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In my education, my parents never asked me such a thing. My wife, on the other hand, understands you can ask a child to stop crying (she had a tougher childhood I guess).

So I have mixed feelings when she asks our 4 yr daughter to stop crying for any reason. Is that a reasonable request?

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What about her childhood seems tougher to you? That she had many more opportunities to cry, or that she was asked to stop? Do you feel it's bad to ask a child to stop crying? Many parents feel it's a form of helping, like suggesting to someone who has fallen down that they get up and carry on with what they were doing before. –  Chrys Apr 9 at 14:46
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Hi Chrys, I think she had a tougher childhood for both reasons :-) plus her father was in jail for years as a political dissident, some details of this period her father still does not want to tell her until today, so yes, it was tough... I think there's a subtle detail here that one thing is to ask a child to stop crying, another thing is to given an order to a child to stop crying otherwise she will be grounded. –  Leo Apr 9 at 19:17
    
It also depends on what you mean by "ask them to stop" - if you mean "Stop that F-ing noise you F-ing piece of S- wallop" then that's a bit different from "OK, I can see that you're upset, let's see if we can come up with a way to work this out... but I can't understand what you're saying at the moment, if you stop crying we'll be able to talk about it..." - and all the points on the spectrum in between. –  Vicky Apr 10 at 14:09
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It seems to me that the answer has a lot to do with the reason for the crying. Injured? Tired? Emotionally upset by something that is legitimately distressing? Something trivial that she needs to learn to talk about or accept without a meltdown? Or has she learned that she will be showered with attention and sympathy for as long as she cries? I would never tell a kid who just skinned her knee to stop crying, but I certainly would say that to a kid who's throwing a tantrum because they saw a toy that you aren't willing to buy. –  lgritz Apr 15 at 22:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

We mostly only ask one of our children to stop crying, and that's because he will literally keep going for hours if we don't. Most children get it out of their systems in a couple minutes and move on, at least for crying about something that happened in the past and is done, not an ongoing condition like being tired or sick.

At a certain point, crying ceases to be cathartic and the child is just continuing crying because they don't know what else to do. Preschool age is when you start teaching them what to do instead so they can deal with their feelings instead of just helplessly expressing them. It has nothing to do with "being tough." It's about learning to use words to express your feelings like a thinking human being.

If you have any doubts about whether it was appropriate to ask a child to stop crying, look at her reaction to the request. 95% of the time, most kids will stop immediately and perk right up. The other times, you can let her keep going and console her.

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Crying generally involves a lot of noise. So in situations where the noise is not acceptable due to time, place, etc, it's certainly reasonable to tell the child that they need to stop crying, or you might have to take them to a place where it would be acceptable for them to cry.

Of course one should recognize that there are injuries and hurts that are overwhelming for a child, and while you could ask them to stop they may simply be unable to. In this case I recommend understanding and taking care of their needs rather than worrying about the crying itself.

Note that children learn cause and effect in regards to crying. If crying always works to get your attention, but other things don't, then crying will become the method they choose to use to get your attention. As such, if crying bothers you, become attentive to their other attempts to communicate distress or need for attention, and try to tend to them before they turn to crying.

In my family there's a big difference between a cry of sincere distress or pain, and a cry for attention or unhappiness. For the latter, how we respond depends a lot on the situation, but we teach them that crying isn't an acceptable way to get attention unless they are hurt, and while crying itself is fine and an acceptable emotion, we suggest they seek ways to resolve the problem, rather than simply crying about it. If they are using crying as a method to get their way, we indicate they will need to do it elsewhere. For us, crying isn't allowed to be used to manipulate others into getting your way.

Asking them to share their feelings and then to think of ways to resolve the problem often resolves simple crying, and give them the tools to deal with it themselves as they grow.

In other words, yes - there are times when crying is an inappropriate response (or less effective response) to a situation, and being told to stop crying is reasonable.

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While I appreciate the feedback via downvote, feedback in the form of a comment would be more helpful to me and others reading this answer. Thanks! –  Adam Davis Apr 9 at 17:39
    
I didn't get the downvote either. thanks for your answer –  Leo Apr 9 at 19:12

You ask the child to say in words how they feel and what's wrong. You let them know that it is fine to feel like that and that their emotions are valid. Then you talk about how to overcome the problem, and maybe how to avoid it in future. Then you give them a hug (hopefully when the crying has stopped) and help them start what ever they're doing next.

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My first steps when my (very emotional) three year old is crying - try to get to their level/make eye contact, and ask her to take a deep breath. It doesn't immediately stop the crying, but it does seem to help her calm down enough that I can try and ask what is wrong.

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