May 23, 2022

Ask Amy: My Kid Is Screaming Like a Banshee All of a Sudden

What is with the turn-on-a-dime switch from the sweet, demure kid we had yesterday to the demon who woke up today? Is something really wrong or is this a phase? Here’s how to help your kids through the inevitable “red brain” stages of disequilibrium.

A listener posted this on our Facebook page:

What is up with my 5-year-old? All of a sudden she is talking back, yelling at the top of her lungs, not listening, kicking and screaming, throwing tantrums, throwing things at me, and giving me teenager vibes. (I do not allow any of this behavior in my house.)

I’m at a loss for what to do. Is this boundary-seeking behavior? Is something happening at school? Is it because I’m working more? Is it a phase?

We’ve been sending her to her room to chill out because no one wants to hang with a banshee, but she screams and screams while throwing her stuff everywhere and kicking the walls. She goes immediately into red brain and it’s a 30 minute process for her to calm down and talk to me. Really excited to spend summer break with an insane asylum escapee. It’s starting to rub off on the 2 year old.

If you find yourself saying "What is wrong with this kid?" it's always good to pause and ask if there is actually something wrong. Kids who are having headaches or stomachaches can express that distress in the most baffling of ways.

But as children grow, they alternate between stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium, so it's also possible that your suddenly-banshee child is entering a developmentally appropriate phase. Even if it's driving you batty.

Figuring out what works to address it– at your child's actual level of maturity– is key. Amy gives advice towards how to assess the situation.

Here's the link to the book Amy mentions:

Your Six-Year-Old: Defiant But Loving, by Louise Bates Ames

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