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Really struggling to cope with constant tears from DD (3)

(32 Posts)
Lovestosing Thu 04-Apr-13 20:47:59

DD2 has just turned 3 and let's just say she has never been what you would call placid. She started having tantrums at just 15 months and has never really grown out of it. I can cope with a few tantrums a day but what I can't cope with is her crying about anything and everything. She started this phase in December and it's getting worse. She cries at school when we're dropping off and picking up DS and DD1, she cries when she can't get her own way, when she does get her own way but then changes her mind, when she's hungry, not hungry, you name it she cries about it.

She is a very good talker and has been able to talk in full sentences for almost a year so she has no problem communicating her needs. It is definitely an attention thing but she has me to herself for most of the day during the week and I do try to sit down with her every day and do things whether it's drawing, painting, playing with play dough, baking, etc. over the last few days I have started making her go to her room when she's crying like that and telling her she can come out when she's calmed down, and I'm also refusing to respond to her requests when said in a whiny or shouty way, she does this a LOT.
I just have no idea how to deal with her. I don't want to make her feel ignored but we are all so sick of her crying, people have started commenting on it, especially at school. I try making a joke of it but to be honest her crying has caused me to cry a few times recently. I just don't know what to do anymore.

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 10:48:04

Oh dear! I had a friend with same issue.

I think from the sound of it you are already on the right track. My friend did much same as you already suggested - she started ignoring her DS every time he did the crying. Literally picked up a book and waited till he stopped. Also the rule was if he cried, he automatically would not get whatever it was he wanted. Just keep persisting with it, and try your best to appear calm and even bored - don't react.

And, as you already said, make sure you give lots of attention as soon as she is NOT crying - praise her, hug her etc. Perhaps you could also set up a reward system? So every time she manages to ask calmly she gets a sticker/marble in a jar?

Hang in there, you are doing the right things, and they do grow out of it eventually!

MrsPatrickDempsey Fri 05-Apr-13 11:17:49

Ignore the bad, praise the good. Be consistent and carry on doing what you have described.

cloudhands Fri 05-Apr-13 13:07:41

It can be hard to listen to crying all day long . We are kind of programmed to think of crying as a negative thing but it is not a reflection on your parenting. Crying is actually natures healing process. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone and other toxins that are released from the body. Even children and adults who use language still need to cry, it is a healthy way to release emotions that is essential to our well being in addition to verbalising feelings.
It can be hard if you feel like your daughter is crying over petty or trivial things, but often this is just a trigger for releasing bigger stress and upsets .
If your Dd cries and you find the patience to listen and stay calm close and give hugs this can really help her release the emotions that cause the irritating behavior such as whining and complaining.

To the poster who mentioned reading a book while their child was crying, Would you ignore an adult and just read a book while they were crying? I don't think do !

Our children deserve just as much love and respect as we give adults

Children do sometimes 'fake' cry, but often this is a sign that they have some strong feelings the cannot release and all those irritating attention seeking behaviors are actually a sign that our child does in fact need attention.

It's hard to deal with so many behaviors that just drive us crazy and ignoring can be a way to separate ourselves from our children when they drive us mad. What worked for me was having another adult I could vent to in private about my child's behavior so that I had the patience to deal with my daughter without ignoring her. And doing what I could to keep my sense of well being relaxed and calm .
'Tears and Tantrums' by Aletha Solter , as well as all the resources at Hand in Hand parenting helped me a lot to have the patience to deal with crying. Understanding that crying is not 'bad' was the first step.

cloudhands Fri 05-Apr-13 13:14:53

Oh and annoying as it is , take it as a sign that your daughter feels well loved enough to express her emotions freely. Other people aren't always comfortable with children expressing feelings but this says more about society than it does about you or your daughter.

Forester Fri 05-Apr-13 13:24:19

We've been getting a bit frustrated with our DD (3 1/2) crying when she doesn't get her own way etc. I had a bit of a talk with her a few days ago and used Peppa Pig as an example - i.e. Peppa doesn't cry but George does - and she's a bigger girl than George isn't she? She seems to have understood this and while it hasn't stopped the crying she at least says that she's trying not to cry when she does.

cloudhands Fri 05-Apr-13 14:56:44

Hi Forester, I wrote a post above to explain that though crying can be very tiring for us parents, it is not a 'bad' behaviour that we should try to stop. it is simply our child expressing their feelings
saying 'boys shouldn't cry' is a good example of this. Some boys, especially in the past, have grown up feeling like they can't express their feelings as they were told not to cry, or their parents made them feel like crying was bad. men are more often to blame for aggression in the world partly because they turn their repressed feelings outwards towards others. `i'm pretty sure if men could express their feelings more directly the world would be a much more peaceful place.
If a child feels upset they should have the right to be supported, and loved by their loved ones, just as we do for adults. And teaching your child that crying is a bd thing just teaches her to repress her emotions. instead of trying to fix our children's behaviour why not focus on what makes listening to your child hard. I make sure I do plenty of things to keep me calm and relaxed so my cup is full enough to listen to my child when they are upset. Children should be supported and loved unconditionally, whether they are happy or sad. It's hard work for us parents, but it's what our children ultimately need, to grow into happy adults.

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 15:11:12

No cloudhands I would not ignore a crying adult. But a child is not an adult. Their feelings and reasons for crying can be very different, and thus you treat them differently. (For example, it's also why you wouldn't expect a child to cook and clean and drive a car...and also why you might raise your eyebrows if in a restaurant an adult started crying because there was no more apple juice...) Yes they deserve respect as people, but as young inexperienced people.

And I agree entirely that they cry sometimes for attention - if you re-read my post you might notice I suggest giving plenty of attention too - as MrsP succinctly put it, ignore the bad and praise the good. (And again I agree that if your child is genuinely upset then they should indeed be cuddled and comforted. My DD is a huge cuddlebucket still at seven and I love it!)

Re society - maybe it is a shame we don't feel comfortable with people constantly expressing strong emotions through tears. But the fact remains, we do, and so we have to teach our children to cope with the world we live in, not the one we'd prefer. Ultimately, we're all trying to produce a happy, well-balanced adult who can cope with life's trials and tribulations, after all. If you send a person out into the world who is still crying over everything that happens to them, they're going to find work difficult - so the question is, do you gradually teach them that they can't cry over every little thing, or do you suddenly expect them to stop it? And at what age would you deem this change to be appropriate? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty?

Lovestosing and Forester, I think parenting is a very individual thing, and there is always more than one approach and one school of thought as you can see! In my experience, different ways can be equally successful - it really depends on you and your child as people, and what you feel most comfortable with. (I guess perhaps also about how we were parented too?) Wish you both all the best going forwards!

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 15:13:22

Crossed posts there - also agree with you that you should listen to children and see if there is anything at the root of problems, definitely. More so as they grow older actually, since a three year old can't really express how they feel even to themselves.

Your view of how the world should be is lovely - such a shame it's not that way as I think you're quite right re men and aggression!

cloudhands Fri 05-Apr-13 16:15:11

teachercreature, actually children who cry freely, and are supported while they do so, rather than taught not to cry, are actually stronger and more able to deal with life's trials and tribulations, there's a great post here that shows how well children do in school, for example when they are allowed to express their emotions through big cries.

Unstoppable learners

there is no age, where children, or adults should stop crying, actually as an adult, I am relearning to cry more freely, and finding, that releasing all my long repressed emotions, is giving me the confidence to go out and do things in the world that I would never have dreamed of doing before. crying is not a weak thing to do, someone who is in touch with their emotions, is stronger than those who do not cry.

I would always value my own child's wellbeing over society's expectation that she should not cry. My daughter should not hit, or hurt other children, but crying? That is not a bad behaviour. It's hard for us to deal with crying, and that's why we need to express our own emotions too.

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 17:05:08

Cloudhands sadly my lappy keeps crashing when I try to read that link, but I will take your word for it!

I do fully agree that children need to cry. I would never tell my daughter crying is not allowed - I still do need a good cry myself so it would be very hypocritical. I know they've proved it is physically good for you too.

The OP though wasn't asking "how do I stop my child crying" but "what do I do about a child who cries all the time". A child crying all the time is probably at times doing it, not to express an adult emotion like grief, but for other reasons. A very experienced (and lovely) HV once said to me, never make the mistake of attributing adult emotions to a child - they often cry as a means of communication, and also to manipulate. (For which you can't blame them - they are small and can't overrule adults!) I absolutely agree with you that when a child is genuinely distressed they do need comfort/understanding, but equally I think sometimes children are just trying it on. Also, sometimes they are crying over things which are better dealt with in other ways (like, "I'm thirsty"), and I would gently encourage a child to explain the problem to me rather than just wailing, especially if they were a communicative three year old. I was assuming the OP had already tried all that though as she sounded like she had given it all a lot of thought! And mums can usually tell the difference with their own child too, of course.

But, again, we are all different, and if you don't agree I do respect that. Every parent has to decide on their own approach, based on their life experiences and beliefs, and I do believe there are many ways which can work to achieve what we'd all like - a happy, well-balanced child. smile

QTPie Fri 05-Apr-13 19:44:12

DS has been doing this a little very recently (he is 3 years 2 months). I get down to his level, I say that I cannot understand what he is trying to say because he is crying/whinging (true I often can't) and I say that he has to stop crying and tell me, I then only grant his request (or explain why I cannot grant it) when he has stopped crying/whinging.

A few times when I have been very grumpy (am in the middle of IVF - so pretty hormonal...), then will either take him to his room and hold him until he calms down or put him in the naughty spot for "whinging and whining" (then talk it through after he has calmed down). The latter is not ideal, but better than me yelling...

Basically it boils down to "calm them down (somehow) and talk it through". Fortunately always works for us (at the moment)...

mrsmalcolmreynolds Fri 05-Apr-13 22:48:57

I agree with what TeacherCreature has been saying. Encouraging your child to communicate verbally when they can, rather than using tears/outbursts as a way to get what they want is not the same as surpressing/denying their emotional needs.

With Dd (3.6) we use much the same techniques as QTPie. This is not in response tonevery bout of tears - just those which are clearly a way to get what she wants or where she is totally overreacting to something. Like the no more juice available example given above - I do not bekieve it can possibly be healthy in the long run for a child who is capable of saying "please may I have some more juice" to have a fit of tears over the absence of juice treated like it is a valid reaction. IMO it is not a valid reaction and treating it like it is would be storing up long term problems for that child. An acknowledgement of disappointment as a valid emotion is fine, but Cloudhands I have to say that I thinkmyour approach goesmway too far.

mrsmalcolmreynolds Fri 05-Apr-13 22:50:03

Apologies for many typos, tablet keyboard is not my friend!

cloudhands Sat 06-Apr-13 05:49:10

Hi Mrs Malcolm. I'm sorry you feel like my approach goes too far! I actually find that in the long run, it makes life easier.

I think that if a child is crying about something small like having more juice, then really it's not about the juice at all. They are simply using the juice as a trigger to let out some feelings about other things, that they may find it hard to articulate. I know I do this all the time if I've had a long hard day, sometimes, my husband will come home, and he'll make a comment or something, and I'll take it the wrong way, and I'll just start crying. Clearly it's not really about the comment he made, but just having something to set me off.

It can be infuriating when our children cry over small petty things, but I always take a step back and think, perhaps there's more than meets the eye about this. If I think about it, it may be that I can sense that some sort of big upset was brewing in my daughter's mind, and if she hadn't had a big tantrum about juice, it could be some other random thing.

listening to my daughter cry, without trying to stop her, has worked best for me in the long run, because I find if she lets her feelings out with a few big cries, then the rest of the time she is more relaxed and at ease, less whiney and screechy, and if I listen well at home, she's less likely to have her meltdowns in public.

Teachercreature Sat 06-Apr-13 12:04:26

QTpie and mrsmalcolm yep we did similar. Worked well - DD learned that in order to communicate small things, better to just ask! She still regularly cried over other upsetting things, and at seven still does, and gets a cuddle and sympathy accordingly. As I do still from my mum! smile

cloudhands that approach does sound though like attributing adult emotions to a very young child, which is where I think we don't agree. I think they do just cry for juice sometimes, not because of some deeper emotional hurt. Other times - particularly as they grow up and do start to have more adult emotions - then yes, I agree, they need you to listen and comfort.

And although I can totally see that allowing your daughter to cry it out at home will short term definitely help her to be a more relaxed child, I agree with mrsmalcolm that my fear would be you are actually (with the very best of intentions) storing up longer term problems for the child by validating her every whim. Sadly, life is full of frustration, after all!

Also I read up that site you suggest - I must say I am not convinced by their overall approach. I read one example about a parent apologising to her child for "changing her nappy before she was ready" and it seems frankly ridiculous to give such sway to a child as I just don't believe they are ready at that age. I keep thinking of how that approach will translate to other situations when they are older, and I cannot see how it will work, despite the assurance that they will somehow learn to self-regulate.

But hey, I fully admit I could be wrong! I have emailed my sister-in-law, who is a maternity nurse/early years expert, to ask her views and asking if she knows of any research, as I am very curious. If there is sufficient evidence that long-term the Hand in Hand approach actually works, then I will certainly be taking that on board in future. Shall report back with what she says!

cloudhands Sat 06-Apr-13 14:28:17

Hi teacher creature wow I just have to say that I really admire your openness to new and different ideas, it is so refreshing that you are reading about a viewpoint, that is quite different to what you do.

Haven't read the nappy story you mention, but have definetly found with my DD that slowing down and listening and sometimes waiting a bit for her co-operation to do stuff had worked well in the long run, listening to her crying (as well as having lots of fun laughter and play) means that she is growing up to be quite cooperative and rarely has strops about such things as teeth cleaning nappy changing etc. it makes things quicker abd easier in the long run, not to stop the crying as then kids are more emotional balanced and their natural cooperative selves.

I'm not sure about your point about attributing adult emotions to a child. I just don't get it, why would a child's emotional makeup be different to an adults? What I've found with doing the Habd in Hand stuff is it has helped me not to simplify or dumb down my child's emotions, but to understand that of course our children are just as emotional as adults- I mean why wouldn't they be?

cloudhands Sat 06-Apr-13 14:37:29

Oh one more thing! Part of the idea behind it is that we don't need to 'toughen up' our kids and prepare them for a hard world where we can't actually express our emotions. That children who can freely express their emotions are the most confident, resilient and able to deal thoughtfully with life's challenges because they've been listened to.
I think sometimes we might feel like we have to 'toughen up' our kids for the real world, but in actual fact having less emotional baggage makes for happy confident adults. I don't know about research, but I do know there was a study that showed that parent-child connectedness was the number one factor that predicted good adolescent outcomes - (eg no teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, crime etc) and the hand in hand approach was named as one if the organizations that provides an approach focused on connection, there might be some more info on the site.

RosemaryandThyme Sat 06-Apr-13 14:43:51

Have you ever really lost your temper with her ?

Really let rip at her next time she's being a brat. have a good old holler, let her know how much she's piddeling you off, cry and scream if you feel like it.

Might not make any difference but might just shock her into being more reasonable.

cloudhands Sat 06-Apr-13 14:57:13

Yikes. That's sounds like a horrible way to treat a child.

QTPie Sat 06-Apr-13 15:17:26

I always try my best not to loose my temper with DS, I think that parents mostly "lead by example": i.e. yelling, screaming and hitting generally leads to your child, well, yelling, screaming and hitting...

Sometimes I do shout, but I really really really try hard to avoid it and I apologise afterwards.


RosemaryandThyme Sat 06-Apr-13 15:30:00

Yes, thought your post sounded like yuo were really trying hard - maybe, just maybe, your little one needs to know just what reaction she will get from mum when mum is totally peed off, until she knows she may just keep pushing you.
Honestly making the decision to let your child see, hear and feel just how much her behaviour is upsetting to others is neither cruel or horrid, it's tough love.

QTPie Sat 06-Apr-13 16:45:50

RosemaryamdThyme, I am not the OP.... I am just saying that I don't think it is advisable to do what you are suggesting.

RosemaryandThyme Sat 06-Apr-13 19:08:16

Ummmm, I read it as the mum having tried all the traditional routes already and now looking for a route to nip in the bud escalating irritation from child.
I've no doubt the mum has done all the positive reinforcement, ignoring behaviour but not ignoring the child, ensuring plenty of sleep, regular feeding, lavendar filled bath-time routines, plenty freash air, stimulating activities, never threatening, always following through with penalties etc etc.
Lots of this works lots of times for lots of children.
For a few children natural consequences can be a valid and effective approach, for a female child who is entering intra-personal relationships which developmentally begin to arise from age three on average, such a child CAN link their behaviour to the effect on their mother IF the mother drops the fascade of cheering positive parenting and shows exactly the truth of feeling that she has.

QTPie Sat 06-Apr-13 19:22:19

Maybe, but personally I don't agree.

As others have pointed out, the child has a need/desire/want/feeling - even if it is being badly/frustratingly/annoying communicated. The thing to do is to teach the child how to communicate that need/desire/want/feeling in a more constructive way (even if it takes an awful lot if time, repetition and patience to achieve...). I really cannot see how "loosing it" at the DC helps to achieve that.

Loosing it at your kids only teaches them that loosing it is acceptable.

Like many things in parenting, it is just a slow, uphill battle, but eventually you see things paying off. There are no quick fixes: especially at 3 years old.

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