The (long) title of this post describes all that this post is about. The absence of the questions in your parenting life — “Why are you crying?” or “What makes you upset?”; and the importance of asking these questions to your babies and toodlers, and how it changes the relationship dynamics between you and your kids.
Baby’s love crying or at-least it seems so, doesn’t it? After all, crying is the most common thing they do!
Do they do it because they like it, of course not! They do it because they are bothered by something. (I know you know this part).
However; Did do you know; babies and toddlers answer questions?
They do — They respond in verbal and non verbal sounds!
But unfortunately, very rarely do I see parents asking kids about the reason for them being upset.
We just seem to assume the reason (which mostly is the right reason); but not talking about it is a missed opportunity!
“Why are you crying?”, “Do you need something?”, “What makes you upset?” – These are some very simple questions that even little babies engage with.
Think about it how often have you asked your toddler or baby the reason they are crying? The first thing that we do is say — “sshhh…ssshhh…sshhh” ; and then out comes our beloved tool “The Binki” or “Pacci” to close their mouth so they can’t cry.
But the one thing that sucker does (no pun intended) is — it stops your child from talking to you!
Yes, that crying is your toddlers or baby’s way of trying to convey his or her thoughts to you, in a non-verbal way!
I am not against pacifier when your child needs it and when it soothes them, but using it with the intent of making them quite so they stop crying is not appropriate for their normal growth!
How to Ask These Questions so Kids Respond
There are a lot of benefits of asking your child a simple question when they are upset, and I’ll come to that shortly, but first let me tell you — what do I mean when I say ask them questions when they are upset.
It’s important to share how because it’s weird to even think of asking questions when a child is crying. But these are very simple questions and they are very soothing to kids. I promise!
So anytime your child cries — just ask them the reason why are the crying in a simple straight question, if it’s a child less than 3 or 4 yr old, give them a couple of possible reasons for them crying or the exact reason, why they are crying.
Then wait for them to respond, babies respond by stopping their crying for a split second and looking at you, and toddlers often say yes; and then make a small conversation about it; like you would make to a friend, if they fell over.
Say a baby fell down and is crying, instead of starting with shh..shh..sshh. Pick them up and say; “ Oh, you fell over, does that make you upset, are you hurt?”
This makes the whole incidence normal, instead of forcing them to be quiet.
It’s very logical for someone to be upset when they fall, and when someone falls we ask them if they are okay, we don’t tell them “you’re okay” and ask them to stop crying!
It’s really not nice to do that to a child, it takes out the individuality of the child.
Benefits of Asking Kids The Reason for them Crying
Now for the Big Benefits of talking to your child when they are upset.
The first thing of course is —it gives them their due respect.
Let’s think of it this way — When someone calls out “Hey” or says “I want to talk”; do you talk to them or do you say sshhh or worse go ahead and cover their mouth?
You talk to them, right? out of respect for that person, babies and toddlers deserve the same respect!
We, adults, need to stop assuming we know our babies way too much.
Yes, you may know the exact reason they are crying for, maybe they are throwing a tantrum (probably tired or hungry) or maybe they are feeling claustrophobic and nervous on a tight seat of their first flight.
You know the reason!
But still asking them what are you upset about and then giving them a couple of options to choose from is the courtesy they deserve.
It’s not artificial either, it’s very genuine!
Yes, the feeling of connection is the second thing they get, and it’s something they crave so much, in an unlimited amount!
When we talk to them about the bad experience they just had; they feel heard, they know that you know!
And this is the exact reason they cry; to tell you “I fell”.
They must make sure you know, you’re the most important person in their lives.
It’s big for them!
#momtip: Plus, developing a connection with them from early on at times when they are upset, is going to build a great bond between you and your child, especially for difficult times.
We assume that our kids are always going to come to us in their difficult times, but the fact is, if we don’t cultivate this bond from the beginning; when they’ll need our help as adults, they’ll have no idea where to begin (and you know this is true, so many adults struggle to share their problems with their parents).
But if you both had a little past experience of connecting with each other at difficult times, seeking help will be easier for them, and they will always remember to keep you in the loop, even as teenagers!
I was saving the big one for the end! (this is so big I could write an article on only this).
When children are babies they understand your words by intuitions and feeling, but they always understand the intentions behind your words.
Now when we speak to them verbally about them feeling upset and wait for them to respond, they can now make a link that feeling with a word, which is so big and new for them!
So, the next time or after a few times of you acknowledging their feelings, they now know a word for that, it’s easier for them to use that word, and they use it instead of straight up crying. They do!
Imagine the great world where your toddler could verbalize their feelings and tell you the reason what they are upset, wouldn’t that reduce the tantrums big time, or at-least make it easier for us to go through those tantrums with them.
We experienced this with our younger one, I always acknowledged her feelings, after verbalizing feelings with my son, it had become a second nature to us!
And guess what? By the age of 16-18 months she has started to tell us when she needs water or when she needed food, and even after her shots at the doctor’s office, she woke in the middle of the night, touched her thighs and said “it’s hurting”. I massaged her thighs acknowledged that it’s hurting and she when back to sleep.
Imagine the opposite scenario, where she would have woken up in the middle of the night and would have started crying and I would have a hint that it’s probably her thigh but it could also be that she’s developing a fever and a buch of other possibilites would have crossed my mind and would have made me sleepless.
Just a FYI, she can’t say colors or alphabets yet, but she knows her body’s needs because we’ve been talking to her about them since she was a baby!
I’ll share another example which makes me sure that acknowledging her feelings is the only way she learned them — Sometimes during playdates she gets pushed over or hurt by other kids, she gets upset and points her finger towards the child but has no words for it.
Because I’ve never acknowledged this to her before; her older brother does not hit or push her (thankfully) and I am too socially afraid to acknowledge those feelings to her, because there are other parents and I don’t want to make them feel bad and all that. ( I know, I should, but it’s difficult )
YOU SEE – Talking to your child about the reason they are upset, helps them make a connection with you and also helps them link words to feelings! And when you don’t talk about it; they don’t know what to say or do and just cry!
I know it’s tough to hear their screeching cries in public and that’s where most of us try to shush them because you fear of bothering others.
But trust me acknowledging their feelings is going to make them stop crying much sooner, almost as soon as a binki!
The reason is – They revolt the shushing and the pacifier but they love and crave your words!
Always, always acknowledge their feeling, especially when they are crying; ask them why are they crying, give them some reasons to say yes or show yes (as babies) and don’t shh..sshh.. them or give them a binki when they want to talk to you!
Does this post makes sense? I would be able to answer any questions you might have about “asking questions to kids”.