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Why is it wrong to say to children “don't cry!”

11/04/2019

Why is it wrong to say to children “don't cry!”

Mothers and Fathers listen up! How many times have you said to your child “Don't cry!”?! At least a million times!

Would you ever have thought that something so direct and simple, would actually be pointless or even the wrong thing to say in your child’s most emotionally unstable moments?

Let us tell you why.

Let's start with a parallelism between children and emotional persons. The latter know that there are so many emotions that come into contact with our innermost feelings. Some emotions are even sometimes hard to explain. We feel prey to feelings that we cannot classify as a single emotion, and this makes us feel lost. We feel confused, not lucid or rational. Small children feel like this very often. They feel what is happening in their body and soul, but they don’t know how to describe or explain these feelings, so they go by trial and error, putting into practice what they see, hear or what comes naturally to them, in other words, they cry!

This is when parents immediately say those classic few words: “Don't cry!”, which we often say because seeing our child cry makes us feel guilty, inadequate ... But if we stop a moment to think, we realise that with those tears your child is not judging you but expressing his feelings. Saying “don’t cry” indeed conveys to your child that crying is a negative emotion, that it’s not something he should do, without explaining why!

Another thing we often say is “Come on, don't cry, there's no reason for it!” But in this way, we parents are undermining our child’s pain. Who can say when there is or there is no reason to cry? “When Mommy goes away, I feel lonely, lost. I'm scared she may never come back. I'm scared she doesn't want to be with me, while I just want to be with her all the time.” This could be the voice of a silent child who watches his mother leaving the nursery school. Would we still say that there is no reason to cry?

 

And how many times have you used a little “moral blackmailing”: “If you stop crying, I'll give you ...” This is again something we should never say. It undermines your child's feelings, discourages him from expressing himself and makes him believe that a gift, a treat he enjoys can “buy” a false sense of serenity. More often than not, children actually end up pleasing their mother by trying to hold back their tears. 

Saying “If you cry I won’t bring you a surprise” when you go away is another example of what not to say. Your child will feel misunderstood, confused and insecure: if you want to give me a reward or a punishment to convince me to stay here, it means that this must be a bad place! 

So, remember that teaching children to deny or repress their emotions will make them close up, and not express their emotions.

We often react in this way because strong emotions such as anger, fear, sadness an adult feels that these are negative emotions, which make us suffer and must therefore be avoided. As a matter of fact, there is a reason for any emotion.

So, let your children be themselves, let them express their emotions, whatever they are.