Crying is a typical part of childhood. It is a common behavior that most parents encounter on a regular basis. Unfortunately, one of the most common parental responses to a crying child is far from being an effective one. The words, “Stop Crying!” can be confusing to a child to say the least.
In essence, a parent who encourages a child to move away from bad feelings is teaching a child that it is not OK to explore or really know their own feelings. Denial of feelings is also teaching a child not to trust their own feelings. “Stop Crying!” is effective at one thing: denying a child’s feelings and causing a child to become confused and possibly infuriated.
A parent’s reaction to a child’s feelings is a teaching moment. Your reaction is an opportunity for you to teach your child how to explore and deal with upset feelings. It is also an opportunity for you to teach your child how to be a caring and accepting person for a friend or even an adult.
Children are like sponges especially given a repeated parent behavior. So guess what? A parent who typically responds to their child’s feelings with denial is teaching their child that it is acceptable to react to others in this same way. Therefore, you can expect this child to react to another crying child with denying words like, “Stop Crying!”
Instead of denying a child’s feelings try these steps:
- Empathy: Approach your child with a perspective of empathy.
- Bracket: “Put in a locked box” any urge to deny your child’s feelings.
- Listen Quietly: What is your child feeling and what is the cause?
- Acknowledge: You don’t have to agree with your child’s feelings, but teach your child that it is OK to have and explore bad feelings (e.g.,. anger, sadness, frustration, etc.).
- Name: Give your child’s feelings a name.
I invite you this week to use this process with your child and to explore the following questions for yourself:
Coaching Inquiries: How do I typically respond to my child’s crying? What impact does my reaction have on my child? How would I feel if I were in my child’s shoes? What do I want my child to learn from me in this “teaching moment”? What is important to me about reacting to my child in a positive and accepting way?
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Christina Lombardo, PCC, CPCC (Christina@LifeTrekCoaching.com)
LifeTrek Coaching International
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