What To Do About Your Screeching Child

In this episode: A mom writes that her toddler’s constant screeching is “driving me crazy!” and is hoping Janet has some advice before she loses her mind.


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Hi Janet! I know this podcast is pretty old but I am hoping that you have a moment to offer me some advice! My toddler (17 months) loves to screech/scream when she is excited or wanting to play. I do not mind the screaming because I see it as her way of saying how excited and happy she is. But we currently live with my parents, and I can tell it is getting on their nerves. My mom has brought up to me multiple times that I need to start getting her to stop screaming in the house (telling her to use her inside voice, telling her no, etc.). I must admit that I do not know what to do. On one hand, I know that screaming is normal, and that overreacting could make this a power struggle. On the other hand, I know it is not fair to make my parents listen to screeching. I explained to them what you put in your articles about underreacting and me not being able to control what she does with her voice, but I do not think that they are very convinced lol. How should I handle this? I thought that maybe I can take her outside/upstairs when she screams, but the screams are so random that I do not think that it’d help. I thought about saying “that’s a little loud, could you use a quieter voice, please?” but I do not know if that will give it power and make it a test for her. What should I do?
    P.S. we are going on a plane in a week, and I am a little worried about what to do if she starts screaming on the plane. There is no way to take her to a private location, and I don’t want to bother the other passengers. I know that it is unreasonable to expect my daughter to not react to the changes in her routine/environment, I just wish I knew how to respond in a way that is respectful to her and to the people around her!
    Thank you so much!

  2. Hello,
    I found this information very helpful for my own daughter (4 yrs) who had been resorting to screaming when she was angry. I noticed that when we stopped allowing it to bother us, and just acknowledged that she is very angry, allowed her to “get it out” with our support, the screaming stopped. However, she recently started doing this again, but now she targets her little sister (20 month old). When she gets in these angry “moods,” she will run up, scream into her sister’s face (no words, just piercing screams), then run away, and repeat over & over. It scares little sister and makes her cry, which I am assuming is why big sister continues to do it. She gets no upset reaction from us, but she does get a reaction from little sister. What is the best way to handle this? So far, we’ve tried various things and have not felt successful.

    If I try to separate the kids into different rooms, big sister relentlessly tries to get into the room with her little sister, or she screams through the door. If I sit with big sister and try to help her with her big feelings, she will go on & on screaming, trying to get past me and out the door, and this can last for 30-45 minutes!

    I try to coach little sister to tell her big sister that she doesn’t like that.
    If I am able to separate little sister – she will happily play by herself and her crying stops until big sister comes back at her screaming again.
    I feel badly for little sister – she gets this panicked look on her face and tears pour out – but I am trying to be careful in not making too big a deal of it. I don’t want to vilify big sister, but I do want to relieve little sister of this experience.
    I perceive this behavior as being similar to hitting – it’s hurtful/scary, but I can’t block it!

    So far, these screaming episodes are only stopped once big sister gets redirected or distracted by something else. But I feel that is unproductive and won’t stop her from going into these episodes the next day, or next time she feels angry. What else should we try?

    Grateful for any help!

  3. Hi Janet,
    Do you have any advice for dealing with screeching at 1.5 years, but it physically hurts my husband, so he can’t just let it go and not show that it’s bothering him?
    He screeches usually when he’s annoyed or frustrated, but also when he’s excited.

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