Q: My son is 17 months old. He is a great little boy. However when he doesn't get his way or gets mad, he uses this high pitched ear piercing squeal/scream. It's an instant headache. I know our apartment neighbors can hear him - our walls are paper thin. I can only imagine what they must think is going on over here. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions as to how to get him to stop this squealing. It's almost unbearable. I know kids cry when they get upset, but this is beyond the norm.

A: Is it too late to invest in an earplug company? This is a behavior that SEEMS like it's beyond the norm -- but it's not. I myself have given birth to 4 extremely loud children. It's part of their temperament and personality -- they were born loud. Look at it this way -- your little guy is expressive and trying hard to communicate. But he's at an age when his language isn't fully developed enough to say what he's thinking, feeling, and wanting -- and screaming is a lot more fun, anyway.

So, how to cope until he learns to "use his words" instead of an ear-splitting scream? Make a game out of it. Have him help you find and identify "loud places" and "quiet places". The park, or even a hallway in your home (during daytime hours) works well. Then have fun being LOUD in loud places (Mom and Dad too) -- and quiet in quiet places. The "loud times" will allow him to blow off some steam in a parent-approved (and fun) way. Remind him throughout the day when he's in a quiet -- or loud -- place. Praise him for remembering to use his quiet voice in quiet places, and really have fun with him in the loud places. Soon, he'll start to learn the difference. And if you're worried about the neighbors, be proactive -- approach them with your son (when he's in a friendly mood) and apologize for his verbal antics. Most folks are understanding and supportive.

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg


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