My 3 year old son cries – a lot. When I say a lot, I mean he wails at the top of his lungs, nose running, veins on his forehead bulging – and all because
he was told he couldn’t have another biscuit. Or that he needs to put his left shoe on his left foot, not the right. Or that he needs to stop poking his brother in the eye.
I know it. Our neighbours know it. People at church know it. That’s just where he’s at at the moment but, wow, it’s been a long ‘moment’.
We’ve tried these measures to deal with his crying:
- comforting him
- giving him time out to breathe
- taking him to one side and telling him that all is well – the earth is indeed still spinning so there’s actually nothing to scream about
- telling him we’ll withhold something he wants until he stops
- giving stern warnings to stop
- just straight up ignoring him
But nope; once he’s made up his mind to cry, he’s going to do it with all his might.
Check Out My Psychology Skills
I’ve even tried explaining to him that people usually cry when they are hurt and need help so, if he cries over EVERYTHING, I won’t know when he really does need some help.
Too complex an idea for a child of his age? Perhaps for some, but I know my boy, I think he can grasp that.
I even heard him repeating what I’d said to his little brother in his own way: “Toby, you’re not hurt, okay? You need to stop crying so that we know when to help you.” Can you imagine…
What Makes Him Cry
His OTT crying can happen anywhere, any time, in any circumstance but there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to trigger a full-on crying fest.
The word ‘no’.
Which of us adults is okay with being told no when we want something to go a certain way? From a 3 year old’s POV, the world comes crashing down whenever that word is uttered.
The only difference between us and these little humans is that it wouldn’t be socially acceptable for us to jump up and down, roll around screaming and have an all out meltdown whenever our bosses don’t agree to our holiday requests or when they’ve run out of avocados at Lidl (yes, that’s my store #Lidlandproud and, yes, it’s gutting when they don’t have avocados in).
The Effects of a Crying Kid on Parents
On a serious note, it can be something akin to traumatic for a parent to be followed around by a screaming child who frequently throws themselves onto the ground in a strop because IT IS TIME TO GO.
Now, let’s make one thing clear here: I am not talking about when a child cries because they have no other way of expressing their hunger, thirst, discomfort, wanting cuddles, feeling unwell, feeling left out, being frustrated, scared etc.
Children crying alerts us to them needing something, whether it’s physical or emotional, and we should see to those needs.
I am talking about when the child is fine, their bellies are full, they have everything they need and yet they wail.
There’s something about the sound of your child crying that cuts right to your core and – let me know if you know what I mean here – feels like criticism.
You’re trying to take care of them and their needs to the best of your ability and then comes that cry, which is interpreted by my brain as:
“you’re not doing a good enough job, mummy”.
Then, of course, there’s the massive sense of embarrassment when they do this in public…
To all the parents out there: if your kid is rolling around on the floor in the supermarket/library/doctor’s surgery/wherever, take my word for it – you’re not alone!
Don’t worry about the disapproving looks or even comments people who aren’t involved in the raising of your child may give.
This behaviour can happen to any parent; it’s not a reflection of your abilities as a mother, so hang on in there.
This too SHALL pass.
How I Handle It
Here’s a disclaimer: this blog is just that – a blog. It is my thoughts, my experiences, my learns. It is not an parenting advice page, as I sure as day am not qualified to give any; I’m still figuring this parenting thing out myself and there’s a whole lotta grace on my parenting daily.
I’m simply sharing what works for me and with my kids and by far the most effective response to my boy’s frequent and seemingly irrational crying is the following, in this order:
- Acknowledge his wants
- Then ignore him
I do think its important to let my child know that I understand what he wants. Children are often seeking validation of their emotions when they cry and, while it’s super challenging and highly annoying when they cry for no reason, we need to find ways to handle their tears effectively.
“Fathers [parents], do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21 NKJV
So, I let him know that I know he wants to play with that broken toy but that I can’t let him as it could hurt him.
Then I leave him to it.
Over time, I’ve seen that this approach is teaching him that mummy loves and understands him but that mummy isn’t going to entertain any hissy fits. He eventually stops crying and acts like a rational human being again. Eventually.
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Here with the tissues,
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Featured image credit: Verywell Family. Colossians 3:21 image: This Grateful Mama. All other images are my own.