A frustrated mother asked for some suggestions to deal with her 4 year old child’s crying.
She said she holds him when he cries, but she doesn’t understand why he cries and can’t seem to get him to stop and discuss it.
She also said she gets frustrated when he throws juice and his food around and that makes him cry even more.
Below is my response:
I love that you hold him and soothe him when he cries.
That shows what a loving mother you are!!
I understand that you want him to label his emotions so you can discuss them and deal with them. I would suggest not rushing this though. He will get it, trust him and trust his development.
Crying is a wonderful and natural thing
It is truly a gift to us, it releases emotion and helps us to heal.
When children are taught to repress their tears it has an effect that lasts a lifetime. It’s really important for us to help them accept their entire emotional nature. From the wildest joy to the wildest anger and everything in between.
If they receive the message that their tears are okay, are natural and that we experience them as well, they will form a positive picture of themselves. They will be free to feel what they are authentically feeling. This level of self-acceptance is rare these days.
Inspire Authenticity Through Acceptance
Most of us, myself included, are a mass of repressed feelings, thoughts and desires.
We were not taught to accept ourselves as we are.
We ended up creating a false self to match the expectations of our parents and other authority figures.
If we want our kids to be their real selves then we must make sure they know we accept every part of them.
So when he cries, at this point don’t worry about why he’s crying so much (if he can’t articulate it) just focus on giving love and letting him know that he’s okay, that he’s perfect and that he’s loved. Let him know that his feelings and his crying are just perfectly natural.
He will feel so supported by you and develop a deep feeling of safety with you.
This is so valuable. And when he’s a teen that feeling of safety and trust will be worth your weight in gold, believe me!
Appropriate Behaviour is Obvious… OR IS IT?
About things like throwing the juice,
it seems obvious to us as adults that we shouldn’t throw juice,
but really… why not?
I would say it seems just as obvious, if not more so, to kids
that juice is SUPPOSED to be thrown.
Honestly, it flies, it’s pretty and it’s fun!!
Honour Their Perspective Equal To Your Own
One way I deal with these things is to honour the experience and values of the little ones as equally valid as my own! This is hard to do, especially when their world view seems so crazy! At least it seems so very different from ours.
That is where it’s important to focus on their needs first. Not the mess, not the inconvenience, not our desire for respect and obedience. The first things to focus on are their emotional and developmental needs!
Choose Your Words Very Consciously
I will say something like:
“I know that throwing things is super fun and I love throwing things too. Wow you did so well throwing that juice and look how pretty it is on the ground!”
Then I’ll add:
“Maybe we can throw some more stuff together and have fun together. Next time let’s think about the best stuff to throw. Some things are harder to clean up after than others and it’s nice to throw things that are easier to clean up and things that don’t break. Let’s go through the house and make a big pile of things that will be perfect to throw and then we’ll have a throwing party!!”
Saying Yes With Guidance is Powerful
This is a way of saying YES (I Love YES) to them, to their natural inclinations and curiosities and playfulness, while still guiding them into thinking and reasoning on different ways to express it.
Saying yes with education is much more effective than saying no, even no with a reason doesn’t really teach anything. An involved, interactive, enthusiastic YES with guidance attached validates their natural desires and helps them to find good, safe ways to express them.
This gives them the message that we approve of them just as they are…
and that we can learn and reason together. This attitude really opens up the mind and heart of young people. They quickly cease to see us as adversaries and see us as allies instead!
What a blessing.
Have Patience With Both of You
It might take a while for both of you to get into the rhythm of this.
A new approach often takes time and patience to get used to.
It will take hold if you persist and will make a significant difference in your relationship with your kid and the atmosphere in your home.