Crybabies: why do some babies cry more than others?

Crybabies are the children who routinely respond with tears to what seems like only the slightest provocation or challenge.

Often they are viewed with disdain by other children and with embarrassment by their parents. Even the word ""crybaby"" reflects our disappointment that theyaren't as mature or resilient as we'd like them to be.

In the genes

Genetics and temperament seem to play a role in determining which children become crybabies. They are often the newborns who startle easily, havedifficulty adjusting to bright lights, or seem very sensitive to the texture of clothing and diapers.

More tears, more laughter

The positives: That sensitivity appears to have a positive side as well: later on, these children generally become more empathic. They're quick to pick up and respondto the emotions not only of other children, but also of animals. In their social interactions, they not only cry more than their peers, but laugh more aswell.

Why are they so emotional?

Rather than expressions of weakness, melodrama and tears are signs that a young child is emotionally overwhelmed. Since he cannot express the intensity ofwhat he's feeling in words, his emotions come out in tears. Generally, toddlers and preschoolers are quite forgiving of a playmate who occasionally cries.It's more of a problem for the parents, who sometimes (and wrongly) interpret their child's tears as evidence of a failure on their part.

How you can help

There are a few things you can do to help a sensitive child handle stress his stress.

  • Let your child cry it out, especially when he's already upset. Remember that bursting into tears is a sign that your child is emotionally overwhelmed. If you choose this moment to tell him not to cry, he'll become even more upset and produce even more tears. Instead, give him the comfort he needs to regroup emotionally.

  • Focus on the positives, not the negatives. If you tell your child that routine experiences like doctor or dentist visits ""won't hurt"" or ""won't be scary”, this will only raise your child's anxiety. After all, he figures, you wouldn't have brought up pain if there wouldn't be any! Instead, arrange a visit to the dentist's office to look at the equipment, go for a ride in the chair and have his teeth counted. That way, he'll be more relaxed and cooperative when he returns for his actual exam.

  • Check whether you may be reinforcing the crying unintentionally. Some children cry because they think it's the only way they can get their parents' or teachers' undivided attention. If you think this may be what's going on, be sure to pay extra attention to your child when he's behaving the way you'd like.

  • Teach your child alternatives to crying. For example, a preschooler will often focus on the emotions of a situation (""She's mean. I hate her!""). This tends to perpetuate the crying. After acknowledging his intense feelings (""I can see you're very angry at your sister""), help your child focus on the behavior that led up to the problem (""Did she push you?"").

  • Talk about what else he might have done besides bursting into tears. (Wait until he's calmed down, of course!) You'll have to supply the alternatives, especially at first. Do a little role-playing so he can practice one of these new approaches for the next time he's stressed out.

You child may easily tear up, but you'll soon realize that his increased sensitivity has its rewarding moments too, and that he will fill his days withlaughter and empathy for others.

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