Do you find the shrieking loud speech habits of your preschooler getting harder to tolerate with each passing day? You do not have to put up with this.
This is about shrieking or yelling during speech, particularly speech of a casual content, vs. words of warning such as “Mama, look out!” (in reference to Mama unknowingly about to step into a pile of dog poop) or “Dad, Charlie just fell in a hole!”
It’s about a shrieking quality in what should be the so-called indoor or inside voice.
“Preschoolers [and toddlers] can be trained not to yell when talking,” says Joel Gator Warsh, MD, of Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine, Studio City, CA, and part of the pediatric staff of Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
Dr. Warsh continues, “Toddlers often use a high pitched tone when speaking in normal conversation. They may not be aware they are doing it, or they may be doing it to get your attention.
“It is important to teach them to recognize and modulate their voice and use an appropriate tone and volume.”
It’s a myth that loud shrieking toddlers and preschoolers have loud parents.
A toddler or preschooler who habitually has an annoyingly loud or screechy voice may very well have parents who both speak in controlled tones and rarely holler.
“The first thing to do is identify the tones that are upsetting to you and make the toddler aware of the issue,” says Dr. Warsh.
“Stay calm so as to not increase the behavior or make it become a game. In a matter of fact way, after a toddler shrieks you can remind them to ‘please use an indoor voice or something similar.
“Try to not get angry or give the shriek any attention other than to politely ask the child to use a different tone of voice.
“Don’t give them anything they shriek for. Ever! Except of course in an emergency situation. Positively reinforce when they are not shrieking.”
Again, it must be emphasized that this is NOT about a shrill or loud voice that erupts when the child is confronted with a source of fear, such as a strange dog charging towards them or reporting that the sofa in the next room is on fire.
It’s also not about “meltdowns,” temper tantrums or loud reactions to physical pain or to a scary thunderstorm. Let’s not go there.
It’s about common, everyday content of speech; casual comments and ordinary chitter chatter; questions of curiosity; routine requests as in asking for a glass of milk or apple, etc.
In certain environments, being loud is encouraged by adults. For example, young children are taught to holler by self-defense instructors.
There are karate classes just for preschoolers, and they are encouraged to be loud. But that’s in a self-defense setting with a directive by the instructor. Again, there are exceptions.
“Teaching them to modulate their voice is an important skill and helps them recognize social cues and act appropriately in social situations,” says Dr. Warsh.
The older child who frequently and loudly talks out of turn in a school classroom, or becomes boisterous and noisy over little things or loudly whines over trite events, was undoubtedly never trained as a toddler and preschooler to modulate their voice.
Dr. Warsh and his Studio City, Los Angeles clinic treat a wide array of common pediatric issues using holistic and conventional treatments. He works with nutritionists, naturopaths, Ayurvedic practitioners, acupuncturists and more.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.