Do You Do All You Can To Prevent Your Kid From Crying?

Posted on Sep 5 2013 - 1:53pm by megganmamma

crying baby

Does Your Kid’s Crying Make You Uncomfortable?

If you were a child and something happened to you which really hurt, like you hit your head or kicked your toe and it was so sore you felt like crying, how’d you like your parents to be?

I was with Joshi in a park a few weeks ago, when this kid, about 6 years old, slid face-first down a slide.   Although not visually injured, he was clearly sore and started crying when he reached his mum at the bottom.  His mum was obviously really uncomfortable with his need to cry.  She kept patting him and telling him he was okay, that he was fine and repeating “don’t cry, don’t cry.” I couldn’t help but think that if the kid was just allowed to have a good cry all the upset and ongoing whinging that followed wouldn’t have happened.

What Is It Exactly That Makes Us Parents So Averse To Letting Our Kids Have A Cry?

Are we embarrassed?  Are we afraid our kids will turn into sissys, crying and whinging about anything and everything, unable to be confident human beings?  (I personally feel that ongoingly preventing your kid from crying can have exactly that effect).  Are we uncomfortable in general with other people crying?  Maybe we’re just repeating learnt behaviour.  I mean, if you were brought up repeatedly being told not to cry then you learn that crying’s not ok.

How Would You Feel? 

My question is this – How would you feel if your parents told you ‘it’s okay, you’re fine’ (when you didn’t feel either was true).  How would you feel if they told you of all the good qualities you have (which should prevent you from having to do something human, like cry) –  “You’re so brave,” “You’re such a strong boy!” or the ultimate … “You’re such a big boy.  Look how grown up you are!”  (Because of course big boys and girls, like adults, don’t cry, right?)   How would you feel if you were given some sort of distraction to prevent you from crying at all – like a colorful toy being trust into your hands or having the happy dog that’s passing by be pointed out.  A different option altogether – how would you feel if your parent(s) simply created a space for you in which you felt safe enough to have a really good cry, yes … for as loud and long as you needed in order to get it out your system, perhaps even in their arms or with them close by.

Look, I’m far from the perfect mamma, but one of the questions I often ask myself is this: “If I was my child, in this moment, how would I want my parent(s) to be?”  I think that kids aren’t that different from adults and as an adult I’d be pretty annoyed if I needed to cry and a person I loved and trusted told me I was fine or tried to distract me.  I also think that if you’re into distractions as a way of preventing your kid from going through the tears it’s not going to be long before nothing you do or say will stop those tears. And just as well … coz you’ll probably have a much happier, more content kid afterwards.  Putting your boob in your kids mouth when they’re really upset could also be a form of distraction, an action which doesn’t allow them to have a needed cry.  I’m all for breastfeeding.  I think it’s great, but if I sense that Joshi needs a cry I let him have it first, then breastfeeding can happen.  My boobie’s is not a plug.

Is It So Bad To Cry?

Crying isn’t bad. In fact a good cry can feel really good – you know how much better you’ve felt after one! Crying can bring a huge sense of relief, calm and lightness, (Why wouldn’t it with all that cortisol being released?), especially when done in the safety and comfort of loving arms. So then, why do we so often try to stop our kids from doing it?

Does That Mean Leaving Your Baby To ‘Cry It Out’ Is Ok?

Having said all that, I’m not at all into any parenting methods which advocate leaving your baby or child to cry alone. Firstly, it doesn’t feel right to me and secondly, there’s research now which shows that kids who are left to “cry it out” still have high cortisol levels at the end of it, which suggests to me that they’re not just as unhappy as before, they’re actually worse off. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog in itself.

Are You An Umbrella Mum?

Of course that doesn’t mean that whenever Joshi falls I’m hovering over him like an umbrella, ready to pick him up for a cry.  I don’t believe in creating unnecessary attention over something that’s not bothering him.  So I first ask him if he’s ok and if he genuinely seems fine I suggest he gets up and dusts himself off.  I do, however, often remind myself that crying often happens as a result of a series of incidents.  When it looks as if your child ‘s crying for a ridiculously small reason, (prompting you to tell him to pull himself together rather that supporting him through a cry), he may be crying because it’s the 10th upset in a row which has finally caused the volcano of emotions to erupt.

So Now It’s Your Turn:  How do you deal with your kid(s) when they cry?  Do you deal with their crying differently when you’re in public?   How do you think you’d feel if your parents treated you the way you treat your kids around the whole crying thing?  I’d love to read your thoughts on this.

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Email Response from Dr. Roby Abeles, Psychotherapist & CEO:

“Hi Meggan,
I love your blog about letting children cry, and for that matter letting children have their full range of emotions when they are having them.
Good parenting involves being WITH your child while they are having emotions and teaching them how to manage them, and most importantly letting them know that the feeling will have a beginning, middle and end, and then another one will come which will also have a beginning, middle and end.
As you have also so wisely said, there is a fine line between soothing too quickly, soothing after a short time of upset, and then there’s not soothing at all.
A child who is too quickly soothed will be challenged learning how to self-soothe. They will tend to always look outside themselves for soothing – to other people or distractions or chemicals (drugs/alcohol) later in life. 
Children learn self-soothing by copying what you do for them when you soothe them. You need to be repeat this soothing over and over and over so they develop implicit and explicit memories about how to do this.
A child who is allowed a short time to manage his emotion with you there and connected to him by voice, soft touch and your presence, but not immediately soothing him with a bug hug, will slowly learn to develop skills to self-soothe. He is building the capacity for emotion to be manageable for him and not overwhelming as he moves into more and more complicated relational situations with peers and then teachers etc in his pre teen years. He does need you to be with him in this though, guiding him through like you will do when he is bigger and you teach hime to ride a bicycle. Support, Support, Let GO.  Support, Support, Let GO. 
A child who is never soothed will usually find something in their environment to soothe them if a parent isn’t available. When we are little that is usually food or TV. This children tend to cut themselves off from their emotions and feel ashamed about them – which is what your scenario with the mum in the park sounded like.”
Dr. Roby Abeles
Psychotherapist & CEO






3 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Kat September 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm -

    This is a great post, Meggan. 🙂 my mum is very much a pacifist, but to the extreme. She suffered a fair bit of abuse as a child and because of that she wants to keep the peace. It drives me absolutely nuts when she tries to pacify all the time. It’s not because she’s embarrassed, it’s because she feels the pain of the other person so deeply, she doesn’t want to them to have to experience that pain, going through it, because she had to so often, to the extreme, and no one came to her aid. When my two year old cries or screams, usually in anger or defiance these days, she seems to panic. When he was littler she’d try every distraction possible and it got to the point where she’d start singing immediately as soon as he began to cry! And it never made the slightest difference, it just drove me nuts! So I did tell her to stop a few times, and she did, but she still does it, doesn’t know how to cope with those intense emotions. I see it like this: a toddler is learning about emotions, emotional responses, reactions, and s/he does this by experience, going through them and also watching others. If we dumb down our emotional reactions to the extreme or try to pacify his, he will not learn the reality of emotion. And when it comes time for the teenage years (and we all know that toddlerhood is a microcosm of teenagehood), he can’t cope and he goes off the rails. So when my little fella cries, I talk to him, I empathise, I offer comfort, and sometimes if he’s really doing it tough experiencing an intense meltdown, I will scoop him up and cuddle him. Sometimes he’s receptive, sometimes not. That’s okay, as long as he knows I am here, I understand what he’s going through and it’s okay, it’s valid.

  2. Pamela November 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm -

    Stumbled upon your blog. It’s good stuff and made me want to pick up blogging again! Thanks for that and have a great weekend. Always remember that we’re all doing our very best! Cheers mamma~