Friday, November 09, 2012
This is my response to a friend's blogpost, it's not here as a separatge blog post, but just because it was too long to post as a direct apply. If you want the background here check out: http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/big-boys-dont-cry-what-not-to-say-to-a-crying-child/ (Please excuse the format and typos, this blog is very mobile-unfriendly) I think you're fundamentally overlooking some situations here, perhaps because you've never incountered them, perhaps because you're so shy of duplicating mistakes of the past that you're too shy. First off, I think it's rarely the tears, or even the inconsolible sobbing, that parents are objecting to. It's the screaming, wailing, and bemoaning. There is a difference between crying because you are upset/hurt/emotional/joyful and throwing a fit. I'm willing to bet that when you 'freely express' your emotions you don't do so while shrieking at the top of your lungs and kicking, stomping, or throwing things. I'm sure some jerk out there has said 'if you don't stop crying I'll give you something to cry about' in reference to the tears coming from his child's eyes, but everytime I have heard it said what they mean is 'if you don't stop this fit I'll give you something to cry about'. You might not agree with the implied 'how' of that sentence, but teaching our children to constrain emotional outbursts to appropriate levels *is* our job as parents as we help tham mature. If you get fired from work it's one thing to quietly cry while packing up, but you start screaming obscenities at your boss and throwing office furniture around and you'll be lucky if all that happens is being escorted from the building. There is a huge difference between a 2-6 year old throwing a temper tantrum and sitting in a parent's lap sobbing quietly. The same thing applies to 'big boys/girls don't cry'. The vast majority of the time what is meant is 'big boys/girls do not throw fits'. Tell 'em off for poor/confusing word choice, I'm with you there, they *shouldn't* be using 'cry' when what they mean is 'fit' or 'temper tantrum' or 'screaming' etc. And just because *you* found these statements unhelpful as a child doesn't mean everyone did. My Dad always aid 'i've had bigger cuts on my eye!', which is synonmous with your 'that's nothing to cry about' line. Sure, I found it annoying, but it also qued me, even as a small child to stop and consider 'is my response proportional?' Which is absolutely another thing it's important to teach children. Irrational fear of what *might* happen (pain at the dentist in your example) or an unproportional response to minor emotional/physical trauma is not something we want to encourage in our children. Do you find it appropriate for an adult to break into inconsolable sobbing when they don't get their way? Or shrieking for ten minutes because they stubbed their toe? Children have to be taught what is a proportional response, it's not inborn. Why do some children shriek for ten minutes after a shot and others let out one painful wail and then rub the offending leg with a frown? Because some parents (usually by doing so themself) let their children carry on like it's the end of the world and others teach that such a little hurt only merits a little reaction. When I started nannying this 3 year old I got to watch her mom and she interact for most of a day first. The little girl fell, just a trip, and started wailing and crying like someone was beating her. The mom rushes over and makes a big fuss about it for five minutes, all the while the child's throwing a fit over a little scuff and eventually is carried inside to sit and snuggle on mom's lap for ten minutes before the tears finally stopped. The next day I'm taking the kid for a walk, she trips and falls and I see her face screw up in the precursor of anothing shrieking crying jag. I quickly righted her, brushed her knees off said 'you okay? Yep, no blood, you're fine' and started walking again. The girl stopped midwail, got a shocked look on her face, sniffed, and trotted after me. It took only twice more before her standard response to a fall was to pop up, proclaim 'I okay' and go back to playing. Her mother was flabbergasted when she saw it the first time. Now that is a very extreme example because in that instance the kid didn't really *want* to have that kind of reaction, she was just mimicking what she thought mom wanted and was quick to give it up once she realized it wasn't necessary, but even if a kid does want to carry on so it's our job as parents to teach them what is an appropriate response to the minor bumps and bruises (both physical and emotional) that come with life. Furthermore I think you overlook that kids *will* you crying to manipulate a situation. Not all kids, and I'm not refering to a 8 month old here or anything, but kids want what they want, and it doesn't take them long to learn some grown ups are a sucker for tears. There was a 3 child family I babysat for frequently for a couple of years. The baby of the family was several years behind her two older sisters and was, very definately, the baby of the family. She was only about 2 when I started babysitting and was as cute as could be, and had her parents wrapped around her little finger. Everytime they starlted getting her in trouble there went that little lip, her eyes would well up and then came as pitiful of a whining sob you ever did hear. Full blown pitiful crying in one second flat. The parents would sweep her up, totally forget about whatever she had just done, and assure her 'it's okay' while the older sisters looked on in frustrated offense. Second time I babysat them I see Baby steal a toy from the middle sister and then, angry at being told to give it back, throw it at her sister. I stormed over, face stern after a firm 'no!' to chastise the baby when she burst into wailing, helpless tears, arms upheld in mute appeal to be picked up. The older sister rolls her eyes, expecting, I'm sure, that the baby will escape a scolding again. I picked her up, gave her a stern face and said 'you're still in trouble' she paused, looked at me in consideration, and redoubled her efforts to appear like a helplessly pitiful toddler martyr. 'Oh stop, you're not allowed to throw toys'. She stopped, looked at me with a startled face and then said very serious 'but you don't understand tone: "it's okay Merca, it's okay." (Merca being what she called me). She was explaining to me that once she cried 'it's okay' and she wasn't in trouble anymore. It's by far one of the cutest things one of my babysitter-kids has ever done. But it was also one of the most devious. She tried it a couple more times on me before she figured I really wasn't going to let her get away with anything and everything just because she cried and she stopped and was remarkably better behaved once she believed I'd actually get her in trouble. ('Trouble' in this case having to sit with me while her sisters played) she wasn't crying because she was upset or bhecause she needed to release emotions, she was crying because she knew it would get her out of trouble. Being told to 'stopt it' was exactly what she needed to hear to nip inappropriate behavior in the bud. In conclusion, I think you need to rethink your adament denouncement of telling a child to not cry. Sometimes crying is accompanied by other behavior that should be stopped, such as screaming, stomping, throwing, yelling, etc, in other words: a temper tantrum. And children should be encouraged by their parents and caregivers to control such outbursts. Sometimes crying *is* the inappropriate behavior of a budding manipulator who has figured out a quick way to get what they want (Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on crying on demand), which is definately not something we want to encourage. Saying, in general, that we should let our kids cry and not 'bottle up' their emotions is, in the real world, a lot different than saying you should always let them express those emotions in whatever form they choose or use form of emotional expression for whatever they choose.