Often crying is seen at face value, a child cries when put in his car seat, or when picked up. This is interpreted as “he doesn’t like the car seat”, or “he doesn’t like to be cuddled”. However, other parenting options suggest that crying in these types of situations can be a way of healing from past pain. This beholds the parent to work out when the child is crying to say that his needs are not being met in the present moment and when the child is crying to release his hurt feelings related to past incidents.
This is the key to Aware Parenting – distinguishing feelings related to present needs – such as hunger, closeness, support, choice, play, respect etc. – and those related to the past. How on earth can this be done?
Distinguishing between the two is to some extent an experimental method. Day by day, a parent can discover what their child is expressing by watching their responses.
For example, when my daughter was between 12 and 18 months old, she would protest and cry whenever I tried to put shoes or socks on her. For months I would try to do it and then stop when she cried. So for that period she didn’t wear shoes or socks at all. Eventually I began to think that perhaps her protests and crying were to do with feelings that were being triggered by me putting her shoes on. I imagined it might be to do with the trauma of the heel prick test at 3 days old when the nurse pricked her heel several times, as well as other feelings related to being independent and making choices.
When you have tried meeting your child’s need in many different ways and the crying still occurs, that might be an indication that some healing is ready to happen.
Telling the difference is not always straightforward, but knowing that crying and protesting may be about what it seems to be about, or may not, gives us parents another option to help our children. I still love learning to tell the difference!
By Marion Badenoch Rose