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I have a 7-year-old boy. I don't know if of any relevance, but he has mild dyspraxia. He seems to cry at the least little things, e.g.

  • His younger sister teasing.
  • Slightest little scratch when playing
  • Dies in a computer game.
  • Bedtime

How can I toughen him a bit?

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    Hi, and welcome to Parenting. Can you provide a bit more information (by editing the question, please) - in particular, how do you currently approach situations where he cries like this? Your use of the word 'toughen' is also somewhat nonspecific: are you primarily interested in reducing the instances of crying, or helping him be more able to deal with disappointment, or helping deal with social situations? – Joe Jun 8 '15 at 14:52
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    You realize that being highly emotional is possibly a symptom of his dyspraxia right? You really need to discuss coping mechanisms with his physician. He may not have the tools to handle his emotions right now (that's where you and his Dr. come in). If you haven't been there yet, you should check out: dyspraxiausa.org/symptoms/early-symptoms may give you some help. – scrappedcola Jun 8 '15 at 15:52
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My 8 year-old is like that, although not quite as severe. We are still working on it. I don't think anything can be done to suppress the initial inclination to cry, but he can control it somewhat based on social expectations. For example, he will usually stop almost immediately if asked. That sounds simple, but it doesn't occur to a lot of parents to ask.

Part of the problem in our case is inconsistency between the parents. My son rarely cries for me, because he knows it annoys me. However, my wife, knowing my son's tendency to cry easily, often assumes he is not really feeling bad about behavior she is correcting unless he is crying, so he cries very readily for her. My advice is to examine each parent's and caregiver's responses to see if you're encouraging it somehow.

The other thing to keep in mind is kids often cry because they don't know an alternative. You need to teach what to do, not just what not to do. I try to say something like:

I can't understand what you're saying if you cry. After you stop crying, then you can tell me what's wrong. Does crying help you get what you want? Does it make your sister stop teasing you? What do you think you could do instead?

This approach is gradually giving him fewer and fewer situations where he doesn't know what else to do but cry. Primarily it's when he gets in trouble now. Mostly, I'm just counting on him growing out of it as he gains emotional maturity. Seven or eight is still pretty young. I don't think there's cause for concern until after puberty.

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    Some people tear up easily. Let me watch a sad movie or sad, or overly romantic book, and tears start going. Doesn't matter if I'm in public - no stopping it. Crying for attention is different than crying because your emotions are overflowing. I think it would be nice if we did not expect people (especially men and boys!) to hide their emotions so much. What you describe in your son seems to be more about attention, since he can control it. – Ida Jun 9 '15 at 18:59
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In my case, I have 2 daughters and one is very sensitive. I've found that any attempt to toughen her up only made her more sensitive. I now use a different approach altogether and found it far more effective by a long shot.

Basically, I would try something like this:

  1. when he cries, label the reason for why he is crying. This might be something like "I saw that you scratched your arm and that hurt you"; "It feels sad when you die in a game like that"; etc. You can remain factual in your delivery, doesn't have to be overly soothing.

  2. make him feel that you are on his side by saying something like: "I wish you didn't get hurt"; "I wish that you won that game"; "I wish it wasn't bedtime"

  3. state the reality and path forward: "but you did get hurt and when you are ready, it's time to try again"; "but you died and when you are ready play the game again"; "but it is bedtime"

Note, it is absolutely important to use a non-judgmental tone of voice or words. Additionally, it works best when I'm not overly nurturing either although I will provide comforting as appropriate.

Hope this helps. This has worked very well for my daughter and she requires much of less of this as time goes on and has become much better at self soothing and simply moves on herself.

  • This is a great method, since it helps the child process the emotions rather than just bury or mask them. – Acire Jun 24 '15 at 17:55
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OK, you could TRY to get your child to learn to play slaps. Just don't go too fast or too hard. Toughened my friends two young boys right up. Crying and laughing through the pain. :) Good times.

Games that are impossible and have no win condition but only a score and are sufficiently fast paced might help. Missile Command and Robotron-2048 come to mind.

Pillow fights, tickle fights, playing with empty cardboard tubes as swords.

Sensitive is OK. Fragile isn't.

Don't overdo it, and try and understand your child. Kindness is the most important thing with kids.

Nerf guns. Paper triangle napkin football.

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    I can't tell if this guy is joking or if this is actually reasonable advice. – dwjohnston Jun 16 '15 at 5:25
  • Its intended as actual advice. Pillow fights and whacking each other with empty cardboard tubes is another fun activity. – ggb667 Jun 22 '15 at 16:18
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I was a very sensitive child myself. I used to cry for little things when I was about the same age as your son. My sister who was 6 years older than me used to get very annoyed when I cried for smaller things and she used to annoy me even more hoping to make me tougher. But that neither worked for me nor her. I also used to cry when I felt that my younger sister was getting more attention than me.

I think the reason for me being sensitive was because I had difficulty in expressing myself. I was also a very shy child. Is your son very shy or has difficulty in expressing himself? Then it might be the reason for him being sensitive.

When my parents saw that I was about to get burst into tears they used to help me calm down. They felt that whenever I had difficulty in expressing myself I cried.

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