"Quit crying…"


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When parents tell their kids to “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” I always want to offer suggestions…

“Old Yeller!”
“The Iron Giant”
“Forrest Gump when he asks if ‘he’s like me‘”

And sometimes I just want to say that parents aggressively threatening crying children as a way coerce them into not crying rates pretty high on my list of things to cry about.

There’s nothing kind or loving about it.

[This expression and the emotional invalidation that goes along with it (and expressions like it) has been shown to have adverse affects on people’s emotional development into adulthood.]

Read the comments on Facebook

From the comments: (compiled & condensed)

“But kids use crying as a way to manipulate adults.”

First, I hesitate talking about parenting, because I am not a parent. If you think that invalidates what I have to say — fair enough — read no further.

But as a victim of child abuse and a pretty volatile upbringing, I remember what it was like to be that child.

While it’s true that children use crying as a way to manipulate adults, children’s behavior is reinforced by adults as the behavior develops.

But that actually has little to do with what prompted my post. My point, that I didn’t so clearly make, is that there is likely an equally effective or more effective way to elicit the type of behavior you want from a child that doesn’t involve speaking to them in a tone most parents wouldn’t use with a family pet with words that seem more appropriate in a prison setting.

Quit crying or I’m going to make you cry. I’m going to hurt you.

That is the essence of this threat.

I’m not suggesting it’s an instant fix. But I am suggesting the fix has more to do with parenting than it does with being a kid.

Yes, children act out and throw fits. And whatever a child wants at any particular moment is often the most important thing in the world — so when they don’t get it, they explode (but exploding is also another learned behavior).

I see so many public scenes and outbursts that develop over minutes because a parent isn’t really listening or paying attention to their child. They’re just going through the motions. They aren’t connecting with their kid or anticipating issues. And the issues they don’t anticipate are often the same issues they haven’t learned how to deal with effectively (for all parties).

So as many parents tune out their children, they miss important clues into a child’s mental state. And suddenly there is an outburst. And crying. And so it’s the reflexive, “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

It is not the attempt at trying to resolve the issue that concerns me — which I hope is obvious. It’s the aggressiveness and threatening nature of the phrase “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” that I have an issue with.

Because there are better, less aggressive, less threatening ways.

This expression and the emotional invalidation that goes along with it (and expressions like it) has been shown to have adverse affects on people’s emotional development into adulthood.

I’m sure one time won’t do it. But then, parents who think it’s effective will continue to use it as a parenting tool without bothering to look for other solutions. So it’s rarely a one-time event.

Setting your children up to fear you is asking for issues. Feeling loved and having trust in your caregivers is important. And many children remember things well into adulthood and beyond.

Sometimes parents forget that.

Some parents don’t realize what a huge loss that is if their child no longer feels comfortable coming to them when they have issues. Some don’t even realize they are not someone their children comes to for support because their children never have. Because they learned it was safest not to.

“Quit your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

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