The last time I witnessed this incidence was at a wedding ceremony. I saw a mother march out angrily with a boy of about six years who was weeping. When she was at a good distance away from the church auditorium, she started beating the boy with all her strength. As expected, the boy screamed uncontrollably. I then walked up to her and inquired why she was doing that.
“Since he wants to cry, let me beat him up so that he can cry very well,” was her reply.
I told her that the beating was very unnecessary and that the worst she could have done was to ignore him if she felt that his crying was unjustified. It was obvious she resorted to beating her son because she was at her wit’s end on how else to stop the crying that was about to drive her crazy. I am sure she was not alone in this challenge. That is why it is imperative that we deliberate on the right approach to cope with it.
It will be fine if parents can apply a good blend of love and firmness without exposing the child’s psyche to such unwarranted aggression. The crying pattern that would elicit this kind of reaction from a parent usually situate on the following familiar setting:
- The child has a feeling, discomfort or need he intends to communicate. Babies rely greatly on crying as a means of communication. In a healthy parenting relationship that is responsive to the needs of the child, crying as a means of communication should substantially reduce when the child achieves proficiency in verbal communication.
- Ideally, parents should genuinely consider the child’s request on each occasion and ensure that it is attended to as much as possible on its merit within the limitations of time and other factors.
- Where necessary, the parent should make a response to the child, on why a request cannot be attended to immediately. This response should be provided without anger and despair. Available alternatives may be persuasively discussed with the child if he is in real need.
- Parents should firmly make it clear early in parenting relationships that crying will never be allowed to stampede them into taking sub-optimal decisions and actions. It is in fact a weakness on any parent’s part to be coaxed into wrong decisions and actions just because the child will cry. Principled firmness is required to instill discipline in children. Children whose parents are quick to make compromises and yield to pressure from such crying tend to employ the strategy to bring their own childish will to bear on most issues.
- Children should be trained as soon as they start talking to appreciate that issues can always be clearly and effectively communicated between them and parents. Crying as a coaxing strategy by children should be tactically discouraged by parents over a period of time.
- Sometimes, if after efforts have been made to explain a situation to a child and he still feels like crying, parents should just leave the child to sort out his emotions. Children whose parents do not respond to unnecessary crying will perceive the futility of the strategy early and advise themselves properly. Really, a child may cry briefly if he genuinely misses a particular thing he desires, but will get himself back within a short while.
It is an indication of an unhealthy parenting relationship if a child has to cry each time he needs to be attended to. Such incidences will be reduced in a healthy parenting relationship because parents and their children would be enjoying the unique opportunities of communicating with each other with a lot of confidence and love. With the right approach, incessant crying in a child would be reduced gradually. In any case, attempting to stop it abruptly through beating is grossly ineffective.
- Uchenna N. Nduka