Screaming = Hugs + Kisses

GC and I had ideas about how we would parent our children before we actually became parents.  You know, we’d use time outs, the 1-2-3 method, lots of talking, no screaming or yelling, and I was pretty firm on my NO hitting rule.  GC maintained that there were certain things that would be cause for a good smack on the tush like lighting fires in the woods, throwing rocks at cars and/or people, and torturing siblings (not that GC did any of those things mind you…ah hem.)  He stood by his “boys are different than girls” and really, how would I know?  I have a sister and he has two brothers.  Mainly we agreed to work together as a united front and our children, or course, were going to be pretty well behaved…

and then came the Roc.

He was an angel from about two months to two years of age.  And then the screaming started.  I understand now that he was intensely frustrated without a way to communicate and most definitely dealing with sensory issues he could not articulate.  In any case this is what I dealt with on a daily basis:

(proof that he isn’t always smiling!  I still see that face at least once a day!)

We started putting him in time out every time he screamed and man did he scream a lot.  So he spent a lot of time in the corner.  Then it was suggested to me that I try dabbing a little bit of Tabasco sauce on my finger and sticking that on his tongue.  We called it “screaming sauce” and it didn’t seem to have any impact on the screaming.  Looking back I feel pretty bad about doing that to him, but he likes salsa now, so maybe I helped him get used to spicy foods?

In any case time outs have never worked for this child.  Not in the way I see them work for other parents.

While we were in South Carolina over New Years I witnessed something I have never, ever experienced in my own home.  My sister in law, mother in law, and I were sitting in the family room together while my niece and nephew played nearby (the Roc was already in bed, I don’t mess with bed time, even on vacation).  It was late and my nephew Aiden was a little tired, his sister on the other hand can go on and on and she was niggling him, getting under his skin, as siblings sometimes do.  She stepped on something of his and he retaliated by bumping her in the leg with his head.  I wouldn’t even call it “headbutting” because it wasn’t a hard hit.  My sister in law is an awesome mother, she is on top of her kids, and they are not allowed to tease or be disrespectful.  So when this happened right in front of her she gasped, raised her arm, pointed to the front door across the room, and said in a low quiet voice:  “Get in time out right now.”  No dramatic screaming from her.  With a protruding lower lip Aiden quietly (OMG!  quietly!) went to the corner, sat on the floor, and didn’t say a peep…

OMG.  Seriously!  Oh. My.  God.  Never has the Roc ever behaved that way while getting disciplined.  Now I know that I shouldn’t compare, Aiden is a typically developing boy, and he is 10 months older than the Roc, but still I was flabbergasted.  That’s how it happens in (some) people’s houses?  What am I doing wrong?  The Roc couldn’t care less about time out or any kind of punishment we’ve tried for that matter.  There is nothing I can take away that matters to him.  Being separated from the group isn’t really a punishment to him.  And lately I’ve been losing my mind and have resorted to screaming.

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I screamed at the Roc to get upstairs to his room and I was frightened.  It was just like when Sully the monster on Monsters Inc. sees the still images of himself when he scared the cr@p out of little Boo.  He was surprised to see his grotesquely distorted face and so sorry to have scared the little one.  I was mortified to see the monster I became, and was instantly sorry to have screamed my head off at the Roc.  So, so sorry to have made him cry and to hear him say:  “Mommy, you scared me!” with a single tear tracing a path down his chubby pink cheek.

Broke. my. heart.

I felt that I would surely be awarded Worst Mother of the Year.

I vowed to try harder today.  I knew I would have ample opportunity.  You see, the Roc is still a screamer and it is hard to hear so much screeching, many times for the simplest, most ridiculous reasons.  Every day.  And I’ve been having a hard time with it lately.  He screams about food falling on the floor, the table, or heaven forbid – his pants.  He screams when the dog gets to rough (which isn’t the dogs fault, the Roc is crazy wild and the dog gets revved up.)  He screeches at his inability to get the cap off a jar, to throw a ball exactly where he wants it to go, to zip a zipper, or get his shoe on.  And on and on.  He is so easily frustrated.

And I won’t even get started on the defiance we have been experiencing lately.  That’s a whole other post.  Let’s just say that if he doesn’t want to do something, he’s not going to do it.  He won’t do it because he’s supposed to or because you want him to.  And the devilish smile when he’s realized he’s gotten under your skin?  Maddening.  But I won’t go there.

So this morning when the screaming started and I felt the anger well up inside and my annoyance meter hit the red zone I shouted,  “Screaming means you get a HUG and a KISS!  Yay!!” and then I chased him around the kitchen until I was able to capture him and hug, hug, hug away!  He reacted just like I thought he would, he laughed and tried to wiggle out of my loving embrace.  I continued with this scream = hugs and kisses mantra until the bus came.

It felt good to find a way to redirect his attention and keep my cool.  We had a much better morning together.  We had fun.  There was less screaming, or at least it turned to giggles pretty quickly.  I felt like I outsmarted him for once.

Until he got home from school and screamed so I would chase him around the kitchen and hug him.  The boy loves to be chased!  Oh, my poor, poor ears.

Now I have to figure something else out.  Or I’ll just go back to what I was doing last week:

Those noise canceling headphones may look really dorky, but they do the trick!

(The Roc HATES when I wear them.  He screams, which seems a bit counter productive, but what’s a girl to do?)


8 thoughts on “Screaming = Hugs + Kisses

  1. Maybe you could use Roc’s desire for hugs and kisses as a way to redirect him? Teach him that it *was* a game but now, if he wants hugs and kisses he has to come to you quietly…as quiet as a mouse. Play the game where you see who can be the quietest, etc.

    It’s all worth a try, right? Beats the headphones and screaming, I guess.

  2. All I can say is that our kids were clearly separated at birth. Exact. Same. Thing. Going on here. I’m going to try your hug and kiss method because I lost my cool tonight and I HATE it when I do that.

    I wish I knew what consequences worked – nothing we do changes the behavior for the next time. But the mother in me says that I can’t let that behavior go. If you come up with any answers, please clue me in.

  3. I can totally see you running around all kissy-face. And those headphones are sexy! If you don’t want to offend Roc, you could use those little ear-plugs that go inside your ear, and he’d never know because your hair would cover them. GC might wonder why you’re ignoring him though!

  4. I have two screamers here. One is much like the Roc and the other just learned it from his big brother. Aaron has been a screamer since birth, he will be six in October. Since August, we’ve gone from long full-blown screaming, tantruming fits several times a day to just short screaming fits a few times a week. It’s been a really long, really hard process, but it’s working. Everytime he screams, he gets a choice. “Aaron, do you want to stop screaming or do you want to scream in the corner?” If he doesn’t stop within a few seconds, I say very matter of factly, “Okay, so you chose the corner. That works for me” I pick him up, and put him in the corner and he screams until he’s done. When we first started this, I’d put him in the corner and he’d get up. We would repeat from the beginning until he finally stayed in the corner and finally stopped screaming. I thought it would kill me before the week ended. We started this in August and it happens way less now. When it happens now, I just say, “nice voice or corner?” and he will either stop (rarely) or he’ll go to the corner and let out one really “good” scream and then come back for a hug. It’s very rare now that he’ll scream longer, those are usually when he’s trying to communicate something and we just aren’t getting it. Every kid is different (even in the same family, with the same discipline methods, I have some like your nephew and others that are definately not like your nephew). This may not be what works for you at all, but I thought I’d toss it out there. One, as a possible way for you to handle it and two, just to let you know you aren’t alone.
    *also, by corner…I don’t mean the old fashioned nose in the corner deal. I just have a spot in the kitchen where the kitchen/basement/dining room meet…it’s really more a square than a corner and he has to sit there. Usually facing out, but by his choice he sometimes puts his nose to the corner.
    (sorry this is so long, I’m longwinded, lol…I looked for a button to email instead of commenting, but didn’t see one.)

  5. I think the hug and kiss idea is brilliant. I can’t stand screaming. CAN’T STAND IT, and we have a lot of it around here.

    As always, Niksmom’s suggestion seems like a great idea. Can you reason with Roc?


  6. Looking good in the headphones. Great idea and seems that they would also be a good physical reminder of the goal not to scream. Which is so easy to lose sight of in the moment, isn’t it. You’re not alone there.

  7. I know my last comment was longwinded, but I was thinking about this (after dealing with a screaming fit today) and why I think it is working here.
    1. Giving him a choice makes him feel like he has some measure of control. I’m not demanding that he stop screaming, I’m simply saying “if you are going to scream this is where you can do it.”
    2. IF there was any teensy satisfaction in “getting my goat” by seeing me frustrated/reacting he loses that. I am able to stay calm and matter of fact (most of the time) and just send him to the kitchen to scream.
    3. Unlike other things we tried, it’s not a punishment. There is no “if you scream, you will get _____punishment”. Instead, it’s if you are going to scream you will do it in the kitchen and no one will give you any attention/what you want until you stop and try again.
    4. Finally, Aaron didn’t speak until age 3. In hindsight, under age 3 he was simply trying to communicate and just didn’t know how. Once he did start to speak, it was slow and hard to understand him for a long time. It was easier and more effective to continue screaming. By the time he hit four, it was just a habit. Slowly and steadily helping him see the benefit of speaking nicely and the negatives of screaming has helped him begin to “kick the habit”.
    Obviously, your mileage may vary…I don’t claim to have all the answers (or any of them for that matter). I just thought I’d toss it out there because I’ve been where you are and we are now a few steps away from that. I am hoping for a day when the screaming stops altogether.

  8. You are an awesome mom. It is so hard. Be a thermostat not a thermometer….so hard to do particularly when you are exhausted and have been at it all day. You are doing a great job! How does Roc react to positives when he doesn’t scream? Can you catch him communicating positively and reward him? I am sure you have tried this or do it, just interested. It is really hard to be consistent, huh? My daughters still talk about how I grabbed a squirt gun out of one of their hands and broke it while driving a car with a standard transmission. They think it was pretty impressive now but at the time they thought I was insane.

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