Posted by Barack Levin on 20th July 2009
One of the things that I hate the most is when my kids cry. This is true no matter what the reason. Now I know that kids need to cry every once in a while and it is probably good for them, but I do not want crying to become a pressure mechanism for them to use to get something out of us. For example, crying to get a new toy or crying when a favorite food is not on the table.
Sometimes, they do have a very valid reason for crying, such as an injury. Even with these, “so called,” valid reasons, I do not see the value of their crying. The length of time it takes to calm them down is another factor to consider.
When there is an injury, crying is problematic because it intensifies the situation. The kid then develops a spiral, downward, emotional pathway in which his crying augments his injury and leads to more crying. At the end of this process, the kid cries and the parents get stressed.
I decided to find a way to decrease the amount of my kids’ crying.
When one of my kids starts to cry, whatever the reason, the first thing I do is to ask him or her to look at me. The first step to stop the crying is to break the cycle. Once the kid has to start thinking about something else, other than the crying, he has to focus on that new thought and the crying subsides naturally. So, the first step is to distract them; the second step is to have them change their thought pattern. I look them straight in the eye and tell them, “If you want me to help you, you have to stop crying and tell me what happened.” This is an excellent trick.
Now the kid has to stop crying in two stages. In the first one, he needs to stop the actual physical sobbing to talk to me. He cannot cry and talk at the same time and if he wants me to help, he has to choose one or the other. In the second one, his brain is now focused on a new task, which is explaining what happened. As long as I can keep him focused on that task and get him to give me a long detailed description of what happened, he is not focused on crying and, like magic, he stops crying on his own and forgets about the whole incident all together. I used this excellent method for my kids in their early years and it has always worked.
There are two interesting things that I need to mention here. First, my kids now already know that I am using this method, so when they come crying to me or to their mom, they already have an explanation prepared which makes the length of the crying very short. Secondly the amount of crying incidents has gone down significantly, because now they have the tools to analyze their situation and decide if it is even worth crying about.