Why I don't mind making my kids cry

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

My seven-year-old daughter did something that was out of line the other day. I can't remember what it was but she's seven, so it happens with reasonable regularity.

It's not that she's a bad kid – on the contrary, she's a delightful, well-mannered child with wonderful intentions. It's just that she's seven, and she's still learning how to be a functioning member of society. I see it as my job to teach her.

She is also incredibly sensitive, especially when it comes to getting in trouble. She hates it, and even the mildest correction can send her into a flurry of tears.

That's exactly what happened when I told her she was doing something wrong recently, but this time it happened in front of some friends.

These weren't close friends we see all the time, but those peripheral friends who you hang out with once every six months and then immediately remember why you don't get together more often. 

I told my daughter off, she burst into tears, and I let her cry. 

"I could never do that," my friend commented after my daughter had been carrying on for a minute or two. "It just breaks my heart to hear a child cry."

Which sounds lovely, but I could also hear the judgement dripping from her comment.

The implied suggestion was that I was comfortable making my child cry – and perhaps, if we extrapolate it out further – I am devoid of all emotion and possibly a parent robot covered in human meat as a cunning disguise.

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The truth is, I find it incredibly painful to hear my children cry (it hurts both my heart and my ears), but I see it as my job to raise decent humans, and that means putting up with some discomfort.

I'm trying to raise children who not only know right from wrong, but who can also feel uncomfortable feelings and know that they will survive them and move on. I want them to know it's okay to be disappointed, sad or upset – and that they will come out the other side. Hopefully having also learnt a valuable lesson about putting their shoes away or not eating cake in their bed.

When my seven-year-old cries when she's in trouble, I'll often say to her, "It's okay that you're upset, and crying can be great at processing those feelings, but I also need for you to understand why what you did isn't okay. Let's talk about that when you're ready."

Once she's had a chance to feel those feelings and she's ready to have a talk about the series of events, we can do that in a calm and reasonable way. 

As much as I'd love to enjoy a peaceful household every day of the week, I understand that my decision to have three children probably means that won't happen for at least another decade. Maybe two. 

Children are loud and challenging and, sometimes, a bit silly. But they're still learning and it's our job to teach them. 

I want to raise children who see the big picture and aren't distracted by instant gratification or band-aid solutions, and the only way I can do that is by living it myself – both in the way I conduct my own life and in the way I parent. 

If I wanted silence, I would have bought a goldfish.