Seems like it might be a common question, so if it is I apologize, but here we go.

I am trying to come up with a way to stop my two toddler boys (2 and 3 years old) from "fake" crying.

I understand that they are crying, even when it's fake because they need or want something, but at the same time I need to teach them to express themselves in a more meaningful way.

To be clear I'm not talking about crying from real "boo boos" or when they are scared, or even when they are cranky or over-stimulated. Those are different issues, each with different resolutions, like tired is taking a nap, and adjusting sleep schedules.

What I am talking about is the absolute needless crying for attention or because they "go there first". For example, if I give kid1 a choo choo, kid 2 will scream like I cut his legs off. Of course at this point we need him to calm down, we can't give him his choo choo, less it come off as rewarding his screaming. So we try, "use your words", or "just a second", but that generally doesn't work either, so now we sit there with kid1 playing choo choos, and kid2 screaming and crying for a good 2 mins.

Then there are the times that they (they both do it) scream, cry, and fuss, then when you finally get them to express why, it's "cup" or "drink" and they were sitting literally 2 - 3 feet from their full cup.

Again we try, "use your words", "what do you need", and "how can I help". But they just keep on crying. Recently we have resorted to "I'm not answering crying, use your words" and just staying close and "working" on something else (effectively ignoring them as they cry) and responding quickly when they do use their words, or even hand gestures.

While we try to make sure the crying isn't for a "real" reason, like needing a hug, it can be very hard to tell. Is there a better way to deal with, and stop they "fake" crying? I know some times we need to be "mean" and just let them learn that crying doesn't work, but I don't want to ignore a real need, just because I can't understand the need.

  • Well I am in the same boat; and sometimes the fake crying is a little too much; my DH suggests to the little one to calm down a little and communicate the same. Smile and talk. Sometimes we have to go a step further and tell him we just cannot understand him; he has to talk to us
    – bhavs
    Oct 3, 2017 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


I've dealt with this a few times in my practice and you're sort of on the right track to stop this behavior.

As you probably have already figured out, this is a way to manipulate you. Crying makes parents drop what they're doing and rush to the child. Children learn that this works from a very early age and it's hard to let go.

You've been handling this correctly by not indulging them but you should also not ignore them. Ignoring them till they stop crying might have unexpected behavior shifts that will turn out worse than fake crying.

My suggestion would be to abandon the concept of fake crying. These are true feelings that should be acknowledged. Since your toddlers cannot express themselves better (yet), you should help them. Try to interpret their crying, don't simply ask him what's wrong.

Using your example of the toy. When your toddler starts crying, then approach him ask him questions about it. Oh boy, you really like that toy too huh? Do you like the train that your brother has? Would you like to have a train like that? You know your kids best so you can formulate your own questions .

I think your toddlers are in the right hands and you're doing great. Soon your toddlers will be able to express themselves better, keep working on it!


Sometimes the only solution is to ignore it. If crying stops getting results, it will soon stop.

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