I come from a community of women who, if you aren’t hungry, hot or wet, we will leave you to ‘cry it out.’ I mean, why are you crying in the first place?
Until I became a mother myself, this logic made absolute sense. There has to be a reason why kids cry. They are either hungry, sick, or require a nappy change. I never saw children as human beings with feelings.
I then became a mother, and the sound of my daughter crying saw me frantically asking Google: “Why is my newborn crying?”
Dr Google confirmed that the baby is either hungry, sick, or requires a nappy change. But it added that she could have eaten a lot, could be colicky or in serious pain.
For a 1-month-old human that can’t speak, how will I know?
And when I tried all I could to calm her down, and she was still crying, I would allow her to have her cry. It can get quite emotional, considering that I was still emotional myself after the birth. Point is, exhaust your options first before leaving a newborn to cry it out. The checklist goes beyond three physiological needs.
I am now raising a toddler that seems to be crying quite a lot as well. And like babies, they could be hungry, sick, or need the potty. But with older kids, they could also be angry, frustrated, scared, or embarrassed.
Toddlers are navigating a world of emotions, and might not have the words to express it yet. For example, “I am frustrated because I want to play, but you keep saying we will play later.” The emotion is there, and rather than expressing it verbally, they communicate it through what they already know (crying).
A few weeks back she was having a lot of potty accidents, and I could not understand why as she was fully potty trained. She would cry before going to the potty, refuse to go, and howl as she pees. I was confused (and frustrated) for some time until I learned that she had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
No parent would suspect that an almost-three-year-old can contract a UTI, but she did, and her cry told me so.
So, I fully understand and acknowledge how irritating those cries are, regardless of age. But can you imagine the child’s frustration when they are left alone to deal with disappointment and cry it out?
Feelings of disappointment are usually the ones that lead to temper tantrums, disappointed that you refused a certain game or purchase. Every day children are navigating this big world, and some things they figure out but some they cannot.
And when they can’t, they usually have an emotional outburst.
That is not ‘nothing’. So instead of leaving them to cry it out, let us help them identify what it is they are feeling and how to express it.
My daughter has learned what anger is, and I am often told that “I am angry”. I prefer that to a tantrum.
Karabo Mokoena is a wife, a girl mom, a writer and content creator. She is the resident contributor for Parenty and a Mommy Blogger, creating relatable parenting content for her blog Black Mom Chronicles. You can engage with her on her Instagram and YouTube pages. She is a political science graduate, who has worked in human resources for most of her professional career. She loves engaging with people, thus her choice to specialise in recruitment. She loves telling stories and sharing her life’s journey to brighten someone else’s day.