It’s natural for children to cry, and it’s also natural for parents to become annoyed when their children cry frequently. Especially if you’re stumped as to why your child is weeping.
It can be difficult to establish the cause of your child’s tears before he or she begins to speak. Even when children begin to speak, the reasons for their tears are not always rational—at least not by adult standards.
You are not alone if you’ve ever had a child scream because the microwave “devoured” their lunch, or if you’ve ever had a tantrum start after telling your child they can’t eat dog food. Children invent some unique reasons to cry.
While it can be perplexing at times, crying can be beneficial at any age. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Research and Personality, crying can help people feel better in a variety of situations.
People feel better after weeping if they have emotional support, if crying leads to a resolution or improved understanding, or if they are sobbing because of a happy occurrence, according to researchers.
It isn’t always necessary to try to get your child to stop crying. Children (and adults!) benefit from shedding a few tears. Ask yourself, “Why is my child crying?” before you make a decision. You’ll be better able to respond to the situation if you can identify the source.
Here are a few of the most typical reasons parents will discover their child crying, as well as some advice for how to deal with each one.
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Reasons Your Child May Be Crying
Your Child Is Crying Because She Is Overtired
When your child has a meltdown because you gave them the wrong color bowl or asked them to put on their shoes, it’s possible that their tears are due to a lack of sleep.
Overtiredness is one of the most common causes of children crying. Tantrums and other seemingly unreasonable behavior might result from a lack of sleep.
You can’t always prevent a child’s tantrum-inducing exhaustion, but you can reduce it by keeping them on a regular sleep schedule.
Begin by establishing (and keeping to) an age-appropriate bedtime, then add in naps during the day. Plan on two naps per day until your child is 15 to 18 months old, then one nap per day until he or she is about 3 or 4 years old.
Your Child Is Crying Because She Is Hungry
Adults, too, get “hungry.” Unless they are having too much fun playing, a toddler or young child will (usually) inform you when they want a snack. It’s far more difficult to discern if a child is hungry if they are distracted and not talking with you.
If your child has just woken up from a nap or it has been three to four hours since they last ate, hunger could be the cause of their fussing. Offer your child a bite to eat if they haven’t eaten in a while and their mood is rapidly deteriorating. When you’re out of the house, keep a few healthful snacks on hand to help you stop crying.
Your Child Is Crying Because She Is Overstimulated
A child’s favorite places to be are exciting play areas such as bounce houses or birthday celebrations. However, for some children, the commotion can become too much at times and can be overwhelming. In these instances, it’s not uncommon for a child to be unable to explain what’s wrong.
When your child is overstimulated, you may notice tears. If your child is weeping for no apparent reason and you’re in a noisy or busy environment, try giving them a break. Allow them to sit for a few minutes outside or in a quieter place to regain their bearings.
A break may not be enough for some children. It may be preferable to take your child home early if they are agitated and have not been consoled or calmed.
Your Child Is Crying Because She Is Stressed
Tears are frequently caused by stress, especially in older children. You might question what a child has to be stressed about as a parent who has to pay the bills and maintain a busy household.
A lot of stuff, to be sure! Overscheduled children, such as those who go from soccer to piano to play practise to playdates, can become highly stressed. All children require free time to engage in creative play and to unwind.
What’s going on around them, such as marital strife, a move or a change in school, or even incidents they hear on the evening news, can cause stress in children. If a child is dealing with unpleasant life circumstances, they may become teary in ways they aren’t used to.
Younger children that are agitated will want adult assistance in altering their surroundings. You’re providing kids an opportunity to learn to manage their emotions by assisting them in reducing stressful situations.
Stress management skills might be beneficial to older children. Healthy stress reduction practises, such as deep breathing and meditation, as well as exercise and leisure activities, will help your child learn control over their emotions.
Your Child Is Crying Because She Needs Attention
Tears sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere. Your child is happily playing one minute, and then you look around for a second and they are sobbing.
Your child is well aware that weeping is an effective method of gaining your attention. A child’s conduct is reinforced by attention, even if it is unfavourable. If you say things like “Stop shouting” or “Why are you weeping now?” it may encourage your child to continue throwing tantrums.
When at all feasible, ignore attention-seeking conduct. When your child is asking for your attention, avoid making eye contact and don’t start a discussion. When kids don’t have a captive audience, they’ll eventually realise it’s not entertaining to throw a tantrum or scream loudly.
Show your child that if they play well, use kind words, and follow the rules, they can gain your attention. If you praise your child frequently for these activities, he or she will be less likely to try to get your attention by crying.
Give your child positive attention on a regular basis. Every day, spend a few minutes with them on the floor, playing a game or tossing a ball back and forth. If you offer your child a few minutes of attention every day, they will be less inclined to cry for it.
Your Child Is Crying Because He Wants Something
Young children are unable to distinguish between wants and needs. When they desire something, they frequently state that they require it immediately. Whether they insist on playing with a valuable relic or ask you to take them to the park, there will undoubtedly be tears of disappointment and despair.
If you give in after saying no, either out of guilt or because you can’t stomach listening to more crying, you’re teaching your child that tears may be used to control you.
While showing empathy is crucial, don’t let your child’s tears influence your actions. Say something like, “I understand you’re upset right now,” or “I’m sorry we won’t be able to go to the park together,” but make sure to reinforce that you’re a parent of your word.
Teach your child socially appropriate strategies to deal with their feelings when they don’t get what they want on a regular basis. Colouring a picture, stating, “I’m terribly sad,” or taking a few deep breaths are some coping methods that may help kids cope with difficult emotions.
Your Child Is Crying Because She Doesn’t Want To Do Your Command
When your child refuses to do something, such as put away their toys or get ready for bed, you may notice tears. These tears could be real sadness on the part of the child, or they could be a ruse. Your child can put off doing something they don’t want to do if you engage with them, even if it’s only for a minute.
“I know it’s hard to clean up your toys when you want to keep playing,” you can remark to validate your child’s feelings. Simultaneously, avoid engaging in a lengthy debate or a power struggle.
If necessary, issue a single warning that outlines the repercussions your child will face if they do not cooperate. Say something along the lines of, “If you don’t pick up the toys right now, you won’t be able to play with them after lunch.” If your child continues to disobey, impose a punishment.
It’s critical to teach your child that they can still follow the rules even if they’re upset or furious. Every time your child is irritated by a demand you’ve made, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to take positive action even when they’re upset.
When to Seek Professional Help About Your Child’s Crying
Consult your pediatrician if your child is crying more than you believe is normal or cannot be consoled. An underlying medical issue, such as an untreated ear infection causing pain, can sometimes be the source of a child’s persistent crying.
Once you’ve established that everything is in order physically, you may work together to reduce your child’s weeping. Sometimes the solution is straightforward. When your child begins to cry, which is certain to happen from time to time, they may simply want some time to calm down.
Take the time to talk to them about what’s bothering them if they’re old enough to do so. Talk about how to solve the problem together.
What You Should Do Next:
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6. Read Some Of My Favorite Blog Posts From Other Gentle Parenting Professionals
- How to get others on board with GP (grandparents, family, providers)
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- GP for Newborns & young babies
- Parenting Differences among peers/providers
- Does your spouse parent differently?
- Prefrontal Cortex – YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN IS NOT DEVELOPED ENOUGH
“GENTLE PARENTING IS A LIFESTYLE THAT EMBRACES BOTH YOUR PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BEHAVIOR, NOT ONLY TOWARDS YOUR CHILDREN, BUT TO YOURSELF TOO“— SARA HOCKWELL-SMITH
- Bylsma L, Croon M, Vingerhoets A, et al. When and for whom does crying improve mood? A daily diary study of 1004 crying episodes. Journal of Research in Personality. August 2011; 45 (4): 385-392. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.04.007
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Ear Infections in Children. Updated May 12, 2017.
- Belden AC, Thomson NR, Luby JL. Temper tantrums in healthy versus depressed and disruptive preschoolers: Defining tantrum behaviors associated with clinical problems. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2008;152(1):117-122. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.06.030
- Bylsma LM, Croon MA, Vingerhoets A, Rottenberg J. When and for whom does crying improve mood? A daily diary study of 1004 crying episodes. Journal of Research in Personality. 2011;45(4):385-392. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.04.007
- Seattle Children’s Hospital. Crying Child: 3 Months and Older. Updated March 21, 2020.
- Zeifman D, St. James-Roberts I. Parenting the crying infant. Curr Opin Psychol. 2017;15:149-154. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.009
- The Center for Parenting Education: Understanding Temperament: Emotional Sensitivity.