PARENTING TODAY: Stretch legs, not voice, to get someone's attention

It’s amazing how loud a small child can be.

He can’t reach the doorknob, but he can scream so loudly you simply can’t stand it. What’s a parent to do?

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Seven-year-old Jason and nine-year-old Lisa are playing in the family room down the hall.

“Kids, we’re leaving in five minutes, so finish your game and be ready to go,” their Mom calls to them.

“Mom! I need your help,”  Jason yells a few minutes later.

Oh, I hate when they scream, she thinks. She calls down to ask what the problem is and suggests that he come to her and ask in a quieter voice.

The problem is that they learned from her to yell down the hall. Rather than walk down to them to give them the five-minute warning, she yells. She often yells. So, they behave in exactly the same way.

If you are a parent who is tired of listening to kids screaming, first examine your own behaviours. Are you yelling instead of walking to them and using your ‘inside voice’?

Kids also scream because it gets your attention. You need to let them know that screaming just isn’t a positive or helpful tactic. Tune them out. Firmly say “No” to the child.

Get down to his level and calmly say, “No, don’t scream.” Then ignore him when he screams and go about your business as long as he’s not bleeding or stuck somewhere.

Once he realizes that he’s not going to get your attention, he will probably stop because his screaming is a waste of his time. Kids who are trying to get your attention are not likely to continue with behaviours that don’t work.

Teach him the words he needs to use to get your attention and your help. Often toddlers have troubles speaking well because they simply do not have the vocabulary and don’t know what to say.

So, when the little one is screaming take a look at the situation. What is the problem? Then offer the language he can use.

“Oh, you’re frustrated because the blanket is stuck under the leg of the chair. You can ask for help. Just say, ‘Mommy the blanket is stuck. Please help me.’”

When he does speak nicely and use the correct language respond as quickly as possible, so he learns that this is a good way to get Mom or Dad’s attention.

When nothing is working, leave the room. Once your child sees that she is all alone, she’ll stop because what’s the point.

Sometimes she needs some exercise. She’s been playing indoors for hours and needs a run to the park. It’s time to bundle up and head outdoors where she can run and play, and a loud voice is acceptable.

Or she could be bored, so distract her. Suggest a different activity, bring out a game or toy that she hasn’t played with for a while.

When shrieking is a way to get your attention, take a look at your behaviour.

Have you been so busy that you are ignoring her? It’s time for you to take a break and spend some time with her. You might suggest a game or read stories.

You can also get her involved in helping you with your activities. Kids love to help.

If you involve her with you, you are giving her the attention she needs and teaching her how to be helpful. It’s a win-win.


Kathy Lynn is the author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at

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