Often a baby’s caregiver will jump into action trying to find out why the baby is crying. For an infant, this is their main way to communicate with others. I firmly believe that when a baby cries it is a good idea to make sure their need is met. If you have met your baby’s needs(fed, changed and comfortable) and baby is still crying, your baby may just need to express emotion. Expressing emotion is the need. Babies express emotion through tears. This can be uncomfortable for adults.
A great way to put this in a different light is to compare a child crying with how good it feels to vent and drop an f-bomb every now and then. You release pent-up emotion. Emotion is “better out than in”. When we are constantly trying to stop our child from crying we are not giving them a chance to express the pent-up emotion.
With older children, we will often try to get our children to stop crying. Imagine when you are in the middle of a vent and someone shuts you down so you stop venting. You are still frustrated, angry or sad. You may actually have more intense feelings than you did when you started your vent. When you are given the chance to vent without judgment and with support from the person listening, it can feel like a weight has been lifted from you.
So now what do you do when your child is crying or upset?
You let them cry or be upset. This can be difficult if you are out. When you can, be present when your child is expressing their emotion. You can offer a hug if they want it. Using words like “I know it can be hard”, “I am here”, or “I love you”. If your child begins to throw insults your way, remember that it is their vent session. Afterwards, you can make comments like “wow you were awfully angry” or “you said some nasty words” and then move on with your day.
I wrote an article about tantrums that would be a good read in addition to this post. Once you have figured out if your child is having an “upstairs” or “downstairs” tantrum you can act accordingly.
95% of the time that our son is crying, screaming or having a tantrum, he is simply offloading some feelings from his day. After he is done he is back to the happy young man that he is. When he is stopped for whatever reason (it happens) he will be a cranky and non-compliant little guy.
Let them express their emotion! Be present when you can and move about your day.