Crying always happens for a reason. Whether it is due to pain, sadness, attention or hurt, the emotions are valid and make sense. Regardless of the reason, crying is a way of conveying a message. When we silence the message with ‘stop crying’ it can make things worse. Of course, as a parent it’s so easy to fall into the trap of silencing crying with an ultimatum or firm words. Most parents (if not all) have found themselves at their wits end with a child at one time or another! This is normal and to be expected.
At times, you may have experienced, used or heard one or more of the following phrases:
“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” (fear)
“Everyone is looking at you right now!” (shame/embarrassment)
“You better stop crying or else I am going to ________.” (scare tactic)
“You are being a baby and not a big girl/boy.” (shame)
“If you keep crying the police are going to come.” (scare tactic)
It is painful to experience these phrases as a child from a trusted adult. Sure, there are always arguments that support these reactions from folks who state, “My parents did that and I turned out okay!”…Of course, many people turn out ‘okay’ as an adult when this has happened. But is that what we are striving for? I love the quote by L.R. Knost that states,
“Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood.”
We need to remember that children do not know how to cope with big emotions, they physically can’t until they develop a level of emotional maturity. So they often cry. When we can remember that children literally cannot cope on their own, it helps us to respond in more effective ways. Thus it is in our best interest to help children work through their difficult emotions, rather than silence them. Silencing can overwhelm children immediately and in the long term. Some effects may include low self esteem, confusion, redirected energy (anger outbursts), acting out, shame and embarrassment. No parent is perfect and no one expects us to make the right decisions all the time. But in moments of tears, we can all work to remember a few other options that may help our children process their experiences.
9 Alternatives to Use Instead of ‘Stop Crying’
This is really hard for you. (empathy)
Do you want to talk about it? (support/processing)
I am here for you. (support)
It is okay to feel hurt/sad/upset. (normalizing)
I know that really hurt/scared/excited you! (understanding)
I am sorry you are having a hard time right now. (empathy)
Let’s sit down together and work on it. (support/processing)
Yes, I see why that made you cry. (understanding)
Come here and I will help you with this. (support/processing)
Do these phrases mean you will always approach crying perfectly? No, of course not! And if you slip up and act upon frustration are you a bad parent? Absolutely not. These phrases are here to provide anyone who interacts with children with some options to utilize that may be more beneficial than the age old “stop crying.”
For more on effective child rearing, check out Simple Steps to Instill Gratitude and Kindness in Young Children!