My Journal - Week 70 (20Dec10)
Many moms have asked this question when their little one gets to the age of testing out their voices and vocal cords in not such a pleasant way. For kids who have delays with communication, it's obvious that other methods of communication will take place such as grunting or yelling when words are not as easy. Recently I have noticed that Hunter is trying his best to communicate what he wants and most times he's very effective in doing so. Hunter isn't really a pointer, but I think that is because most of the things he wants are within his reach. He has been saying Momma and Dadda for quite a long time now and appropriately too. Umma used to be his term for Grandma, which has recently changed to Nana-mama. Not sure how that happened, but it works. Hunter has also said a collection of what I call "One time words" which is to say that he has said a word with perfect pronunciation such as "Milk", and "Again" and "Grandpa" to name a few, but for some reason he has never repeated these crystal clear words ever again! It's like he has come to the conclusion, 'Perfect. Now I have said it, I don't need to say it again!'.
One thing is for sure though, when Hunter wants to do something and he can't, or is trying to get something and it isn't working, he becomes obviously frustrated. He will slap his hands down onto his lap in frustration and make the most sour face you have ever seen. While it's amusing, it's also distressing because you know he's obviously frustrated. Which brings me to the yelling. Only recently has he begun to yell, and what was once cute and not too distracting has become quite loud, boisterous and annoying. Hunter knows that his yelling provokes a response out of anyone within ear shot, so like the little master that he is, he's figured out that yelling equals response. And at this stage, any response is better then no response at all. Being that I am a first time mom of a baby (I have three step kids who were not babies when I entered their lives) I have had to make my own mistakes in order to learn. My first mistake with this yelling thing was an automatic response to yell back... "STOP THAT!" Oh how that was not the right thing to do. At first Hunter was startled and didn't continue. But slowly after repeating this little "game" of yelling and getting Mommy or Daddy to respond by in turn yelling back to stop, he learned quickly that it worked to get our attention. Soon after the strategy changed to attempting to yell back at him (as if this would make logical sense...) in the same exact annoying pitch that Hunter used. Imagine if you will, child screaming at the top of his lungs... then Daddy or Mommy yelling back in the exact same pitch and silly loudness. Firstly, I just want to say for the record, the first time it was done, Hunter was once again startled and stopped immediately... unsure of what exactly was going on. Secondly if you can imagine what this looked and sounded like, you are most likely right. Stupid. So, what exactly were we teaching Hunter? A) Yelling must be okay, since Mommy and Daddy both are doing it right back to me, and B) Yelling gets the response I wanted... attention.
Great. So after all of that wonderful trial and error lesson learning what exactly did I get? A lesson in what not to do. So what exactly do you do with a yelling 16 month old? Something that seems to work, which is not as counter productive as the other ill fated ideas and far as saneness goes is much easier on the poor ears. Do something that makes sense. COVER YOUR EARS! Now, if this sounds silly - while it may look exactly that way, it really isn't. After all else had failed, such as trying to ignore the yelling.... (ya right!) or simply telling Hunter not to do it... I realized that just as non-verbal (not using words) so to speak as he was being, I would be too. The first time I put my hands over my ears, Hunter immediately stopped yelling. Whether it was to figure out what the heck Mommy was doing, or because he was noticing that my reaction was completely different than the usual is hard to say. The next few times I repeated the action of covering my ears and he gave up yelling only to try and pull my hands from my ears. This lasted for a bit until he figured that once my ears where uncovered he could continue to yell. Immediately following that episode I deployed my next confusing tactic. Whispering. What did I say?? Yes, Whispering. I whispered that Mommy's ears hurt or Mommy doesn't like yelling, along with a pained look on my face. As if this wasn't a confusing change of events! Now he had to be quiet (on his own accord) just to hear what Mommy was saying! So far, these two tactics deployed together promote a sudden quiet that forces him to be quiet to hear exactly what Mommy is saying to him AND when he quiets Mommy says thank you and gives him positive attention. So far my only hope is that he doesn't equate the attention as being the reward for the whole entire process of yelling and then being quiet so much as just being quiet. So far it's working. The hard thing about doing this is refraining from immediately yelling for him to stop and also making sure everyone else in the household does the same. It's very hard when you have an extended family dynamic all living under the same roof (albeit a large roof) to ensure all the modes of teaching are the same so as not to confuse the child. It's never perfect but at least when things don't go right I can't always blame Hunter so much as I can blame the craziness of multiple and different family dealings toward one child.
Anyway, it's just amusing to me that (as I have mentioned so often before) Hunter is not the only one learning here. Hunter is our teacher in this great thing we call life and all it's lessons that come with it. Psychology lessons aren't just for the professionals and their patients you know, and I am realizing most of the lessons they share probably didn't come from a text book - they came from dealing with their own families!
If you have any Yelling/Calming techniques I would love to hear about them! I am sure at some point our wizard will figure me out and be at it again sooner or later. Perhaps changing up the routine (just like changing shampoos every so often - which is supposed to be good for your hair...) will be just as beneficial in terms of learning!