The title of this post might confuse you… When S was a baby I wrote about how I would never leave her to cry.
There is a difference though, between leaving a child to cry, and allowing them to cry. Sometimes we all need to have a good cry and let out some pent-up emotion, right?
I’ve been reading this book called Playful Parenting, about a way of parenting that’s different; to how most of us were brought up, and to how most of us parent now. I’ve written posts before about how the ideas in the book have affected me, and how I am trying to change the way I parent S. It’s an ongoing process.
One of the things mentioned in the book is about children crying. When a child cries our first instinct is always to say something like “don’t cry, it’ll be okay!” We tell them “big boys/girls don’t cry!” and shush them, try to distract them with a toy or a game or something.
Author Lawrence J Cohen says when we do this, we inadvertently teach children to hide their feelings, to gloss over when they feel hurt or upset, to push it all on down and get on with their day. That’s the sort of thing that’s convenient right now, but inconvenient in a few years’ time when a person has learned this is the way to deal with feelings, and needs endless hours of therapy to help them express how they feel.
And so, I am trying to allow S to cry.
When she cries, I just want to make it better. I want to find a way to make her smile and forget whatever was wrong. I don’t want her to be sad. I don’t want her to cry.
But when I hear myself say “don’t cry…” I can almost hear the words I’m actually saying: “your tears are not important. You should not show your feelings. You should hide your sadness.”
And so, instead, I try to say different things. I try to say:
Wow, that must have been a big shock to fall over.
Do you need a cuddle?
Everybody feels sad sometimes.
Mostly though, I try to just sit with her, and cuddle her, and allow her to cry.
Luckily, S doesn’t cry very much. She’s generally a happy person most of the time. I don’t want her to feel that she always has to be that way, though. I feel like the ability to express emotions – good and bad – is an important part of life and I don’t want her to learn that we should hide our feelings. So I’m trying to keep my big mouth shut!