL.”  Sometimes talking to him stops him from the shrieking and when he gets quiet and listens, I hand him whatever it is he is demanding of me.

But other than that, I got nothin’ on this one.

What about you guys?  Do you have a shrieker?  A boss-er around-er?  How do you handle it?

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41 Thoughts to “It’s All Fun and Games Til Someone’s Eardrums Start Bleeding”

  1. Janet

    Oh, heavens! I feel your pain. My sister’s son was such a shrieker, we nick-named him howler monkey child. It was the only way he communicated for what seemed like forever. But, he grew out of it and is pretty normal now, lol. My mom, his grandmother, was the best at controlling the volume. She just touched him on the arm, every time he shrieked in her presence, and said, “Shhh”. But I think she had the grandma magic working for her.

    1. Katie

      Grandma magic is pretty powerful stuff. But I think the idea of redirecting his attention and interrupting the behavior is key. Grandma are so stinkin’ smart!

  2. Beth

    As much as it pained me, I had to ignore it and just say, “Not until you ask nicely” and it took a long time!!!!!!!

  3. Sarah H.

    HA. Howler Monkey Child. Maybe Katie you should call him your sweet quiet child? Maybe he’ll hear what you expectations are, and rise to the occasion. (I’m aware this is ridiculous advice seeing that he is one).

  4. haha, is it sad that reading this reminded me of my dog? When she was a pup she would bark and whine at us allll the time. Usually it was because she wanted us to throw the ball. So we would turn our backs and not touch her until she stopped barking, and once she was quiet we would throw the ball. I am happy to report that 2 years later she is much better about quietly getting what she wants. So, keep up the good work! Luckily, unlike puppies, babies eventually learn to talk 🙂

    1. Katie

      That is totally not weird because I thought about my dogs at first, too! And just how you said – we didn’t respond to them when they were barking!! That probably makes me a terrible mother…

  5. I can’t help you with the shrieking b/c I don’t have kids…but I wanted to let you know how cute Bean looks in the first picture! He’s grown up so much and looks like a big boy.

    1. This is pretty much the exact comment I was going to leave -so I’ll just say “ditto!” 🙂

  6. Oh dear – I know that feeling! For my son (almost two), the shrieking stopped once he could walk. But then it was just a different sort of bossiness. He was HUGE on pulling us over to the fridge so he could point at what he wanted. Cute? Yes. Obnoxious when you’re trying to make dinner and *someone* needs a cheese stick? You bet. Cute wins out though…every stinking time!

  7. Ah, a shrieker. In my experience that can be taken care of in 4 possible ways:

    1) Pouring a drink over their head, a la sitcoms

    2) Taking away their alcohol and refusing to give it back until they calm down

    3) Threatening to call the RA/police

    4) Starting a sing-a-long to provide distraction

    Now that I think about it, that list may only apply to shriekers at college parties. I’ll have to think of solutions for babies and get back to you.

  8. Zoey was a talker… and that turned into a bossy child! Which still continues… But we started with Baby sign language and that HELPED a ton! Start with simple words like ‘more’ and ‘please.’ It takes a bit for them to understand but once they get it… its AMAZINGLY helpful for you! Once he gets the first few words you will be amazed how many more words he will learn… We started it when she was younger, but until she learned to speak it was invaluable! She can still sign the words she learned which is about 30 or so… even though she can speak perfectly clear.

  9. I’m right there with you! Henry whines though- soooo not fun. So I’ve started signing to help him. I’m not kidding- he’s learned like 5 signs in 1 week. Hungry (hand to mouth), Milk (do your hand like you are squeezing an utter), All Done (jazz hands), More (finger tips together) to name a few. You should totally try it- can’t hurt! And now instead of whining (as much), he signs it.

  10. I definitely have a shrieker! It started with just little baby babbles and of course they are cute but now she is a 7 month old power screecher. actually blogged about it. The blog is still new but check it out!

  11. jacquie

    We have ‘signing tots’ at my nursery and the kids love it! They are sign and sing sessions and they have learnt so much from them, its ace when they are looking through books and suddenly point to a picture and do the sign!!!

  12. My son is 18 months old, and he did the exact same thing right around his first birthday. So, trust me, I FEEL YOUR PAIN! It’s so funny to read your description of all the skrieking, because it really is how you describe it.
    I will say that now that he’s 18 months, the shrieking has calmed down a lot! I’m not sure if it’s because he can say more words now, or if it’s because now that he’s walking he’s too busy for shrieking.
    So, for us, it was something that he grew out of. Between being able to say more words and learning to walk, he was distracted from the shrieking. When my son used to shriek at me, I would ask him (politely) to be nice to me. And then I might say, ‘You want the BALL? Ball.’ Or whatever it is he is asking for. Sometimes my calm voice would help to calm the shrieking. When that didn’t work, I wouldn’t give him what he wanted. Sometimes that made the shrieking worse, but usually (with a few ‘Shhhh! Shhhh! Shhhh!’ in there somewhere) he would stop shrieking and get what he wanted.
    It’s weird that even at a year old it feels like they have to be treated like they are much olderast sometimes. Or at least that’s how it feels to me…ha! I guess what they say is true: kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for! Good luck!

  13. No kids of my own but my niece is almost three and she’s been a shrieker her whole life. Mainly we just don’t give in to her. She finally learned that she has to be nice to get what she wants…but sometimes you just have to let them sit there and squawk. She’s old enough now that she’ll tell us, “you can’t come over anymore” if she doesn’t get her way. Good luck with Bean man. I always say it’s lucky kids are so cute, it’s what saves them when they’re being little deamons! (Not calling Bean a deamon…you get what I mean).

  14. I am a director at a childcare center and we have a screamer. He screams for EVERYTHING…when he’s happy, mad, frustrated, or when he just wants something. We have started just ignoring it. Pretty much pretending that he’s not in the room until he notices that we aren’t responding. Then we ask him, “Jack is there something that you want?” Then we tell him to use his “big boy” words to ask for it. Most importantly, in my opinion, we give him lots and lots of praise when he asks for something without shreking.

  15. Jen

    Ignore it.
    I have a 3 year old and a 22 month old and I echo the sentiment that: kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for!
    Once I began ignoring them (while still rather annoying to listen to)they both started to respond positively to MY “shrieking”. The issue I have now? My oldest ignores me when I want HIS attention…turning the tables on mom. LOL. Pretty sneeky…be prepared to be outwitted once in awhile.

  16. I think it is a boy thing. My daughter never did that, but my son is world class screamer. We thought he sounded like one of the ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings 🙂 Anyway, his screaming stopped when he started talking, but now he has turned into a champion whiner. When we are at home I do try ingoring him until he talks normal, but when we are out sometimes I just have to give in and give him what he wants. It’s a constant battle. Ahh, the joys of motherhood.

  17. Oh sweetie, I know. Isn’t that shrieking awful? I’m not quite sure when they figure out to ask for things nicely. My 4 year old still shrieks sometimes, though not to ask for something– more when she gets frustrated. Good luck.

  18. Katie van der Meer

    I did the same thing as you, in that I would very clamly say “ball please?” and the lower level of my voice kind of surprised my son. He wasnt a really loud shrieker but I started it as soon as I noticed his attitude 🙂 Now, when he is demanding something I just have to look at him and he puts a smile on and say “peeezzzz”. Success! Every kiddo is different though.

  19. Diana

    Katie I think you’re doing the right thing. As often as possible don’t respond to the shrieking and if all else fails just stick a small piece of cotton in your ears…you can still hear everything but it helps take the edge off!

  20. I dont have any children, but I have a niece and a nephew. My nephew is, in fact, a demon. He is a 3 1/2 year old “shriek talker”. This past weekend he shrieked at me that “I WANNA PLAY IN THE WATER” and I said “well then go play”. Again, for whatever reason, he shrieked “I WANNA PLAY IN THE WATER”. Giving him a taste of his own medicine, I shrieked “SO GO PLAY”. He cried, I laughed, and all was right with the world. Isnt that mean? I dont deal well with demons. 🙂

    1. Katie

      LOL!!!!!!! This made me crack up!

  21. Dawn

    Thank you for posting this – we are starting to have the same problem just this past weekend. Now I have some ideas as to how to stop our shreieker!!!

  22. I have a shrieker too, I do exactly what you’re doing. I try to get him to say the word, and if he even attempts to say it he gets to have it (he’s 14 months). I’ve had shriekers before, and if you keep doing what you’re doing he’ll grow out of it eventually… if you just give in like some parents do then… well… good luck :o)

    And the pictures of Bean? He looks like such a cute blend of baby and big boy! The Beany-baby-big boy-blend!

  23. Nate's Mom

    We just had Nate’s 1 year pediatrician appointment today and, while Nate’s occasionally shrieking, he’s more interested in hurling food. Our new doctor’s advice (and we LOVE our new ped!) is to not react. No happy response, no mad response. Nothing. I never thought of it this way, but he said that the only thing Nate controls in his life is food – the option to choose or not choose to eat it. Everything else is decided for him, so he’s just working on exercising choice. We’ll see if the no reaction thing works…we’ll try it starting tomorrow. (That 1st year appt. was horrible – 4 shots + a giant prick in his finger to collect a vial of blood for lead/anemia testing.) For today, Nate’s getting whatever he wants!

  24. AJ, my 3 year old, doesn’t really shriek, he is more of a screaming growler. I’m not sure how to explain how he fits those two things together and how he doesn’t end up with a sore throat but he has it down to a science. Riding in the car…not so fun. Then throw in Ryan, my 7 month old, and the two of them get going, it makes my head feel like it’s about to implode. She has always been a talker but in the past couple months she has perfected the art of screeching. My ears are constantly ringing like i just got home from a rock concert.
    I actually blogged about it. The blog is still new, so i’m trying to find my groove but check it out!

  25. courtney

    Someone said baby sign language and I completely agree. Also, I will not respond to shrieking, yelling, whining, etc. Unfortunately it sometimes takes them a while to catch on, but definitely keep encouraging Bean to use his words. He’ll eventually catch on.

  26. Cindy In Owensboro, KY

    I find your posts very interesting because Bean has a lot in common with my little girl who is now 19 months. We actually even made a video of her doing this and called it “Howler Monkey”. She has gotten better as she has gotten a little older but now it is mainly “MAMA, MAMA, MAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  27. I have a screamer too but he doesn’t do it like Bean does. It took me a long long time to figure out that he didn’t want anything, something was wrong. Teething, poopy, over-tired (actually he only has awake and over-tired no in between), too hot, too cold, too loud in the room, Well you get the idea.
    Sorry I can’t help but maybe Bean is trying to tell you something too?

  28. I would just do the same thing you’re doing.. sounds good to me..

  29. pam-tastic

    Oh Katie…to turn back the clock and know then what I know now. I have 2 girls, ages 17 and 9 and the oldest was (and still can be) one demanding little lady. She didn’t shriek, but demanding nonetheless. The best advice…the only advice I have for this is very simple in words, but oooooooh so hard to do. Ready…here goes… “Consistency in the key to good parenting”. You are on the right track to no longer respond to his shrieking by giving him what he wants and I suggest you continue and he will eventually stop. It’s like you are a coke machine and he’s pressed this “shriek” button a gazillion times and has gotten a coke each and everytime and it’s going to take him awhile to press it and find out that it will no longer work. Trust me on this…truuuust me. I – to this good day – have to practice the consistency method with my 17 year old with just about everything. Can’t ever let her be even one minute late for curfew or next time she’ll be 15 minutes late..then 30…and so on… So…be consistent…with everything and you’ll thank yourself later 🙂

  30. Mom of 3

    The library has books and videos on baby sign language. All 3 of my kids signed and it really works! It doesn’t take any extra time out of your day, you simply use the sign when you say the word…”You want MORE blueberries” and you sign “more” while you say it. Then take his hands and help him make the sign. Sign it every time you say the word and he’ll catch on in no time. It’s no different than how he learned to wave bye bye. Then he can sign instead of scream. It is amazing! The first signs my kids learned were more, eat, all done, drink, cheese, cat, dog.

    1. Mom of 3

      Just a side note: Research shows that kids who learn baby sign language (on average) actually learn to talk/speak sooner than babies who do not sign. It’s a common misconception that your baby will be a late talker if you teach him to sign.

  31. Meredith

    Katie you’re doing exactly the right thing. Simply ignoring it doesn’t teach Beanie the words that he’s struggling to find. By waiting for him to quiet and then showing and naming the object of his shrieking desire you’re teaching him THE most powerful lesson a mom can; words have power. Signing is a nice calm way for moms to get some quiet, but you need to reinforce the words as you sign. As Beanie gets older you can teach him the beginning sounds of the words “Ball – buh buh ball” then hold the object in his sight until he repeats the begginning sound. Good luck!!

  32. I had a shrieker too. He would point to what he wanted and just SCREAM. I didn’t want him to learn that screaming would allow him to get his way, so that’s when we decided to start trying to teach him the sign for “please.” (we previously only showed him the sign for milk and then gave up on ASL) So now, when he starts screaming, I’ll sternly remind him that he needs to ask nicely, and he’ll stop, get this little innocent look on his face (so humble!) and sign Please. As time goes on he’s definitely getting better about just signing in the first place instead of starting with the shriek.

  33. Katie, Katie, Katie. We are in the same boat. Our little shriekers are about to KILL ME! Well, not yours so much, but mine definitely. I’m surprised you can’t hear Levi all the way in Florida.

  34. Lissa

    We had success with baby sign language. We really only taught him Milk, Water, More, All Done and Eat, and that helped tremendously. But now my 3 yr old likes to shriek with my 10 month old who cannot yet clap, let alone sign. It’ll come sooner than later I hope.

  35. Aw, this is my first comment to your blog! I’m so excited, I’ve been following (lurking?) for months and months and months 🙂 Anyway, I don’t have children yet, but I am a child care provider, mainly for the the ages 6 months-14 months (I work in what we call the “Wobbler Room”)…Anywho…I wanted to also let you know that Baby Signs are magical. I know Bean is already a year, but it’s never too late to learn…we start teaching Baby Signs to our babies in the infant room. Repetition is KEY. Every time you say “Ball” sign for ball. Every time you say “Do you want to eat?” sign Eat…the same for More, All Done (works great!), Milk and the other basic signs. We have a couple shriekers in our room of 12 babes right now, and when they can communicate to us what they want rather than flailing and shrieking, it’s great!

  36. Looking€ oHeaven

    I too taught my kids to sign. Much easier I must say. The other benefit is now that they are 9 and 13 I can make my point when they are behaving in a manner that may not be acceptable by signing to them and never have to say a word that might embarrass them or me in a public setting. I just bought a sign dictionary and picked out the ones I wanted us to use. I have a day care and I teach all the kids and their parents too. We love it!

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