When to Cry-It-Out
As my kids got older, we entered the “terrible-two’s” and I donned my research hat to find a solution to tantrums so I could reclaim my little angels from this crazy stage. I learned a lot of strategies that tamed tantrums and decreased drama–and it helped me build a closer bond with my boys at the same time! I was amazed at how well these simple tips worked.
Along the way, I realized that sometimes kids really do just need to cry-it-out. They experience so many different emotions and situations that occasionally the only way for them to work through it is to cry. And they really need you to give them the space and permission to cry when they are upset. Even when it’s driving you a bit nuts.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Or Lake Hazel Street…at the local grocery store to be precise. It was one of those dreaded trips where my youngest wanted everything in the store and was melting down like a nuclear reactor gone haywire. As we were trying to leave the store I knew we’d passed the point of no return in tantrum-ville. Xander was screaming at the top of his lungs and all the other shoppers were staring.
So I just let him cry. I got down to eye level and repeated what he was saying, that yes, he really does want that toy. And he doesn’t want to go home without it. And he’s very frustrated at me. And it’s not fair that mean ole mom isn’t going to buy it for him.
After about 5 minutes of wailing (which seemed like an eternity), he finally took a deep, shuddering breath and said, “Mommy, I’m ready to go home now.” And we walked out of the store and got in the car.
He just needed to cry.
Sure it was embarrassing to have everyone staring at me and wincing at Xanders ear-piercing shrieks. But I knew using fear based tactics to get him to “behave because I said so” weren’t an option for me. So I sucked up my pride, practiced plenty of validation and let my son work through his meltdown. And it worked.
Points to Remember
- Crying-it-out can be very beneficial for older children (toddler and up). I want be clear that I do not advocate crying it out for babies as a method to teach self-soothing and sleep. And there’s plenty of research to back my position up.
- Give your child permission and space to cry. Never scold or belittle a child for crying or being upset, even if it seems like they are overreacting or crying for “no good reason.” They do have a good reason, even if you don’t agree with it. Help them label their emotions. “You look like you’re really mad!” ”I can see that you are really frustrated.” “It doesn’t feel fair that Mommy won’t buy you that toy.”
- Ask if you can give them a hug. If your child has been crying for a while, ask if you can give him or her a hug. Even when kids are expressing their frustrations through tears, at some point most will need that physical comforting to help them calm down. If your child says, “NO!” on the hug, respect that and ask again later.
While it may seem like an eternity when a dramatic meltdown is going on, remember that allowing your child to work through whatever is going on is much quicker and less traumatic for you and your kids. In the next post I’m going to share some strategies to keep your sanity while you let your older children cry it out.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s the most embarrassing place your kids decided to throw a monster sized tantrum? What finally calmed them down?