Q&A: Incessant Crying

Q&A: Incessant Crying
I just responded to a dad on cafemom.com who asked:

“My 18 month old cries constantly….about EVERYTHING. If she’s hungry and we aren’t getting the food to her fast enough, she cries. If I am getting her dressed, she cries. I try to do arts and crafts, playing outside, puzzles, reading books….she cries. I have ruled out any physical and/or health issues so that’s not it. It’s really wearing on me and I don’t know what to do. She doesn’t understand time outs and she is barely talking. She only says dada, mama, ball, uh-oh and that’s pretty much it. I try to encourage her to use her words to tell me what’s wrong and she just cries harder.”

My answer:

Children that age have lots of things they want to tell us but can’t. Imagine yourself in her shoes and say what you would need to hear to feel understood if you were her. An emphatic, “You want that, and you don’t want to wait!” with a matching pouty face will go much further than pleading with her to use words she doesn’t have when you are getting her food or other things ready. Then add what’s so like, “It takes a minute, and you want it to be ready now. It seems like you will never get it. Wow! No wonder it’s hard to wait!”

Adding, “There must be something you can do to make waiting more fun. Hmmm…” and making silly suggestions like “You could try a sommersault,” or “Here, tear up this napkin. See if that helps,” puts you on her side. Suggesting things that are OK with you and that return a bit of power to the child can turn the whole thing around and give the child more tools for waiting. When a tiny bit of patience shows up, make a mental note and point it out later when the child is seated with the food and completely calm as in, “You found a way to wait! That shows you have patience!” When kids know they have a strength, they can use it.

Other times when she cries, she probably doesn’t know what’s wrong, just that something is, so say that, too as in, “Something is wrong!” or “You didn’t like that!” or “That’s not what you wanted!” adding a stomp of the foot for emphasis or whatever she does when she is frustrated, like follow-the-leader for a minute. Kids respond to simply being heard in amazing ways.

Just remember that if something were wrong that was out of your control and nobody around you understood, crying would be exactly the right coping response. When she is done crying, point out how well it worked as in, “You got all that crying out and now you feel better.” It might even help you see crying as a healthy outlet for frustration, not a problem you have to solve.

Read my little book free online to learn how to get more from parenting than just well-behaved kids.  SAY WHAT YOU SEE is posted here.

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