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20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry” posted Jun 26, 2018


What if every time your child cries or tantrums, he or she is actually doing something highly worthwhile? We don’t always appreciate it when our children begin to cry, but what they are actually doing is making use of the body’s innate recovery system. When we are hurt, physically or emotionally, instead of storing it up in our bodies as tension, we can use it by crying, raging or trembling. This is how the body processes and releases feelings. Many of us don’t do this naturally, having been told “Don’t cry” since we were small. But our children still have their recovery system intact. 

The best news is that all of your children’s difficult "off track" behavior is driven by emotion and when you listen attentively, allowing them to use your good, warm attention to dump out these feelings then you get your angel back. By listening and actively encouraging your children to cry, they not only get to shed hurt feelings, but they end up feeling more connected to you in addition. The way you listen can either shut your children's' feelings down or help them to feel what they are feeling more fully. Here are things you can say to show that you are listening closely.

General reassuring phrases:
1. I’m right here 
2. I see how upset you are 
3. I’m sorry this is hard, Love
4. I’ll be with you while you are upset
5. I’m not going anywhere
6. You are safe
7. There’s nothing more important than being with you right now
8. I’m sorry... you lost your lamby/your friend said that/you dropped your ice cream
9. I hear you Sweetheart

Drawing attention repeatedly back to the facts that are driving the upset:
10. You really wanted...that toy/some ice cream/daddy to stay home/to go to the park
11. way I shouted scared you
12. Let’s have another look at your hurt...knee/finger/toe

Holding a limit around the situation (and listening to the protests):
13. I can’t let you...go to that party/hit her/have that treat/play with my glasses
14. I need you to...put your shoes on/finish your homework/get in the car now

Reminding them of the hopeful perspective on the situation (and listening to their hopeless response):
15. You’ll get chocolate again soon
16. I know you’ll figure this all out
17. Mummy is coming back later
18. I’m sure you can still have a good time
19. You’ll do just fine with the t-shirt we have
20. It won’t be like this forever

Try to avoid: 
Labeling feelings (“I see you are angry”) 
Distracting them from feelings (“Shall we go and see what Daddy’s doing?”) 
Fixing things (“I know you want ice cream, let’s go to the shop”) 
Reasoning (“Well, you did have ice cream yesterday”)
Making their feelings wrong through scolding/shaming/shushing (“What’s that awful noise you are making?”)
Rewards or punishments including threats/bribes/timeout (“If you don’t stop that we’ll go home”)

Now, that you have my list of 20-things to do instead of saying, "Don't cry" to a clearly upset child, add your own "go-to" statements to the list.  I'm sure that many of you have ways to open up your child's crying experience versus shutting it down. Just know that the primary key here is that you listen and be emotionally available to your child during times of distress.

2700 PointsGold

Lauren Roberts Stidger, MS, LPC

/ Licensed Professional Counselor / LPC