Crybaby: Child’s Problem or Yours?

Almost no one likes to think of their child as a “crybaby,” but the reality is that some children cry more than others.

According to psychologist Lawrence Kutner, some children are just born more emotionally sensitive than others. This sensitivity often shows up at birth in newborns who startle easily or have trouble adjusting to bright light.

The good news is that these children are also more sensitive to the feelings of others and have empathy for animals. And they tend to laugh a lot more, too.

For toddlers and preschoolers, crying is a way to express frustration. They don’t yet have the verbal skills to say what’s wrong. Once the emotion is released, the crying stops.

Unfortunately, parents, especially those unaccustomed to being around young children, feel more uncomfortable about the crying than the child. Parents may view an outburst as the child’s weakness or as their own failure in teaching appropriate behavior.

For children who easily burst into tears, Kutner advises parents:

  • Offer comfort. Hold the child and wipe away the tears. Don’t say things like “That’s nothing to cry about.”
  • Begin teaching your child other ways to respond to a troublesome situation. Talk about how the child is feeling. Help the child learn words like angry, sad, and afraid. Ask what happened to trigger the feeling. If a strange dog frightened the child, for example, offer support and an explanation if you can: “That dog looks scary, I know. Oh, look, now he’s wagging his tail.” If another child has snatched a toy, teach your child to say how it felt, ask for the toy’s return, or get help.
  • Make sure you give the child enough attention in other situations. Some children, who feel ignored by their parents, have learned that the only way to get attention is to cry and make a fuss. Pay extra attention and offer encouragement when your child is behaving in ways that you want.

“Texas Parenting News” Texas Child Care Fall 2009: 4