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"Stop crying!" doesn't work

Carlotta Cerri

Stop crying!

I often hear parents say it to their visibly distressed children at the play ground, probably also to show other parents that they’re taking action. I’ve said it myself to my own children more than I care to admit, because their crying can push all my buttons at once.

But really, DOES IT EVER WORK? Do they ever stop crying, when you tell them like that? And is that really the message you want to send your children—that crying and showing their emotions when they’re sad or upset is something they shouldn’t do?

Close your eyes for a second and imagine YOURSELF crying, feel the sadness that those tears bring with them. Now imagine your friend pointing his finger at your face and saying, “Stop crying!” (which really means, “your emotions are not important to me”). How do you feel?

Close your eyes again, feel the same sadness, imagine the same tears. Now imagine your friend sitting next to you, and saying, “Breathe, I’m here when you’re ready” (which also means, “I value your emotions, and I have time for you”). Doesn’t this make you feel better?

Now think of your children crying (for whatever reason or “non-reason”), screaming, visibly distressed and confused, because emotions are confusing: what kind of friend do you want to be for them?

Be that friend.

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