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: