Tips on Dealing With a Crying Toddler
My child cries easily, often, and usually for unimportant reasons. The result around our house has been a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" story. When he's crying about a valid injury, nobody listens. Why does he cry so much, and how do I get him to stop?
Think about it: When your son was a baby, his cries brought love and attention. He's just never learned how to replace the crying with more mature ways of calling for help. He'll need your help to learn how to change his behavior.
Don't demand that he stop:
Don'tsay, "Stop crying," since that never works, and only makes you angry when your child cries harder! Instead, tell your child what you do want, "I need to hear your words. Tell me what's wrong. Use your big boy voice." Sometimes it helps to get him started, "Georgie, talk to me. Say, 'Mommy, I want...'"
Help him understand his feelings: Acknowledge the reason your child is crying to validate his feelings. "You're so frustrated because you want a cookie" or "I know you really wanted to go with Daddy." Often crying is a call for understanding. Acknowledgment can offer what your child needs to hear, and may help him stop crying and move past his sad or angry emotions.
Don't respond: If the crying is manipulative (for example, you said no more ice cream and your child is crying), simply ignore it and leave the room.
Is there a reason? Determine if the crying is related to insufficient sleep, or poor eating habits. If so, move bedtime earlier or have a daily nap or rest time for re-charging. Also, watch your child's eating habits and make sure he's getting three meals plus healthy snacks, and not going more than three hours without food.
Quality time: Increase the amount of one-on-one time your child gets from the important adults in his life. Sometimes crying is a plea for attention. Just remember to give the attention prior to the start of the crying, not as a reward for crying.
Don't be so tough: Recognize that your child is a sensitive person by nature. Use lighter discipline. Often, with this type of child, a firm tone is often enough to get your point across. Also, try to use alternate discipline methods such as distraction or the use of humor to keep him on track. Avoid being too harsh, as this behavior will just prolong the incidents of crying.
Happy face/Sad face: Using index cards (or small pieces of paper) make ten cards that show happy faces, colored bright yellow on the front side. Draw sad faces, colored blue, on the backside. Poke holes in the cards and put a small loop of yarn through the hole. Hang the cards on a piece of cardboard or a key holder smiling face up. (Or tape them to the refrigerator.) Show them to your child in the morning. Explain that each time your child cries you will turn a happy face over into a sad face. Say that if there are more happy faces than sad at the end of the day when you are putting pajamas on, then you will read an extra book (or some other pleasant treat you child can look forward to). Often, the faces alone are enough to motivate a child. (Expect a strong reaction the first time you turn a happy face over! Since this is so visual, children are often angry when you turn the face to a sad one.)