Listening to Tears Before School


One morning while clipping my daughter’s nails I made the comment, “Oh, I think I clipped that one too short.” It wasn’t a big deal at first since it didn’t hurt. (If I hadn’t of said anything my daughter wouldn’t have noticed.) But after a minute or two it became the perfect pretext for her tears before school.

She began crying and insisting she couldn’t go to school. I gently told her I was sorry I cut it too short and that I thought it would grow back quickly. She cried more saying she wouldn’t be able to hold anything and therefore couldn’t have any fun at school.

At one point as I listened I felt myself tighten. I could hear an internal dialogue start that I shouldn’t be giving her attention over this. I
n that moment I wanted to say, “Get over it. You’re crying over nothing.”

Luckily I didn’t. I took a deep breath and realized at her age I didn’t usually get loving-attention when I was upset over little things. I was told to stop crying over spilled milk. I refocused on the present moment and my obviously upset child. I reassured myself that it didn’t matter if the tears were about the nail or not. What mattered was supporting her through this release of upset feelings.

I told her I really believed her finger would be okay and she could go to school, and then I simply held her as she cried more.

As her tears came to a natural end, she easily brushed her teeth, put on her socks (our usual morning issue!) and as she got in the car she happily told me her finger was feeling fine. A little listening was all she needed to get on with her day.

Michelle uses a Hand in Hand tool called Staylistening to support and give empathy to her child's cries. Find out why Staylistening is so powerful.

Hand in Hand's five listening tools helps parents connect deeply with their children. Read about how they work in this free guide 5 Revolutionary Ideas That Make Parenting Less Stressful

~ Michelle Pate, Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant. You can connect with her on Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Listening to Tears Before School

  1. Jo Jo, Thanks for bringing up this point. The core issue could definitely be about not wanting to go to school. My general experience of my daughter though is if she doesn’t want to go to school she’ll tell me. Even so, she may have been in a place where she couldn’t verbalize not wanting to go to school that day or having feelings about some other issue. Luckily, we don’t have to know the reason why our child is upset to support them as they release their feelings upset.

    This particular moment was interesting to me because we were getting ready for school with no issues about it and then this “nail” issue came up. I thought it was a good example of how children can appear fine until some “little thing” happens allowing their tears to flow out. The same is true for us as adults. We may keep it together, often carrying a huge load of responsibility and stress, and then we spill our coffee or stub our toe and we have a huge release of emotion over this seemingly little thing.

    My experience has been to have my feelings discounted over small things and I’ve noticed this creep up in my parenting. I can offer lots of warmth and understanding about the things I think she “should” be upset over. But then tighten up when she’s upset over something I think shouldn’t be an issue.

    I am so grateful to have learned about Parenting by Connection so I can understand that sometimes these “little things” are just what we need to finally face the difficult feelings inside of us. Hand in Hand has given me the tools to not only listen to my daughter, but to get listening support for myself so I can continue to grow and be the parent (and human being) I want to be. I love having this awareness so I can work on this issue and support my daughter through the little stuff, and the big, and notice how resilient she is once given the space to fully feel and express what she needs to.

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