Crying is an emotional expression that many shy away from attending to. Few people, mums included, fancy a crying baby. What is there to like anyway, you ask? Whereas crying is a call for help or a communication signal for babies, many do not think of it this way. It is mostly responded to with shrugs, negative comments or angry shouts like: ‘What do you want now?’ I come from a society where crying is shunned and kids are trained not to cry. I learnt the negative consequences of this habit through my son. Here are the lessons I picked from my experience.
He stopped being in tune with his feelings
Since I was so busy shutting him up and telling him how ‘bad’ it was to cry, my little one was learning how to compartmentalize early. This led to him hiding his sad or angry feelings from me and only being around me when he was.My alarm call sounded when I once spotted tears in his eyes and he faked a smile to hide the fact that he was crying. What kind of emotional teacher was I becoming? I then asked myself, realizing how my words were harming my young one. I had to change tact. I quickly stopped shouting in response to his crying and resorted to embracing him. Over time, I started seeing positive changes.
He stopped trusting
When your child stops cuddling with you, you know there is a problem. I soon figured that my son was avoiding me. Constantly disregarding his tears, sometimes even telling him to’ man up’, I was emotionally harming my son. This red flag made me rethink my ways and I ended up retraining my son to be more open with his emotions, whether joyful or sad. I encouraged him to cry infront of me and we started looking for solutions together. Somedays did not even need solutions. I would just allow him to sob as I hugged the tantrum tears away.
The anger bursts
When a child (and even adults) cannot express emotions openly, self-harm when angry may be the next outlet. I recently learnt this fact and it explained the anger bursts I had started noting with concern in my son. This is the reason why people are taught conflict resolution methods which should be applied even to children. Every time I disregarded my son’s tears, he would lock himself up and hit his head onto the wall as a form of expression. At less than five years, my son had already adapted to self-harm as a way of communicating his sadness and feelings of anger. One night, after seeing my son’s bleeding forehead, I hugged him close and that began my journey of loving him through the tears.
Every mum can attest that sleep training is a real test of patience in their motherhood journey. Coping with the shifting baby sleep patterns and just how much we long for the nights they get to sleep through. My boy was having challenges with sleeping and would constantly wake up (you guessed it) crying, which I would ignore. What I failed to realize was that he needed a comforter; someone to hug him and possibly sleep by his side, singing a lullaby, as he drifted off again. His lack of sleep contributed to the lack of mine which motivated me to change.
I started off a new routine which entailed giving him a warm bath in the evening with lots of playtime followed by dinner. We then prayed and went to bed where I would enact the finger family story with some old toothbrushes as we had limited books for bedtime stories. Creating this routine ensured that I was there to watch him sleep and spread the positive energy wellinto his dreams.
We all make mistakes and go through feelings of regret. The beauty of parenting is that it comes with a lot of learning curves for the willing. I was willing to unlearn something that had been ingrained in me through my culture for the sake of improving my boy’s emotional health. I would certainly not want him struggling emotionally and hence lack empathy for others because he failed to experience it growing.
So mama, be encouraged in the unlearning process of your mistakes. Forgive yourself and watch how your behavior improves. Observe how it impacts your young ones. Needless to say, after my unending therapy sessions with baby, we laugh a lot more now. Indeed, teaching my son to cry made us all happier and betteremotionally balanced.