So, we’ve all been there. We’ve said to our baby ‘Shhh, please stop crying’ or offered our child a treat 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 bribes 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).
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • A difficult situation, thanks for the interesting read.


  • No, I don’t think bribes are good for encouraging any kind of behaviour from kids, that’s not to say I haven’t done it. But you need to be careful, once they learn there’s a reward involved, it may encourage the behaviour to continue


  • That’s interesting! Thanks for sharing this!


  • It can be so hard sometimes, you just want to do anything to stop them crying.


  • Well, should probably stop bribing my LO with the iPad!
    Nice read!

    • lol the ipad is sooo fun for the littlies though


  • Interesting article to read. Some good points.


  • Oh yeah I am guilty of the bribe. It is a thing occasionally done when you are out and about and tired, stressed etc yourself and so you bend.


  • Most of us all been there and done that……..


  • great


  • it is really great to read


  • If im crying I like Chocolate…..hmmmm is that comfort eating??? lol
    I agree an acknowledgement and divert the attention, I usually make sure I completely figure out whats happening for them, it could be that i’m on Mouths of Mums too long or on candy crush and they are tired, hungry, bored or just looking to fill their emotional cup, I sometimes get lost in my own virtual world and miss 3 now knows to tell me to put my phone/laptop away. she also has learnt to tell me if her lil sister is about to be pushed or hit because she is losing her temper, she tells me “Mum I’m getting angry she’s touching my doll or destroying my tower of blocks etc’ and I know that if i move lil one we avert a disaster and half hour battle of no pushing, hitting etc. Its a case of reading your child and teaching them to read and understand their emotions enough to organise them or explain them,
    I have done so many parenting courses and still go to groups to improve my abilities, I still mess up atleast ten times a day lol

    Chocolate works too tho it just sucks when they get sugar highs haha


  • Interesting read. I have to admit I have bribed my child once or twice :).


  • No, it’s not ok!!!


  • I totally agree with acknowledging their feelings. Let them know it’s ok to cry. I say I understand you are feeling sad or frustrated or angry etc

    • It seems to help our little one get over being upset more quickly if we acknowledge and talk about how she’s feeling. Sometimes they just need to know they’re understood.


  • Great helpful advise it’s hard when they do this.


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