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5 Steps to Help a Child That Cries Over Everything

The best way to help a child who cries over everything is to validate their feelings. You don’t have to agree with them to validate. Validation helps your child develop emotional regulation and stress tolerance. Let’s explore why your child cries so much and what you can do to help them build resilience.

boy cries

How to deal with a child that cries over everything

Validate their feelings

Recognizing and validating their feelings are pivotal in nurturing a sense of self-worth and emotional understanding.

You reassure them that their emotions are valid, heard, and understood, promoting self-regulation development.​6​

Validating is not giving in or agreeing with them.

It’s OK to show empathy and understanding without agreeing with their perspective.

This balanced approach helps them feel valued and supported, fostering a trusting and open relationship.

Here are examples of how you can validate your child’s feelings when they cry over seemingly minor issues.

  1. “I see that you’re upset about your toy breaking. It’s okay to feel sad about it.”
  2. “You must be frustrated that your ice cream fell. I’d feel the same way.”
  3. “It sounds like you’re really disappointed we can’t go to the park today. Rainy days can be a bummer.”
  4. “I can tell you’re feeling hurt that your friend didn’t invite you. It’s okay to feel that way.”
  5. “You seem really upset about losing that game. It’s tough when things don’t go our way.”
  6. “I get why you’re sad about missing the show you wanted to watch. Let’s see if we can find another time to watch it together.”
  7. “It sounds like you’re feeling left out because your siblings are playing without you. Let’s talk about it.”
  8. “I can see you’re really attached to that old shirt, even if it’s too small now. It’s hard to let go of things we love.”
  9. “You seem really frustrated that your drawing didn’t turn out the way you wanted. It’s okay to feel that way; art can be challenging.”
  10. “I understand why you’re upset about not getting the front seat. Everyone wants a turn.”
  11. “It sounds like you’re really disappointed that the cookie jar is empty. I’d feel the same way.”
  12. “I can tell you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the noise. Sometimes, we all need a quiet moment.”
  13. “You seem really sad about leaving the playground early. It’s tough when we have to end fun times.”
  14. “I get why you’re frustrated about not finding your favorite book. Let’s look for it together.”
  15. “It sounds like you’re upset because the puzzle piece is missing. It’s okay to feel that way; completing something feels good.”
  16. “I can see you’re disappointed that the bubbles ran out. They are a lot of fun, aren’t they?”
  17. “You seem really hurt that the dog chewed up your toy. I understand why you’d be upset.”
  18. “I get that you’re feeling down because your tower fell over. Building can be tricky sometimes.”
  19. “It sounds like you’re really upset about spilling your juice. Accidents happen, and it’s okay to feel sad about them.”
  20. “I can tell you’re feeling frustrated that your shoelaces keep coming undone. Let’s practice tying them together.”

Each response acknowledges the child’s difficult emotions, offering understanding and empathy, even if the triggering event might seem minor to adults.

Don’t undo the validation

Once you’ve validated your child’s feelings, avoid undoing that validation. 

A common pitfall parents encounter is following up their validation with a “but.”

For instance, don’t say, “I understand you’re upset, but you shouldn’t feel this way. Instead, you should feel …”

It’s as if you’re acknowledging their feelings only to dismiss them in the next breath.

That can be confusing and hurtful.

Aim for consistent validation, allowing your child to process their intense emotions without feeling judged or misunderstood.

Address basic needs

Make sure your child gets enough hours of sleep. 

Children are generally in a better mood and less likely to have those big emotional moments when well-rested.​7​

And don’t forget about food and breaks.

Feeding them, allowing them to take breaks, or creating quiet time throughout the day can prevent meltdowns. 

Model healthy emotional expression and regulation

Research has found that children tend to handle their emotions better when their parents are open about their own feelings and positively talk about them.

When parents set a good example by discussing and managing their emotions healthily, their children are more likely to do the same as they pick up from watching and listening to their parents.​8​

Your child isn’t broken

Your emotional child isn’t at fault for having traits like lower stress tolerance or heightened sensitivity. 

Many of these characteristics are genetic and beyond their control. 

Your child isn’t flawed, and you have no issue to “correct” or “fix.”

Instead, focus on helping them build resilience and emotional skills to navigate life’s challenges. 

This growth is a natural part of child development.

Your child is perfectly fine, just like other children.

If you suspect your child has depression or other broader issues, seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Why does my kid cry so much?

“Oh, not again!” 

Every parent has been there: that overwhelming blend of frustration, worry, and fatigue when it feels like your child tears up over the tiniest things. 

Whether it’s a lost toy or a tad too crispy dinner, their world seems to crumble. 

Sound familiar? Trust me, you’re in good company.

There are seven reasons why your child seems to cry over every little thing.

Low stress tolerance

Stress tolerance refers to a child’s ability to handle stress or discomfort without becoming overwhelmed.

A child with low stress tolerance is more likely to be upset or overwhelmed by challenges, changes, or unexpected events, which leads to more crying or tantrums.​1​

High sensitivity

Emotional sensitivity refers to an intensified sensation or response to environmental triggers. 

A highly sensitive child might be more attuned to their surroundings and prone to experiencing more negative feelings.​2​

The same event might have a greater impact on such a child or evoke a greater intensity of emotions than it would on a peer.

Lack of emotional regulation skills

Emotional regulation is the ability to manage and control one’s emotional responses to situations. 

It involves recognizing emotions, understanding their origins, choosing appropriate ways to express them, and modifying them to restore an emotional balance.

Children who haven’t yet developed strong emotional regulation skills might struggle to handle their feelings. 

Physical discomfort or pain

Children might cry if they’re experiencing physical discomfort, such as hunger, insufficient sleep, a wet diaper, teething pain, allergies, or other ailments. 

They might not always have the words to express their discomfort, so crying becomes their way of signaling for help.

Overstimulation

Children might sometimes become overwhelmed by too much sensory input, such as loud noises, bright lights, or even the hustle and bustle of a busy environment.

This overstimulation can lead to crying as a way to express their discomfort.

In addition, highly sensitive children are also more likely to become overstimulated.

Language delay

Some children cannot communicate their needs due to language delay.​3​

The frustration of being unable to express themselves or be understood can result in tears.

Also See: At what age do babies start talking

Depression

Frequent crying can be a symptom of a more severe underlying issue, such as depression.

What not to do

Avoid scolding or punishing tantrums

Various emotions can trigger crying or tantrums, but the most common is a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness.​4​

Scolding, punishing, or otherwise preventing the child from expressing their sadness signals that they have the “wrong” emotions. 

When parents forbid negative emotions, children feel not only powerless in the situation but also wrong to have that feeling. This is not going to help them develop healthy emotion regulation.

Therefore, do not scold, punish, or tell them, “Don’t cry.”

Avoid dismissing

When you brush aside or disapprove of the child’s feelings or downplay the significance of what triggered their tears, it sends a message that their emotions are either unimportant or, again, wrong.

Children with dismissive parents tend to have worse emotion regulation and more behavioral issues.​5​

You and your child value things differently due to the distinct stages of life you’re both in, with varying needs and perspectives. 

It’s unproductive to project your criteria of what’s worth shedding tears over onto your child.

Dismissing their feelings won’t help them learn or grow.

Tears aren’t the problem

Many parents mistakenly believe that crying is the primary problem to address.

It’s easy to think that everything will be okay if they can stop the tears. 

But crying isn’t the main problem. It’s just a sign of deeper feelings caused by something else. 

Rather than just trying to quiet the crying, try to understand and address what’s bothering your child. 

Doing so lets you get to the heart of the matter and support them.

Don’t get upset yourself

It can be difficult for parents to see their child upset. 

It’s natural to feel a surge of emotions in yourself.

In emotionally difficult times, you must remain calm and manage your feelings so your child feels safe and supported and have a positive role model to learn from.

For more help on calming tantrums, check out this step-by-step guide

Calm the Tantrums ebook

References

  1. 1.
    Welle PD, Graf HM. Effective Lifestyle Habits and Coping Strategies for Stress Tolerance Among College Students. American Journal of Health Education. Published online March 2011:96-105. doi:10.1080/19325037.2011.10599177
  2. 2.
    Carpenter RW, Trull TJ. Components of Emotion Dysregulation in Borderline Personality Disorder: A Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Published online December 13, 2012. doi:10.1007/s11920-012-0335-2
  3. 3.
    Girard LC, Pingault JB, Doyle O, Falissard B, Tremblay RE. Developmental Associations Between Conduct Problems and Expressive Language in Early Childhood: A Population-Based Study. J Abnorm Child Psychol. Published online October 26, 2015:1033-1043. doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0094-8
  4. 4.
    Vingerhoets AJJM, Bylsma LM. The Riddle of Human Emotional Crying: A Challenge for Emotion Researchers. Emotion Review. Published online June 21, 2016:207-217. doi:10.1177/1754073915586226
  5. 5.
    Lunkenheimer ES, Shields AM, Cortina KS. Parental Emotion Coaching and Dismissing in Family Interaction. Social Development. Published online May 2007:232-248. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00382.x
  6. 6.
    Ellis BH, Alisic E, Reiss A, Dishion T, Fisher PA. Emotion Regulation Among Preschoolers on a Continuum of Risk: The Role of Maternal Emotion Coaching. J Child Fam Stud. Published online April 30, 2013:965-974. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9752-z
  7. 7.
    Watling J, Pawlik B, Scott K, Booth S, Short MA. Sleep Loss and Affective Functioning: More Than Just Mood. Behavioral Sleep Medicine. Published online May 9, 2016:394-409. doi:10.1080/15402002.2016.1141770
  8. 8.
    Are F, Shaffer A. Family Emotion Expressiveness Mediates the Relations Between Maternal Emotion Regulation and Child Emotion Regulation. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. Published online November 16, 2015:708-715. doi:10.1007/s10578-015-0605-4

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