Responding with sensitivity to our children’s needs is a main principle of attachment parenting. How we respond with sensitivity at each stage can look slightly different, but the intent remains the same, to support and honor our children as they learn and grow. As our children grow our roles as parents change. At different stages of growth and learning, different behaviors or expressions of emotion become appropriate.
One of the biggest things I have learned from attachment parenting is being in touch with our emotions and allowing for appropriate displays of emotion. When young children are developing a sense of their world and independence they can experience new emotions, and not all of them will be pleasant. Crying is one of those emotions that any parent can become unsure of how to handle, even though crying is a natural and appropriate display of emotion.
Different reasons for crying
Toddlers can cry for many reasons, but it can usually be broken into two categories – physical or emotional. Hearing your child cry can be hard on any parent, regardless of the reason for the tears. As infants, crying generally indicates that a baby needs immediate attention; with toddlers, the cries can become an opportunity for growth and learning.
What should we do when our children cry?
As our children grow, we grow as parents as well, and our responses to our child’s needs also grow and change. As a child develops into a toddler, our response to crying needs to match their developmental stage. Toddlers are learning to express themselves and to explore emotion. We can support our children during these displays of emotion and should approach it as a learning experience.
Crying is a valid response to both pain and other emotional triggers. It is important to embrace crying as a natural and normal response in your child, as well as yourself. Crying is not a sign of weakness nor should it be viewed that way. This is not to suggest that you should not comfort a crying child, it is just a suggestion to be mindful of the way you react to their tears or the tears of others. Children read our non-verbal communication and internalize our reactions as markers for appropriate behavior.
Resources for further reading
- Tantrums and Strong Emotions from NPN’s Resource Page
- Allowing Crying without Practicing Crying-it-Out by Suchada of MamaEve.com for Natural Parents Network
- All About Crying and Toddlers by Dr. Miriam Stoppard for Doctissimo
- The Aware Parent: Becoming Comfortable with Crying by Lauren of Hobo Mama