I remember the first time my son was called a cry baby by one of his friends.
I wasn’t shocked. He is one. And admittedly, so am I.
I’ve been a crier for as long as I can remember. I cry when I’m angry, I cry when I’m sad, and I sometimes cry when I’m laughing and pee my pants (I’ve had three kids, so it’s a thing). So it’s no surprise to me that one of my kids wears his heart on his sleeve and cries to get those emotions out.
But it can be hard on a parent to have a cry baby kid. (Sorry about that, Mom and Dad.)
Parents often feel so helpless when a child cries, and it raises our own stress level because we can’t control those big emotions in someone else. If you have a cry baby, you know it’s almost impossible to stop those tears from flowing when they feel things so deeply.
For me, I think I’m empathetic to using tears to express a range of emotions, mostly because I do that too. But when you have a son who does it, and does it often, you can also feel defensive. Yes, when that kid called my son a cry baby, my first instinct was to unleash my protective mama bear instincts and tell him to keep his mouth shut. Society’s open that boys aren’t supposed to cry be damned.
I’ve made it a point to never let him think he’s not allowed to cry because of his gender. In fact, rather than thinking of him as a cry baby, I’ve embraced his sensitivity and uniqueness. I actually love having a sensitive boy now, even though it can be frustrating sometimes. There are times when it feels like the crying is taking over your life because the smallest thing can set them off.
But I want my son to feel safe expressing those emotions he feels. If crying about something is the only way he can get over it, then I get it. After all, emotions are not gender specific. If we’re human, it’s normal to feel angry, sad, lost, confused, and frustrated. And the fact is, we all just express those emotions differently.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after a good cry. At the same time, I do believe that there are often more effective ways that we can express our emotions depending on the situation. So here are a few things we do when the crying starts to get out of control.
We often just need to spend more time together. For some parents this is hard because our instinct when someone is crying is to withdraw, walk away, or check out. Sometimes, it even can make us angry. But often, I think an extra snuggle, story, or just one-on-one attention is just what my son needs to keep his emotions in check.
I work on healthy coping skills with him like deep breathing and finding his happy place. It’s taken me a long time to learn coping skills and self-care for myself, but I want my kids to learn them early. We sometimes do deep breathing together or focus on his happy place in his imagination (which happens to be playing video games) instead of whatever is bothering him.
We also try to keep things positive when we’re in a stressful situation. While we don’t tell him not to cry, I encourage him to be brave, strong, and try hard in difficult situations — without mentioning the crying itself. This is a good way to embolden your kid to follow through on something they are nervous about, or try new things, or work hard toward a goal. Maybe a small reward or treat can be in order if they pull through. A thumbs up from across a room when they are looking your way and you see the waterworks coming is a great way to reassure them that everything is okay.
Sometimes, I just have to figure out what is actually causing the crying. If I can get him calm enough to tell me what is wrong, that alone can calm him down. If we talk it through, I can often help him problem solve and fix whatever is upsetting him.
Ignoring the behavior is sometimes the quickest way to get rid of it too. With kids who are crying to get attention or get their own way, you have to ignore the bad behavior and reward the good behavior when it happens. This really works. Sometimes, I tell my son that if he’s going to cry, he needs to go to his room and do it. Oftentimes, he will be alone for just a minute or two and come out able to handle his emotions.
And lots of times, we just have to cry and hug it out. My son is sensitive, and he also loves snuggling. As he gets bigger, I can forget that he needs that physical contact. When he’s crying, sometimes all he needs to feel better is a hug and to know that I’m there. My presence is enough to help him through.
And if all else fails, I feed him. At least that’s my go-to response if nothing else works. And honestly, occasionally, it’s just a plain old case of a hangry kid, and once he gets a little food in him, all is right with the world again.
And for parents, I think a little quiet time at the end of the day binge-watching your favorite Netflix show is in order on the particularly tearful days. Or maybe you just need a good cry.