Child Discipline: How Do I Get My Toddler To Stop Screaming?

Hi Dr. Heather,


My 19-month-old screams at the top of his lungs, "MYYYYYYY" for everything! Yes, we know it comes from not getting his way - most of the time. Quite often, though, we can be happily watching The Backyardigans and he starts screeching out of control for no reason. We've tried ignoring, we've tried yelling, we've even tried bottom-swatting. Help, please!


Landlocked in Louisville,


 Hi Amy,

Little kids need to be able to make noise, and we need to be able to hear ourselves think (once in awhile). With these conflicting needs in mind, you can let them make noise, but only within certain parameters. At 19 months, he is loving the fact that he can consciously control his body and his actions, to a greater degree now. So you have to respect that, and give him an appropriate outlet for for his gleeful screaming. You don't want to use punishment for something like this; you'll just risk an escalation of the behavior as part of his naturally being oppositional at this age.

In our house, the kids are allowed to make as much noise as they can possibly create, but only in their bedrooms, the playroom, or outside. The living room and other common areas require "inside voices".

Explain the new rules to him, once all the adults are on the same page. You want everyone to be consistent if you want the new rules to stick. At 19 months, your little guy will require reminding, but you can make it a game. "You feel like screaming? Let's go to the screaming room!" and then start screaming your head off, once you're there. Have him try to scream louder than you. THEN, make a big deal out of using "inside voices" in other rooms. Tiptoe around, talk quietly, have him follow suit; but make it fun. Soon he'll get the picture!

And check out my Toddlers section for more tips.


Dr. Heather

The BabyShrink