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A crying child is not funny

A well-respected comedian, the type who makes fun of life’s everyday encounters, recently posted a link to photos of toddlers crying. Needless to say, there were captions on each photo intending to add definition and humor to the situation. To many parents, the photos were relatable thus creating humor where there truly is none in the eyes of the crying child.

What is striking about this post, however, are not simply the photos, but the comments from the readers. In this day and age of social media, everyone is a writer and psychologist, often to the amusement of those who take the time to read such comments. But this time, there may be some truth to the madness.

While each child is crying, there is presumably an adult taking the photo. Said adult is not, however, comforting the child in any way. Thus, it is fair to ask, what are we teaching children about adapting in challenging situations and about compassion and communication?

There are moments when it is nearly impossible to contain laughter when a child says or does something. And laughter doesn’t scar a child for life, but it does inhibit his ability to learn from the moment. It does set the precedent that emotional outbursts are for entertainment purposes and not worthy of validation.

Waldorf teacher and mother Sydney Steiner posted an excellent response to this phenomenon in her blog Learning Motherhood. She wisely points out that laughing about something your child has done – after the child is fast asleep, or years later when recalling memories – is acceptable, but laughing at a child while in a stressful moment is not conducive to the emotional growth of the child.

For a helpful mantra and steps to reacting appropriately to an upset child, follow’s 4 Rs:
1. React
2. Relate
3. Rephrase
4. Reward

It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach children so many things, and perhaps the most important among them is a strong emotional skills set. How an adult copes with a child’s emotional stress sets an example for how that child will communicate his or her frustrations in future situations.

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