As parents, we never want our children to cry. We don’t want them to be sad or upset. It’s heartbreaking. Furthermore, it’s never easy to be around a crying child. It can be angering, frustrating, and overwhelming. In other words, our children’s emotions can trigger us and can make us uncomfortable. Therefore, our goal tends to be to make the child stop crying. Stop the emotion. We often get advice like “ignore it,” “don’t pay attention,” “don’t give in to the tears.” We may also get angry, yell, an resort to time outs and other forms of separation. These responses are rooted in behaviourism. A lot of parenting past and present is based on behaviourism. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Behaviourism is a psychological theory that argues that behaviour is learned, and if it can be learned, it can be unlearned. Behaviourists often believe that children use certain behaviours like crying to get what they want. In other words, they manipulate us. As a result, we end up “training” our children to behave a certain way or not. For example, we may sleep train our babies and resort to cry it out methods because we mistakenly believe that we are spoiling them or that they are manipulating us or that they need to self-soothe.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
However, I argue that behaviour is communication. Behaviour is the result of immaturity. It is the result of a lack of self-regulation, independence, problem solving skills, and communication techniques that we cannot expect to find in young children.
When children cry, for example, they are in fight or flight mode. Their tears are a reaction to a perceived threat. In these moments we need to connect with our children, empathize with them, and soothe them without punishing them or bribing them. Just let it be. Let them rest in your connection.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is important to remember that human beings take approximately 24-26 years to fully develop. It takes this long before our children are fully in control in terms of development. Training our children, placing high expectations on them, rewarding and punishing their behaviour is NOT fostering growth. It is impeding it. We foster growth, again, through connection and attachment.
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