Sometimes you just gotta let kids cry… My teenage son walked down the stairs with a frown on his face. College classes have gotten the best of him. My pep talk with him yesterday apparently wasn’t as good as I thought it was. My future as a motivational speaker went down in flames. When I brought my first child home from the hospital, cries were immediately met with a soothing rub and my full attention until the whimpers quieted. From baby tears to teenage sulking, I want to make my child happy. I’ve exhausted myself trying to make this happen. I’ve finally realized I can’t make any of my kids happy.
Here’s the clue you may be doing something wrong—when you’re exhausting yourself doing it.
Years ago, when my mom watched me try to stop tears from my four children, she gave me my first golden bit of wisdom,
“Let them cry. I promise they will be OK.”
When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus had died, Jesus didn’t come that very day but waited two more days before heading back to them in Judea. When he arrived he discovered the funeral had already taken place, Lazarus had been dead four days now, and there were two very heartbroken sisters in deep mourning who had been crying for days. Not only were Mary and Martha in tears, but it’s in this passage of Scripture where we find the shortest sentence in the Bible—Jesus wept. Two words packed with incredible meaning. Even our Savior shed tears. Even He felt sad.
Here are a few things I’ve learned to do over the years about why it’s okay to let kids cry.
1. Let them hurt
Is there anything more contrary to mothering than allowing a child to cry or hurt? Still, it’s much needed for their development. Come alongside and give them a hug. Sympathize and validate their hurt, “Yes, I know you’re sad.” Or, “It’s OK to be sad. Sometimes mommy is sad, too.” And if a child is older, maybe you can empathize, “I understand how hard this is for you.” Or, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’ve been there, too.” Follow up with a personal story of your own about a past hurt or grievance.
2. Let them heal
Give them a little time. Don’t let their hurt sabotage your life or manipulate joy in your home. Scripture reminds us there’s “a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Give them needed space, but look for signs of healing: interest in friends, playing again, laughter, an appetite and conversation.
3. Let them lean
When a child is young they lean on mom and dad for everything. As they grow older we need to let go so they can lean on God. I can’t expect my adult child to have BIG FAITH if they have little experience in leaning on a BIG GOD. If I answer their every whim and whimper, I become God in their eyes. Do you want to grow their faith? Let them lean on the only ONE who can meet and exceed their expectations (Psalm 62:5).
As a mom, I’m not a magic fairy called to spread joyful pixie-dust over my child’s every moment. I have to remind myself, my daughters and sons must feel pain while in my keep.