"Uuuhhhh.... she's crying AGAIN. I can't take take this constant whining and bawling day after day."
"I know, son. I know. But don't mind your mother.... she'll feel better in about 18 years or so...."
Yes.... I am a mother. And yes, I cry. I know..... I'm supposed to be the parent here... but seriously, hearing my babies cry makes me want to cry. Hearing them whine makes me want to whine. And hearing them throw a tantrum makes me want to walk away and leave them in the middle of the store with their father trying to juggle the baby and the cart full of falling groceries all the while taming the flailing limbs of a ferocious tiger - I mean three year old, as he melts into the floor. But I digress.
When I first became a mom, I thought that successful parenting meant always having smiling, happy children, and that I would be full of joy, constantly energized and motivated for my tasks. It didn't take long before I came to and found out that reality doesn't support that kind of dream. However, I've also come to learn that God has equipped me to be able to DO something with a crying child - and this is worth a million bucks to any parent...
There are innumerable different reasons why children cry and how to handle them, so I can't possibly tackle all of them here. I have, however, learned a bit from experience and received some wonderful wisdom-filled tips from seasoned BTDT mothers, and I'd like to share them with you. :)
1. FOR BABIES: Most of the time for infants, crying heralds one of three problems: hunger, tiredness or discomfort. Feed them, check for dirty diapers and try to get them to nap.
Also try a simple change of scene. If a baby is crying, the one thing least likely to work is more of what you are already doing! (Dads are famous for this. LOL.) Turn on the bathwater for a different sound, step outside on the porch, change holding positions.. whatever! I used to actually change my baby's diaper every time he started to fuss because he hated it so much. When his diaper was back on, he was happy again (mean mommy!). Hey whatever works.
NOTE*** Check all fingers, toes and private parts for possible stray hairs that may have gotten wound around little digits. This can happen easily, especially if anyone in the family has long hair.
(((For parents with colicky babies... I am so sorry. I have no idea. But I have a prayer for you, and a HUG.)))
2. FOR TODDLERS AND OLDER CHILDREN: There are basically three ways that a parent can respond to crying - comfort, discipline or distraction. But how do you know which one to use??
And how do you assess the situation? First, ask yourself if anything in the child's situation is out of balance, keeping in mind the HALT acronym. Hungry - Angry - Lonely - Tired. If any of these are out of whack, your child will be less able to cope. After you help them to fix their situation, teach them about how their bodies are connected to their emotions, and have a heart-to-heart about learning self-control especially in times of trial.
What if their crying is an act of rebellion? Here it comes.. the dreaded word... DISCIPLINE. Eek. But remember, the purpose of discipline is not just to change behaviour, but to change the heart - and lead a child back to God. There are many forms of discipline (from talking, to time outs etc.). The most appropriate is the one that is going to lead the child to repentance. They also need to be reminded that God's grace is sufficient for them (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And sometimes.... I JUST GIVE THEM A HUG. I do this a lot (my husband calls me hug-dependent). I know there have been many times in my life when I have been the rebellious child and God poured out His mercy instead of wrath, teaching me about love and how to be merciful.
I've noticed too, that my strong willed child, who needs a lot of discipline, also needs a ton of encouragement. Too much correction without praise can lead to bad habits. What I mean is this: if my boy thinks that I expect him to misbehave, he can subconsciously live up to those expectations. Of course you believe in your child.... so are you communicating that to him?
FINALLY, I praise God for the wonders that He has packed into a mother's (and father's) hug. It is better than any medicine for the child WHO WAS CREATED TO FIND COMFORT THERE. Use it wisely, and use it liberally, all the while reminding your precious little ones of the way that the Saviour showed His love to us two thousand years ago. :-)