I’ve been asked a lot about kids that cry. We’re not talking your ‘fell down and scraped her knee’ cry or ‘can’t have that beautiful toy’ cry but the kind of crying that never seems to end and that most adults think “oh no, here we go again” at the sound of the all too familiar
If you have an emotionally intense child, you know what I’m talking about and you may even know what I’m talking about if that phrase doesn’t seem to fit your child.Some kids just cry a lot. Some kids have additional stresses in their lives that make them more prone to tears than others and other kids seem to just take things as they come and rarely even seem upset let alone cry.’wail of despair’. This is the trademark of the overly emotional intense child.
My oldest was and is of the latter variety. It’s easy to deal with these kids because when they cry it easily attracts your attention because it’s rare and more to the point, for the most part, we can even understand the tears. A friend rejects (or disses or ditches as my son would say), they did poorly on a test, they didn’t make the soccer team. It’s easy to parent this tearful child with acceptance, empathy and comfort at these times.It’s the kids like The Girl and The Dervish who cry seemingly ALL THE TIME that drain your energy and resources and make you say… or at least want to say… “oh get over it already!”
The fact is that the majority of the time kids are not crying in an attempt to manipulate us or make us crazy. Kids that cry a lot tend to have strong emotions and perhaps a lower tolerance to stress than some of their peers. These kids tend to either cry at every seemingly ‘minor’ disappointments OR, on the flip side, hold it back until their emotions bubble over and they release with an explosive rage. However, crying – and raging – is the body’s way of relieving stress and if you’ve ever been having a ‘day’ that made you think “I could really use a good cry” you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Our kids that cry a lot don’t ‘think’ “I need a good cry” – they just do it.
In my opinion, the greatest mistake we can make as parents is to discourage those tears. My parents gave me a look and said “Oh Lisa” in a tone that I can still bring front and center in my mind at any point in time that I think or write about this stuff or even, at 46 years old, when I think I’m doing something my mother might not approve of.
Crying is a display of an emotion. It is no less worthy of being shown and accepted than laughter and smiles yet as parents all we want to do is “make it stop”.
Aletha Solter, author of The Aware Baby, Tears and Tantrums, Helping Young Children Flourish and several other books is a Swiss/American developmental psychologist, who is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline.
I spent many years discussing and debating Aletha Solter’s theories, philosophies and methods and while I did eventually attempt some of the more radical of her techniques in dealing with crying children, it never quite felt comfortable to me and I was always worried I was doing the wrong thing so I stopped the techniques like “holding” but kept the believe in the primary philosophy which in my interpretation is that tears and tantrums are emotional stress releases. That by encouraging your children to use their body’s natural mechanism to release tension and stress (tears) you are teaching them to trust in their bodies, to honor their own feelings and above all else (in my opinion) not to repress their feelings.
I personally have taken a somewhat different approach in that I aspire to be accepting (doesn’t always work out – but I try), to encourage them to express themselves in whatever manner they choose (without using violence or mean spiritedness etc) and try to get the message across that I am here for them, that even though I sometimes don’t understand, I do accept that they need to release and that after they do, they feel better, calmer, more at peace.
For anyone looking for what some would consider a truly radical approach to parenting (definitely will NOT appeal to authoritarian disciplinarians , please check out the books by Althea Solter.