Hi. I am having some difficulties with my 13-month-old. He is stubborn, disobedient and he screams quite a bit if he doesn’t get his way. He does not yet talk, and I was told that screaming is his way of showing his frustration because he cannot communicate.
Some examples: He will throw food on the floor, which I know is normal to some degree but he will throw everything on the floor. I tell him we don’t throw food on the floor and to give it to me if he doesn’t want to eat it. Looking me in the eye, he will yet again throw it all on the floor. This is frustrating not only because he is wasting food but also because it seems he is doing it on purpose. I know he doesn’t yet have impulse control and I try to distract him, but oftentimes his behavior makes me angry and I am ashamed to say I revert to yelling. I am wondering if the screaming is him modeling my behavior. I need help with him and help with my own reactions.
Thank you for your great question. I appreciate your honesty. First, let’s remember we are dealing with a one year old. Your son has only been on the planet for 13 months and he is still trying to figure out how to be a social creature. You have been here for far longer so you are the expert in this case. Treat your son with the 3 C’s...calm, controlled, and creatively. The object here is not only to get your son to stop wasting food and screaming for what he wants, but to help him become a responsible adult who cares for his fellow citizens. Like any education we start with easy small steps. When we teach a child to read we begin with learning shapes, and those shapes become letters, and those letters spell words, etc.
When you feed your son do it when there isn’t an audience around. Feed him 20 minutes before the rest of the family eats. Give him only a tiny portion at one time. If he throws it on the floor sweetly say, “I guess you are all done” and sweetly pick him up and let him go play. If he is truly hungry he will protest loudly. Say in that same calm voice, “We will try again in 5 minutes.” Put the timer on the microwave and when it dings, place him back in the high chair. The important part of this is your calm attitude. He will not starve if he misses one meal, but he may learn a great deal. Repeat until he gets the message -manners matter in this house.
The second issue of screaming when he is frustrated can be dealt with by simply giving him a space away from the rest of the family and telling him this is his screaming zone. Encourage him to scream away here. When he begins to yell at you CALMLY pick him up and take him to the screaming zone. It is best if it is a room with a gate so you can leave him alone to work out his frustrions without holding you hostage.
Parents yell and that means they sometimes need a timeout for themselves. Be sure you are doing lots of self care and grown up fun. Being a mom is super fun when you learn who is “the boss of the applesauce.” Have fun and never let them see you sweat. Hope that helps give you even more ideas. As always be sure you are reading John Rosemond’s books. They give you tons of great ideas and make parenting a much easier and enjoyable season.
Certified Parenting Coach
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