Friday, April 29, 2011

Reader Question: 7 month-old "yelling"

In October 2009, we posted an entry titled Infant Development from 6 to 7 months: New Wonders, New Skills, and New Fears, as part of our infant development series. Recently, we received the following comment on this previous post from a reader:

My 7 month old daughter is in this phase where she will yell. And it doesn't seem to just be yelling to hear her voice, its when she wants something. And if
you do not respond, she gets louder and at times even shows an angered face. I am curious...Is this a negative behavior leaning towards fits or just her way of communicating? And how should I handle it. I feel if I respond to the yells, it is teaching her that yelling is appropriate to get things you want. But if I ignore her, how else is she going to communicate? A little confused.

Even though this comment is referring to a post that is a few years old, it is very timely for me personally. My youngest daughter, Charlotte, is almost 5 months old and if I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be LOUD! She started cooing a few months ago and since then, she has gotten very comfortable with her own voice! She loves to “talk” to her older sister and “sing” to the dog. Most of the time her noises are happy, but there are times, like when the mobile stops before she’s ready, that her babbling turns to squealing, or as the reader called it, yelling!

While I understand why the reader feels that her baby may be developing a bad habit, I don’t think she has reason to worry yet. The reader’s daughter is a little older than Charlotte, but they are both doing the same thing; they are experimenting with their vocal ability and learning from the response they get! Babies learn cause and effect at about 4-5 months of age, and with this new found understanding of the world around them, they also begin to show frustration. It seems that the reader’s daughter is showing her frustration by yelling, and for her age, that is perfectly normal; what other option does she have to express those feelings? The important thing to remember is that even though she is learning through trial and error at this stage, she is also learning by watching people around her. Ignoring her when she is yelling won’t do anything to ease her frustration, but responding quickly and acknowledging her feelings will teach her that you are there for her and want to help her understand her world. Even though she isn’t communicating with actual words yet, she does understand a lot of what is said. Her language skills are developing and talking to her will help her learn to communicate more effectively. She will also learn to deal with her feelings by watching how others react to theirs, so modeling the appropriate way to express emotions is very important.

We hope we’ve answered this reader’s question, and we welcome you to ask questions too! Simply post a comment to any of our blog posts and we will do the research and find an answer for you.

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