So, we’ve all been there. We’ve said to our baby ‘Shhh, please stop crying’ or offered our child a treat (bribe) if they dry their tears. But is this really the best thing to do?
Why do we only want children to exhibit their ‘positive’ feelings and not the negatives? Is one emotion really more desirable than another?
Of course we’d rather our children be happy but are we actually creating a situation where out children think their negative feelings are wrong, or to be dismissed?
I don’t have the answers so I asked my mum* her thoughts. And this is what she said:
It’s better to acknowledge the child’s feelings rather than invalidate their feelings.
Let them know you understand they are sad, angry, hurt or anxious.
Acknowledge their emotion so they don’t feel misunderstood or that it’s wrong to feel that way. After all, if you were sad would you want someone to dismiss that feeling as invalid?
Try diverting techniques rather than bribes.
It’s okay to try and take their mind off it. This could be to read a story, brush the cat or water the garden. The child may forget what was bothering them completely.
If they just want a cuddle, stop what you’re doing and give them one.
If they really want to cry, that’s okay too.
Let them have a cuddle and when the time is right, guide them into something that interests him or her.
Often kids will sort themselves out after a few minutes and may even do it sooner because they’ve had kindness and support while they’ve been down rather than worked themselves up more because they’ve felt abandoned.
Save the treats to reinforce positive behaviour.
And we’re not talking about emotions here. Use treats sparingly for things like when they help pack away without throwing a tantrum, or go to bed without arguing.
I’m not saying you should never resort to a bribe or treats, only the person in the situation can decide what the best course of action is.
However, part of why I’m writing this is because in this day in age we are always trying to promote happiness as the raison d’etre and it’s not necessarily the case.
While there are techniques to help give people a more positive outlook on life; some kids are just sadder, more anxious, angrier, or prone to tears than others.
And that’s not necessarily right or wrong, it’s just how they are.
*My mum is a bit of an inspiration and knower of all things child-related. When I was a teenager she went back to university and obtained her Master of Arts (Major in Education). She ran childcare centres for years and then was a Lecturer in Early Childhood Teaching. She’s still involved in arranging Professional development for ECE teachers through NZ Childcare Association and OMEP (An international early childhood organisation).
How do you usually get your kids to stop crying? Is giving them a bribe part of the mix? Tell us in the comments below.