Updated: Nov 27, 2020
It's always so exciting for me to talk to a new client/parent and get to know their story, and have the honor of helping them.
Lately I've had a few clients who had concerns about their toddlers screaming a lot. (This post is definitely not just for parents of toddlers though)
I was very intrigued by this. Despite these wonderful parents offering kind validation and co-regulation, the overall screaming wasn't really getting reduced. Or not reduced enough.
It was a bit of a mystery to be honest. I'm not gonna lie, I was definitely feeling a little helpless for my poor clients. I even gave some of them some complimentary consults because even though we solved all of their other concerns, the screaming wasn't going away.
I was perplexed.
Then I got to thinking. Why would someone scream a lot?
Why do humans scream?
They scream when they're scared. But these kids aren't scared. They're in broad daylight with their parents.
Alright, we scream when we're afraid and feeling unsafe...
This immediately reminded me of something....
Boundaries make children feel safe.
Lack of boundaries make children feel unsafe.
Unsafe to the point of screaming??!!
Lack of consistent boundaries is like standing on this rickety bridge (see picture). I always use this as an example to show parents in my workshops why kids need boundaries. Wouldn't you be screaming too if you had to cross this bridge? Haha
Well, except, I thought... I always cover boundary-setting with ALL parents of toddlers. Even when they don't bring it up, I do. So there was more to the story.
I investigated further.
I started asking parents more questions about their boundary setting and I realized one of two things was happening (or even both in some cases).
1- Modern parents who want to parent respectfully worry SO MUCH that setting clear boundaries firmly will hurt the child's confidence/feelings, that even when they do it, they do so, not clearly and not confidently, thus invoking more fear/anxiety in the child. (As we call it in this group, they're afraid to be #kindlystrict)
2- Some children are spending way too much time with extended family members who're allowing him/her "complete freedom" and in the name of love ("laad"), not setting ANY boundaries at all. So by the time, the child gets to the parent, he/she is extremely disregulated.
Imagine how you'd feel if you spent the entire day crossing that scary bridge! All your senses would be fried! You'd be screaming murder too!
So, in other words, not only are boundaries important for happy, healthy children, they're essential for healthy brain development and trustful relationships. Would you trust someone who made you cross that bridge everyday? 🥺
Admittedly, kids don't always react well to boundary setting. They definitely don't say, "Why thank you mom for helping me keep safe!" Perhaps, THAT more than anything else is the reason that kind, gentle parents are so hesitant to set boundaries. And that's where #validation comes in very handy!
"Yeah.. you REALLY wanna stay up longer.. going to sleep is so BORING.. I get it... AND its bed time. Do you need my help or do you think you can go by yourself?"
There is a whole unit on boundary setting, so please check that out. If you think you've read it and still struggle to set boundaries, I'm doing a workshop on it this month, I encourage you to attend that if you think you'll learn better that way. (I'll link the tickets in this post below for your ease.)
Final notes: In older children, screaming can be replaced by other disregulated behaviors like hyperactivity and "too much rebellion". For example, what some people might call "being spoilt"- those are classic symptoms of a child who feels unsafe and unloved due to lack of consistent and clear boundaries set kindly.
Hope this was helpful for some of you reading in helping your child!
Here are the links for the upcoming workshops: