Toddler gets upset when I cry - is it normal?

(27 Posts)
theAntsareMyFriends Tue 29-Mar-16 12:22:14

My DS is just 2. As with all toddlers he will occasionally hurt me - pull my hair, pinch, scratch. If I shout 'ow' he finds it funny and if I tell him off he will still try to do it again but if I cry he get really upset.

I first did this about 6 months ago to show him I was upset and was surprised by how much he reacted. When I pretended to cry he cried, got clingy and upset so I haven't done it again.

A few months ago he broke a sentimental plate and after a hellish week I burst into tears. Again he cried a lot himself and kept cuddling and stroking my forehead which is his way of apologising.

Last weekend he did an epic head bang on my nose. He wasn't being naughty, just over excited but it was a shock to both of us and I thought my nose was broken. I cried and raced upstairs. He stood at the bottom of the stairs bawling his eyes out and after I came back he kept saying 'mummy be OK' and trying to smile at me in the hope I would smile back. When I didn't smile back at him he started crying again. He only stopped crying when I told him I was OK but he woke up a few times in the night and wanted to know I was OK.

Is it normal to be so over-sensitive. My friends children aren't bothered when their mums cry but my DS's reaction just seems so extreme. I'm glad he is showing empathy but its just a bit too much.

Is it normal and if not, does anyone have any ideas for how I can help him?

Thanks for reading this long post!

OP’s posts: |
LittleNelle Tue 29-Mar-16 12:24:34

I don't think my children have ever seen me cry, so if they did I would expect them to be frightened and upset tbh. Sounds like your friends cry in front of their children all the time if they aren't bothered?

Twitterqueen Tue 29-Mar-16 12:30:02

If your toddler finds it so upsetting I would avoid crying in front of him. It can scare children to see an adult cry - it makes them feel insecure. And usually - and certainly at only 2 years' old - they wouldn't understand how or why they are to blame. So you are blaming him for making you upset and he can't cope with it.

redhat Tue 29-Mar-16 12:32:53

Its not oversensitive at all. he hurt you, he didn't mean to. of course he will be upset.

theAntsareMyFriends Tue 29-Mar-16 12:36:50

Thank you for your replies.

I do try to avoid crying in front of him. The first time was just a desperate reaction to try to get him pinching people's faces and drawing blood. At the time I had no idea he would react so strongly. The plate was probably avoidable but the head bang wasn't as I was in a lot of pain.

I don't think it is possible to completely avoid crying in front of your child. I'd have to never watch Bambi! I have heard it is good to teach them that adults cry too but just worried about his really extreme and ongoing reaction - he still talks about the plate incident month later.

My friends have also rarely cried in front of their toddlers. One did when she heard about a family bereavement and her child didn't bat an eye lid. Most have tried the 'pretending to cry so your child understands that they are hurting you trick' but got no reaction.

OP’s posts: |
BertrandRussell Tue 29-Mar-16 12:39:54

I think crying in front of small children is a bad idea if you can possibly help it. They shouldn't be expected to take responsibility for adult's emotions- and they really shouldn't be given the idea that they have so much power they can make their grown ups cry- that is far too scary. And pretending to cry is horrible, sorry.

You should have done everything you could to reassure him after the head banging accident- of course he cried again if you didn't smile back! Why didn't you? Did you explain that you were crying because it hurt but it wasn't his fault?

theAntsareMyFriends Tue 29-Mar-16 12:52:29

God I feel terrible now. I thought explaining how their actions can make people sad by showing emotions was normal. I would't have done it if I thought it would be damaging to him and when I did it I have no idea he would react it it.

I didn't smile back because my nose was pouring out blood. I've really not been in so much pain since giving birth to him. It was also difficult for me to talk but I had picked him up, was cuddling him and stroking his back. He can't be left alone as he gets upset when I leave him so its not as if I can go off if I'm crying.

I'll avoid crying in front of him in future but I don't know how everyone else avoids it all the time. Sometimes you get bad news or get hurt when you are in front of them surely?

I guess that my question has been answered though - it is normal for him to get upset when I'm upset.

OP’s posts: |
Wanderingwondering Tue 29-Mar-16 12:59:37

It's perfectly normal. I've cried in front of mine twice-once over sentimental breakage and once due to dd's behaviour. Both times it's shocked and upset them.

redhat Tue 29-Mar-16 13:01:43

Children need to feel that you are in control. It isn't wrong to cry if you are genuinely distressed or in pain but you should certainly reassure them that it isn't their fault and that you will be ok.

flingingmelon Tue 29-Mar-16 13:11:46

I don't think it's bad for your kids to see you cry. As long as they see you cheer up again smile

I've cried in front of my toddler DS, I cry really easily when I'm hurt (which is often because I have a toddler!) He gets a bit distressed but after comforting each other we are happy again. He sees that he has the power to make me 'better'. I think it's good for him to learn empathy.

He sees his friends cry and helps them, how is a parent crying a problem?

LittleNelle Tue 29-Mar-16 13:14:33

Toddlers don't rely on their friends for their emotional and physical safety, so I don't think it's the same thing at all. Though seeing a parent crying if they do it all the time and for minor things is not going to have to same impact as if they see it really rarely and only for something serious.

theAntsareMyFriends Tue 29-Mar-16 13:17:45

Thank you for making me feel less like an emotionally manipulating cow. I do always tell him that I'm OK and not cross with him. I never blame him - I said 'I'm upset because my nose hurts' not 'because you hurt me'.

I'm glad to see he's normal. Quite a lot of people left their children to cry it out when smaller but I didn't. I picked him up and cuddled him every time he cried and still do so was a bit worried I hadn't helped him to become emotionally resilient and it was my fault he was sensitive. Just glad he's doing what other toddlers do.

OP’s posts: |
Sgoinneal Tue 29-Mar-16 14:25:06

It's ok for them to see you cry and in the long run it's normal. I would be more worried if he didn't care that you were crying. My DS is very sensitive and I've had to try and make sure he doesn't see me too upset (recent bereavement) but sometimes things can't be avoided. Him seeing that it's okay to be sad as long as things are fine after is a good thing.

PennyHasNoSurname Tue 29-Mar-16 14:27:27

Ive only cried in front of my 4yo once and she was not even three and she still remembers, and remembers the lame excuse I gave.

18mo ds gets upset if dd cries and is very sensitive to her mood/reactions to stuff.

Better to try not to cry in front of them, especially on purpose!

Atenco Wed 30-Mar-16 05:19:26

My dd, who is now very much an adult, still remembers one time when she was a toddler and I fell. She was so frightened. Apart from love and empathy, small children are so totally dependent on us that it is very scary for them when we are vulnerable.

I'm not saying this to make you feel bad, by the way.

underrugsswept Wed 30-Mar-16 05:49:46

I wouldn't worry about one or two occasions. I cried the other day when my toddler accidentally head butted me in the cheekbone - I couldn't not, it REALLY hurt and took me completely by surprise. He looked very concerned and gave me a cuddle and a kiss. I just kept telling him that I was fine and gave him lots of cuddles and smiles back once the initial shock wore off. I didn't want him thinking it was his fault. It's not something I'd want to make a habit of but we are all human. You're not going to damage your child by letting them see you cry once or twice. Some of the posters above and on their high horse unnecessarily IMHO.

LaContessaDiPlump Wed 30-Mar-16 06:05:20

I once came downstairs deliberately to let my boys see me cry; my mum had recently died and I was hiding and crying in my room. I then decided that grief shouldn't be something shameful to be hidden (as it was in my home growing up) and came down purposefully so that they'd see me. Apart from a cursory glance and a 'Why you sad?' they cared not at all. Hard-hearted little buggers I've raised grin

Seriously op, I wouldn't worry that you've damaged your child. Also I have seen literally hundreds of mums fake-cry to show that something makes them sad so you're not alone in thinking that approach is fine!

mathanxiety Wed 30-Mar-16 06:30:48

What BertrandRussell said, X 1000.
"They shouldn't be expected to take responsibility for adult's emotions- and they really shouldn't be given the idea that they have so much power they can make their grown ups cry- that is far too scary. And pretending to cry is horrible, sorry."
Others said pretty much the same.

Please do not cry in front of your small children. It really is very scary for them. They are completely dependent on you to be a grown up and they simply cannot understand what you are doing. Yes I know grown ups can and do cry, but among other grown ups that is fine. It's not ok when your toddler's world revolves around you to look as if you are unable to cope.

The word 'normal' means nothing to children who are so young, so trying to teach him that everyone can cry is pointless. They do not grasp the reality of other people to the extent that they think of them as fully formed, three dimensional individuals who live lives in which the toddler is not the central figure. They are hierarchical in their conception of others -- 'mummy/daddy/baby' is about as deep as it gets. But it is really important for a 2 yo to know that he is the 'baby' in that triumvirate, and mummy and daddy are able to cope with life in general. How people behave is not something they cast an intellectual judgement on so 'normal' and 'other than normal' are meaningless concepts at this age -- they respond emotionally and instinctively at all times when they are 2, and they are the centre of their own universe (this is healthy narcissism and a necessary stage of development) with mummy and daddy there to facilitate their lives and put them first.

If your child is inclined to be clingy, you need to do your utmost to reassure him that you are a very stiff upper lipped person who does not run off upstairs when head banged and who does not cry. He is not 'over sensitive' -- it's possible as several other posters have suggested that you may be scaring him and contributing to his insecurity.

Fake crying -- please don't.

BeStrongAndCourageous Wed 30-Mar-16 06:50:31

I've never read such utter rot as that coming from the automatons advocating never crying in front of children!

It is good for children to realise that adults have limits and important that they realise their actions have consequences. I would be proud in your case OP to have raised a little boy who is sensitive enough to realise his mummy is hurt/sad and want her to feel better.

I agree that a parent constantly on the verge of emotional collapse is going to make for an insecure and anxious child, but we're not talking about that, are we? We're talking about a child getting the message that adults, just like children, can get hurt and/or sad, and may cry, but will get over it. I can't see how that can possibly be a bad lesson for them to learn.

Twitterqueen Wed 30-Mar-16 10:00:33

For the record, I'm not an automaton.
Nor am I speaking utter rot.
Nor have I said that adults should not cry in front of their children
Nor do I intend that you, OP should feel like a manipulative cow.

I simply said - and will say again - that a 2 year old is incapable of truly understanding why his parent is crying and this lack of understanding is very frightening and upsetting to such a young child, especially when the parent is at tempting to tell him that he has caused the distress.

ScarletForYa Wed 30-Mar-16 10:02:23

shock Stop crying in front of your toddler!

My dd has only seem me crying once.

ScarletForYa Wed 30-Mar-16 10:06:54

mathanxiety nails it.

Soddingepiphany Wed 30-Mar-16 10:46:29

He's only two he can't comprehend that people cry and then get over it, your asking him to understand something he just isn't capable of understanding yet, at this age they don't even have empathy so all you are accomplishing is upsetting your child.

When he is old enough you can tell him you are upset and he'll understand.

Footle Wed 30-Mar-16 10:48:23

I went to the funeral of my SIL's beloved grandmother. My SIL had his 10 month old daughter on his lap, facing him. He was crying, and his daughter was calmly and gently using her fingers to push the tears back up into his eyes, clearly trying to comfort him and clearly not distressed herself.

Paintedhandprints Wed 30-Mar-16 11:08:02

My nearly 2yo ds has empathy. confused He gets upset if another child is crying, or someone gets stuck on a tv show. He always has. He still throws things at us occasionally to test boundaries and get a reaction. I leave the room when he does this. Not really tried crying in front of him because I'm not really a crier. He comes and strokes our faces if we tell him he's hurt us. Or he will pretend he has also been hurt. How would you feel if you accidently hurt someone and they starting crying in front of you?

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