WT 067: How Do I Get My Child to Stop Crying?

A truth all moms know all too well: Children cry. From temper tantrums to emotional outbursts, parents are bound to experience their kid’s tears and wonder how to respond when the waterworks start (and what to do to make it stop.) This week, Karen addresses how to get your child to stop crying.

Question 1: I am in the terrible twos with my daughter and her temper-tantrums are very intense. She is my first, so I am still in shock when it happens. She goes from being happy to sobbing in a matter of seconds. How do I try to reason with her and teach her good habits?

Karen’s Answer: When a child is this young it’s really hard to reason with them especially when they are crying so hard. The best thing I found to do was to ask them to stop crying and tell you what is wrong in a big girl/boy voice and then if they don’t stop tell them you are going to take them to their room until they can get a hold of themselves. Then do it. Every few minutes open the door and say, “Are you ready to calm down and tell me what you want?” The time for teaching good habits is not when they are in the middle of a meltdown. But, you have to break the bad habit first.

All my children did this to some degree. Some were worse than others. The bottom line I had to come to grips with is the fact that I enabled this behavior and therefore I had to break the behavior. My child would cry and I would instantly run to them, give them attention, and ask questions like “What’s wrong?” and “How can I help?” The child learned oh, that is how I get mom’s attention right away. So, I had to retrain them. I would have to say things like, “I can’t understand you when you are crying. When you can pull yourself together and stop pitching a fit we can talk about what you want.” And then I had to stick to my guns. It’s hard to break a habit, but if you don’t the behavior will continue and usually get worse.

Begin removing your children from you, taking them to their room, and shutting the door.

Question 2: Karen, my kids cry every time I leave them with a sitter. My husband and I are typically running late and just as we’re about to leave there’s a bunch of tears. I have tried the “quietly leave without saying goodbye” method and also just being strict with them and telling them to stop and behave for their sitter, but I’m not sure which is best or right. Do you have any advice?

Karen’s Answer: I think it’s a good idea to let them know you are going out, tell them you will be back, and reassure them they are going to have a great time with the sitter. Usually a child will stop crying after the mom is out of sight and they know she’s not going to pop back in the room.

My children were terrible criers when I would leave. I would do what I just said. I would always tell the sitter little tips, like “As soon as I leave you can take them outside to play, go into the playroom and start playing with a favorite toy or possibly pop in a movie to get their mind off of me leaving.” I never had a sitter call and tell me they wouldn’t stop crying, so they always eventually stopped.

Develop thicker skin and try not to let it get to you. It’s honestly just your child manipulating you to get what they want.

Question 3: Karen, my daughter is 8 years old and has a very sensitive soul. She’s very emotional and cries a lot, especially when she doesn’t get her way. I was raised in a home where being emotional was considered a bad thing, and I don’t want to pass that along to her. How do I show her that her emotions are important, but in life you don’t just get your way if you cry?

Karen's Answer: It’s good to acknowledge your child’s emotions and to listen to what they are feeling, but I agree with you - you can’t just cry all the time to get your way. You honestly just have to train your child on when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Also teach them that they can’t always get what they want in life, so they have to learn to deal with it. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

My Emily would cry about everything! I used to tell her, “You can’t cry about everything, because then I don’t know what is really important and what is not important.” I also had to start telling Emily if she was going to cry she needed to go to her room and cry it out; we all didn’t want to listen to her cry. As Emily got older and she was still crying, I would say, “Emily, this is not something you need to cry about. I can help you with your project, but you have to stop crying.”

Lot of conversations, patience and teaching will help.

Question 4: I am really having a hard time with my newborn crying so much. This is my second child, and my first almost never cried. My second baby is just much more prone to crying and our doctor assured me that this is just what happens sometimes, but my question is more about the emotions it brings. I am really having a difficult time because I feel like as a mom I should be able to help him calm down with whatever is upsetting him but I am not enough. Do you have any advice?

Karen’s Answer: Oh sweet mom! It’s okay you are not enough, and honestly, you never will be. None of us are enough. I know that is hard. I remember being right where you are and being so hard on myself because I wasn’t enough, but we don’t have to be enough.

Once again, this was Emily. Emily had reflux and would cry all the time - I guess her tummy hurt. But, she is also sensitive and was sensitive as a baby, so she would cry. Sometimes I just had to do all I could do for her and then if she was crying, just do the best I could. She eventually grew out of the reflux and was a happy baby, but it took a while. It’s tough.

You may just need to shut the nursery door and let them cry it out. Obviously don’t let it go on forever, but sometimes as a mom, you just need to give yourself a break from it.

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