Friday, December 26, 2008

Screaming fits

I had no idea when I started this blog just how much it would bless our lives. Watching each day for miracles in Elli's life has opened our eyes to the love the Savior has for her. We have always thought we were celebrating each milestone she made, but it feels different now. Like we are really seeing His hand in her life.

I am not going to record every little sign of progress right now, but I did want to share one thing. Elli has been, quite frankly, driving us up the wall with her screaming. In the past few days, she has several different times during the day had these AWFUL screaming fits. She is so loud and screeching, that it has my ears ringing. It is so hard to stay loving and patient and kind. We have felt very frustrated, as it feels like there is nothing that can be done. All of the kids have been going crazy with it too.

Well, today Jeremy and I had a talk. We decided that surely the Lord would help us conquer this problem. Thus far, we have been very inconsistent in how we've dealt with her screaming. Sometimes we ignore her, sometimes we try to talk to her, sometimes we are telling her "no" over and over, sometimes we move her to a different room, sometimes we try to rock her-- and nothing works consistently. So today we talked about how best to help her CONSISTENLY. We decided that each time she screamed, we would calmly tell her, "Elli, if you scream, we will have to cover your mouth." If she continued, we would cover her mouth until she stopped. If the screaming started again, we'd repeat the same thing. Elli HATES having her mouth covered-- but in the past if we have done it, we've done it without telling her. It hasn't worked at all-- it just makes her more mad. We felt like it was fair to give her warning and let her know that it was coming. Being consistent in this was part one of our plan. The second part was to PREVENT the screaming by giving her more attention. We decided that each time we (or any of the kids-- they are in on this plan) walked in the room she was in (usually the living room-- so we're in and out constantly) we would give her some attention-- even if just for 30 seconds. In the past we haven't been great at this-- often if she is happy, we just let her be for fear of making her mad. But, we decided that a better approach would be to just SHOWER her with as much attention as possible whenever she wasn't screaming.

We prayed about this plan, and implemented it a few hours ago. The first time Elli started screaming, I told her that if she didn't stop, I was going to cover her mouth. I didn't even know if she would comprehend what I was saying, but she did stop. A few seconds later, she started again. I told her again, and when she didn't stop, I covered her mouth. After she stopped screaming, I took my hand off of her mouth and asked her what she wanted. I gave her some choices, and she sat still for a minute. Then, miracle of miracles, she said, "Going on a bear hunt." (This was of course unintelligable to anyone but me, but I guess that's the way with every child as they are beginning to talk.) It felt SO GOOD that she could stop a screaming fit that quickly and end it by telling us what she wanted! She so rarely uses any words-- it is SO EXCITING when she does!! (: The rest of the afternoon has definitely had fewer tantrums and she has been responding so well to us.

We so want Elli to be HAPPY!!! She is such a light in our home when she is!!!! We love her so dearly, screaming or not, but our home feels so much more peaceful when she is not having her tantrums. (:

By the way, a very Merry Christmas to everyone!!!



  1. Wahhooo! It's perfect!!

    My prediction is if you continue to consistently apply this approach, you will see a markedly reduced amount of screaming fits in less than one week. Really.

    The things that are key (IMHO); the overall consistent approach;

    telling Elli what is coming if she does not stop screaming (you will cover her mouth---maybe couple this with the directive, "Quiet mouth" vs. "No screaming"---this is telling her what you want her *to* do, instead of telling her what *not* to do) and allowing her to stop on her own;

    the giving of positive attention and praise when she is NOT screaming--SO IMPORTANT!!;

    giving her choices---asking her what she wants (when she is screaming)--she is beginning to be able to tell you!!! How exciting!!!

    Behavior in nonverbal/pre-verbal children *is* communication. It is not naughtiness. These children cannot ask with words, so they scream, fuss, whine, hit, throw, bite, etc.

    As Elli's parents, you will simply assign the meaning to her behavior (You are tired; You are hungry; You want to play, etc.) and then help Elli know how to appropriately ask for what she wants, using sign language, touch, repeated words, etc.

    Elli gives all the signs of being ready for this. She does understand (at least with practice and repetition) and she will love, love, love being able to communicate with you all. She will be happier. I believe this.

    Sorry I wrote so much. I get so dang fired up watching the changes in Elli!

    Teri (from Iowa)

  2. Way to go Elli! You guys amaze and inspire me. I can't imagine how you do it, I get frustrated when my 2 year old can't tell me what he wants.
    Thank you for sharing with us Elli's triumphs, your techniques,the Lord's hand in our lives and the blessings that come from recognizing His love for His children.


  3. You guys really are a joy and blessing to lots of us - hope that you know that. You've got the formula right - the fits are brought on by the frustration she feels - lessen that and the rest will fix itself. Remember that ya'll are the parents - and will know what to do (after a little trial and error anyway) - how to lessen that!

    hugs - and lots of prayers -

    aus and co

  4. OOh, right there on the screaming. Acer currently is lowing like an Ox (from a toy) at the drop of a hat, no matter where we are. The other day at the grocery store, while we were in a very SLOOOWW moving line, Acer started this. I didn't want a scene so I told him " you must need some more love and attention so I will give you smooches" So I did, the kind of smooches on the ear and neck that tickle. We kept this up until we were able to get out of the store, but oh, was that a test of my patience and desire not to be angry. I like the warning of covering her mouth, may do that for Acer. I have noticed, that in the grocery store cart, Acer acts up more the further away from him I am, if I push the cart with my hands on either side of him, on the sides of the cart, he seems to feel almost snuggled or hugged and behaves much better.
    BTW, just because I'm learning about all these eye issues, what has Elli been diagnosed with?
    Have a blessed New Year
    Heather BT

  5. Just a laugh, I had my hand over Acer's mouth to stop him from screaming like the microwave timer. I told him he needed to stop so I'd take my hand off his mouth. So, through my hand he mumbles that he doesn't want the hand off, he wants it ON! Oh well, so much for that method, now on to something else.
    Heather BT