How ‘Crying’ Can Help Your Child’s Emotional Development

Crying is a part of life, we can’t pretend it isn’t. This is especially true if you’re a mother because kids invariably cry, a lot, and often at the most unlikely of things at the worst of times.

Additionally, much like telling someone to ‘calm down’ NEVER makes a person calm down; telling a child to ‘stop crying’ won’t make them do so – in fact it’s highly likely this will upset a child even more.

How 'Crying' Can Help Your Child's Emotional Development

There are different types of tears, some are fake, real, crocodile or attention seeking.  It’s our role to figure out which type our children are shedding and act appropriately.

It comes to down why we want our kids to stop crying, is it because it’s annoying, you’re in public or you don’t want them to be upset?

According Aletha Solter, a developmental psychologist and founder of the Aware Parenting Institute, many parents find it hard to understand and accept their children’s tears and tantrums because most of us were stopped from crying when we were young.

“Our well-meaning, but misinformed, parents may have distracted, scolded, punished, or ignored us when we attempted to heal our childhood hurts by crying. Some of us were stopped kindly: “There, there, don’t cry,” while others were stopped less kindly: “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about!” She says many were even praised for not crying.

Aletha says however it was communicated; most people received the message that crying was unacceptable. Because of this early conditioning, many adults have learned to suppress their own tears. This makes it hard for them to empathise with a crying child and results in a strong urge to stop the child from crying, just as their parents did with them.

“Children do not cry indefinitely. They stop of their own accord when they are finished. After crying, there is a usually a feeling of relief and wellbeing. The incident that triggered the crying is no longer an issue, and the child usually becomes happy and cooperative,” she says.
How 'Crying' Can Help Your Child's Emotional Development

“However, they need to learn that loud crying is unacceptable at certain times and places, just as they must learn to use the toilet. All children, no matter what age, need at least one adult in their lives who can provide a safe time and place to listen to their emotions of grief or anger.”

Other things to say to your children instead of ‘stop crying’

  • I can see you’re really sad about that
  • When you’re ready to talk about why you’re upset I’ll be here
  • I see that your scraped knee really hurts, sorry
  • I bet that’s really sore my darling
  • Yes I know you’re really upset at that and that’s okay

If crying seems out of proportion, Aletha suggests there are still benefits of allowing a child to express him or herself. The most helpful response is simply to allow the crying or tantrum to occur, even though this may require a tremendous amount of patience.

“If the crying is disruptive, the child can be taken to another room, provided an adult stays with him to offer loving support. No person of any age should be forced to cry alone. It is especially important that children never feel they are being punished for crying.”

Sure it’s not going to be easy to embrace your child’s tears, but in the long run you will have child who is not afraid to express him or herself and will come to you when they are in need of unconditional love.

Teaching kids that it’s normal and healthy to cry will make them more rounded individuals who will grow up to become adults who might find it easier express their emotions and stand up for themselves.

written by:

Emily Toxward

When former journalist Emily Toxward isn’t wrangling her three kids she’s juggling the demands writing and failing fabulously at being a domestic goddess. A published writer for nearly 20 years, Emily left full-time work in 2008 to have children and write from home. Always on the go, she spends her days negotiating with an army of little people she created and visits her local Gold Coast beaches for a little sanity.