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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 Thu 11-Apr-13 12:46:52

hi cloudhands thank you :-) I do try very hard to stay open-minded and never reach a point where I claim to have all the answers - I know research and development is ongoing and new stuff always deserves to be considered, not rejected due to being "new". Lifelong learning! Equally though, education and child rearing go through fads, so I think it's important to really be careful to sort out which approaches are best both short and long term.

Expressing emotion - hmm. I see what you mean entirely, but actually as adults we don't always express what we feel, and probably shouldn't! Just as an example - your boss tells you to photocopy something. You might be thinking "I hate photocopying and I'm busy! In fact I hate you!" but you would probably not express that feeling. As if you did, you'd probably end up getting either sacked - or in extreme cases of expressing our emotions, arrested!! Hence I do fundamentally feel you do have to toughen your child up to some extent or risk them finding the outside world very hard indeed - although it is a delicate balance as nor do you want them to be horribly repressed either.

Totally agree children need to feel connected to the adults in their life. Happily my DD and I are very close indeed and she feels able to tell me even when she has done something she knows is not good (I have always promised to try not to be angry when she is honest!) I also do take care to listen to her when she is really upset. However, sometimes she is actually just a bit tired, or has had a sugar rush, or is being a drama queen - I do feel again it's a delicate balance where you want them to be able to express genuine emotional hurt, but also to understand about appropriate levels of emotion and how to express them too. For example, if an adult did jump up and down on the spot crying because their friend got the jelly first, they'd risk being sectioned! Not an appropriate reaction.

Re children and adult emotion - no, I don't think they feel exactly the same, nope. They do have the same raw emotions sure, but their experience and perception is so different - really they are quite simple creatures of "want/don't want" when small. I have taught KS2 for ten years and the full complexities of adult emotion (made more complex by such things as sexual desire, adult love, responsibility, etc) are very hard for them to understand even then, so no way at 3 do I believe they feel exactly like adults do. Their fundamental drive is their own survival, hence they tend to be so inconsiderate - we teach them social graces and manners and those concepts, they don't come naturally to humans (sadly! Although biologically it does make sense - we developed good manners as society developed, cos we need to get on for it to work!) My sister-in-law has worked with babies-pre-school age kids her whole career and she said same re emotions (plus she also felt not appropriate to comfort a child having a tantrum as it would reinforce the behaviour, but afterwards instead.) So I have yet to see anything in real life or research to convince me that children feel the same as adults, but if I do then fair enough!

I do agree though with you and QTPie that losing it at children should be avoided if at all possible. We're all human and we all can be pushed too far, but as a teacher I always used to feel I had failed if I ever got cross, and I have the same guideline as a parent. I try to stay calm and in control of my own emotion (if possible!) as I then feel I do a better job in making the right choices for the right reasons. I think there's no harm in telling your child they are upsetting you/making you angry, as they need to know there will be consequences of behaviour - but again, as calmly as possible.

One thing someone once pointed out to me - my DD won't always have me being the adult she interacts with. So she does need to learn ways of being heard/understood by other adults too. The Hand in Hand approach I can't see translating to the adult world or even shorter term to school - for example even with the best will in the world no teacher will have time to listen to the individual feelings of 30 children, and there will be times (in school and also the rest of life, work etc) where they're just going to have to get on with things, like it or not. Do you know if they have any articles explaining that transition from "adult who has been trained to listen to you" to "other adults/people who don't and expect you just to get on with it"? I'd be very interested to read them!

Lovestosing Tue 09-Apr-13 10:32:19

Hello everyone, sorry I posted last week, didn't have the opportunity to check back in until now! Thank you for all your responses, I feel very grateful. I have to admit to not being the most patient of mums, and I do find DD2's crying irritating and stressful, but I wouldn't want her to feel she has to suppress her emotions. DS who is 6.8 rarely cries (he is a sunny natured child) but when he does he really fights it and I tell him to let it out, and everyone cries sometimes. I do realise DD2 has emotional needs and she gets a lot of love and cuddles, but what I do feel resentful of is the fact that she has an older brother and sister who are at school most of the day and who struggle to get their mum's attention because I am dealing with DD2 most of the time. It makes me feel very sad for them to be honest. Anyway we have had a good few days with her so who knows, she may be finally growing out of it!

princessx Mon 08-Apr-13 10:07:55

This is a really interesting thread. My friend's ds just turned 4 and he has only now come out of a horrible year if anger tantrums where he got worse and worse. But suddenly at his 4th birthday he just snapped out of it.

My friends drove themselves crazy trying to fix whatever the problem was, but now with hindsight we can see that it was just a hormonal phase he was going through.

I read recently that toddlers have more hormonal change than teenagers and that is the root cause of tantrums. Meaning that trying to rationally understand the problem doesn't help, you just need to go with it and let them let off steam.

I think you dd's crying could be her way of dealing with the hormones, literally getting those hormones out of her body. With the benefit of hindsight I would say don't feel like you have to fix the problem straight away. You could mentally give yourself a full year for the problem to get solved. And expect her to get worse before she gets better. As you say it only started in December.

But I know you want to try and deal with it in the meantime. When she cries when you drop kids off at school you could give her a quick hug and say something to acknowledge her feelings, like 'are you sad they've gone?' Then say they'll have fun at school and we're going to have fun doing x, then we'll pick them up and come home for tea.

Even though she knows all that at least you will be acknowledging and responding to her feelings.

As to the let them cry/tell them not to cry debate, I always find the crying stops as soon as I ask what's the matter (dd is 2) compared to the times I say no crying or just ignore it.

Hope that helps and good luck!

cloudhands Mon 08-Apr-13 06:58:12

the best way I've found to deal with the whining and screaming, is to have someone I can talk to about how annoying it is, it's really helped me to realise how much of the problem is my feelings of irritation. With Hand in Hand parenting, there's a listening partnership scheme where you can hook up with another parent, and talk and listen about how things are going. It's amazing how differently parenting can go when you have someone to listen to you, in a way that is quite different to the everyday chat we have with our friends.
Being listened to in this way has given me the energy and patience to give my attention to my daughter when she whines and screams. I don't agree with the behaviourist idea that we should ignore certain kinds of behaviours and respond to others. The whines and screams, are red flags that my daughter is not feeling good -- communication like any other. So I do give her attention, and connect with her, and in the long run, this approach, along with venting my feelings, helps her to whine a lot less.

Corygal Sun 07-Apr-13 15:05:25

Crying is one thing, whiny voice is a very different issue. But also stressy and annoying. Try and explain to DD that unless she speaks 'properly' you can't respond to her - otherwise she'll prob end up at a speech therapist.

QTPie Sun 07-Apr-13 09:44:07

Yes cloud, but they are obviously different types of crying andyou can normally tell the difference. Ass parent, if I think that DS may be crying like that, then I say "would you like a cuddle?"

Sometimes sympathy and a cuddle are definitely the right approach, but I definitely sympathise with the OP re wanting to keep DC from the whingey, demanding cry/scream - there are better ways to communicate than that.


cloudhands Sun 07-Apr-13 09:32:45

Hi Qtpie,

needs and feelings are different things, and there's actually two different reasons for crying.

1. is to get a need met.
2. to heal from stress and upsets.

if the child's crying for reason 1 , then once they learn to speak, they can then articulate it in words, without crying.
2. this is not a need, it's just a feeling, so child does not and should not be encouraged to use words. tears have a healing function, and if we stop this sort of crying, we stop a child from releasing their emotions. Our children (and ourselves!) get lots of benefits, when we can cry freely, while being listened to by a warm loving adult.

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.

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 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 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 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.


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

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

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 14:37:29

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.

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?

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 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.

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

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

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.

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)...

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

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 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!

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!

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