We were wading through the evening traffic on the way to mom’s house. I looked out the window and it was easy to see why.
The road was filled with a procession of people going to the Church.
“Why are they going there mommy?” Jamaine asked.
“They’re going to the Church to pray,” I said. “But if you want, you can pray anywhere you like. Jesus is everywhere.”
“Even inside the bathroom?” she asked.
And I laughed. So hard, my stomach almost hurt.
It was an impulsive laugh. I don’t really know why I instinctively found a question about bathrooms funny.
I just thought it was.
But my big girl obviously didn’t.
Because she started to cry. So loud, my eardrums almost hurt.
I asked “Why are you crying, baby?” But she wouldn’t answer and just cried even louder.
I felt a little annoyed. How come she didn’t find it funny? Isn’t it supposed to be funny?
My wise husband spoke for my big girl, “Because you laughed at her.”
“I wasn’t laughing at you, I was laughing because of what you said.” And I truly was, only it didn’t sound like that to my big girl.
I should have known she was sensitive that way.
“Okay, the answer is, yes. Jesus is everywhere even in the bathroom. And you can pray while you’re taking a bath.”
The crying went down a notch but she still kept crying.
I hated feeling like the bad mom especially when it was not my intention to do so.
I could feel the word vomit rising up to my mouth, threatening to yell and just command my daughter to stop crying.
But I closed my eyes, I swallowed it back and pushed it far down where I cannot reach it.
“I’m sorry.” I said.
And I hugged her in silence until the crying stopped.
I was always a silent kid. I was the type who would write pages and pages of journals to get things off my chest.
I often held back expressing emotions especially if it involved tears. Crying meant more spanking and scolding. Ours was the generation that was not allowed to cry.
Now I understood why.
When your child is crying, it makes you feel helpless and frustrated.
When the crying persists despite our soothing attempts, our helplessness and frustration can easily turn to desperation and we’ll say anything or yell just to make it stop.
Big girls don’t cry, right?
For a person like me who is used to holding back emotions or expressing them silently, I needed to relearn how to be emo for my daughter.
Before the word vomit came out of my mouth, I reminded myself to respect her feelings and put myself in her shoes.
Even if it seemed to me like she had no reason to cry, my big girl has her own reasons for crying.
For me, that reason may be trivial. But for her, the bad feelings were valid enough to warrant some tears.
How to make your kid stop crying
I was enjoying a quiet journaling afternoon when I was startled by a cry from the children’s room.
Jamaine had woken up from her nap in tears. I sat down on the bed and stroked her hair gently.
“What happened baby?” I asked. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“Do you want to go back to sleep?”
“Do you want to go outside and play?”
I tried stroking her back, but she shook my hand away.
The windows of the children’s room were wide open, Jamaine was crying so loud, I’m sure the neighbors would hear.
Would they think I’m doing something bad to my kid? Would they think my child is misbehaving?
“Baby, you need to tell Mommy why you’re crying so I can understand you and we’ll know what to do.”
Tears kept soaking her pillow. Her cries got even louder. Much louder.
“Baby, stop crying and speak up.”
My voice was getting sterner, my pitch a notch higher.
I could feel it again. The frustration and desperation gripping at my chest, making it hard for me to breathe.
She’s a big girl now. Big girls don’t cry. Why won’t she stop crying? Stop!
I stood up from the bed intent on walking out, her crying grew louder like a fire truck’s siren stuck in my ear.
I slumped on the floor next to her bed.
I just sat there and waited until she stopped.
Silence begets silence.
After the last tear had dropped, I asked again ever so gently, “What is it, baby?”
“Mommy, I had a bad dream,” she said. “And I want to go out and play.”
“Okay, we can do that,” I said. “Mommy felt upset because I couldn’t understand what you were crying about. It’s okay to cry when you’re feeling bad, then maybe next time it happens, can you tell me why? So we’ll know what to do.”
“Okay Mommy,” she said.
And I hugged her ever so tightly.
Love and silence saved the day.
When your child is crying
As I found out, bombarding a crying child with questions, no matter how gentle, doesn’t always help to make them stop.
Sometimes, they just need to cry it out until they’ve gotten the bad feelings out of their system.
On our part, it takes a great deal of self – control and patience to see the situation from this perspective and to control our own feelings about it.
I’ll be honest, it can be hard not to feel frustrated and desperate to make the crying stop. But most of the time, just being present and silent is enough to comfort a crying child.
On the other hand, since my daughter is old enough to speak her mind, I also wanted to teach her how to express her emotions better. That’s why I asked her to tell me about it, in case she feels bad about something again.
My girls’ tantrums are very few and far between but in case it happens again, I now know what to do:
- Approach my daughter and take deep breaths.
- Sit close to her.
- Stay silent and wait for the crying to stop.
- After she stops, talk about why she cried and what we can do about it.
- End with a hug. Always end with a hug.
What do you do when your child is crying? Share your thoughts below.
I’ll be sharing more tips about communicating positively with young children at the “Yes Mommy” workshop on December 15. We’ll also discuss how to manage self – talk so you can be more patient with your children, especially during difficult situations. When this is helpful for you, do join us and I’d love to meet you there. Click here to sign up →