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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:

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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.

  • I would take my baby out from the pram and soothe/sing to settle the crying. When my baby was a toddler, I’d, most of the time, move to a quieter corner where available, give a long hug and ask what had caused the crying. Now that my kid is much older, this kiddo comes to me to cry and tells me all about it ❣️

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  • It can be so tough sometimes when you are in a crowded place and your toddler is screaming and having a meltdown, I just use my Mum’s mantra, ‘We won’t see them again!” then I don’t feel as bad ha ha

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  • I’m sure everyone does at some point I sure have just depends on the situation

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  • I try and settle and sooth if my kids have a meltdown, there’s always a reason behind it so sometimes it’s easier to talk and see why they are behaving the way they are. Bribery is my last resort

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  • I would say no as they will soon learn how to manipulate a situation to get what they want.

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  • I think it depends on the situation and the child!

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  • Whilst I’m not on for giving them a bribe I can say I have on certain occasions, but I usually find other ways to deal with them.

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  • Positive reinforcement for good behaviour along with validation, acknowledgement and lots of hugs seems to work for us. The children usually know that if they want something they need to ask rather than negotiate over behaviour.

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  • It depends on why they are crying. If no reason then no there is no reward. But if they are about to have a needle and are scared or something then yes bribery is ok. My daughter had to have a blood test yesterday and my son an ECG. My daughter was fine but my boy was crying so I gave him a hug and offered him a treat.
    Both kids then saw Santa and had a frozen yoghurt before off to school.

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  • I don’t encourage that but I totally understand sometimes it becomes necessity.

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  • I’ve done it. But beware, its a pitfall, once you start they’ll always expect

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  • I think all parents need to use a little bribery here and there. It can’t hurt occasionally

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  • I give my kids rewards for positive behaviour. I wouldn’t give a treat to stop them crying, however I’ve been in public situations where it’s extremely hard. Kids are switched on and if you do it once they’ll start to expect it every time

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  • Sometimes its the only way…

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  • I guess it depend on how old they are. No when they are older

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