Found an old post in COM Attachment Parenting Community about disctraction techniques teach children to repress their emotions. What do you think?

Jenny - posted on 09/19/2011 ( 31 moms have responded )

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Here's the excerpt



"i am familiar with "aware parenting".......

so your not confused.....i can explain that aware parenting allows children the time they need to express their full range of emotions without repressing them. so if a child is upset, angry, scared (or whatever) and needs to cry as a way of releasing those emotions.....you as the parent support them through their crying with holding and reassurance.......as opposed to "turning off" your childs tears through distractions, toys, food, bottles, dummies and so on.

its common practice in western culture to "distract" a crying child......to talk them out of their tears.......for example, a toddler falls over and hurts himself and starts crying really hard and runs to Mummy and the mother picks him up and says......"oh look there's a plane flying up there (pointing to the sky)...." ......hoping to get the toddler to stop crying, or shoving a dummy in their mouth. (thus teaching the little boy/girl to repress their emotion, rather than express them). i have even seen a mother try to switch off her childs emotions by offering her daughter chocolate to "make her feel better". (if this is a pattern in a childs life, aware parenting believes they will need sweets to sooth their emotions as an adult).

an "aware parent" holds the child and allows the child the time they need to release their "hurt" as such......maybe saying something like....."oh, that really hurt didn't it....

you'll feel better soon"......and continues to hold the child until they are ready to move on. (a pretty simple example, but i'm sure you get the picture). this parenting style loves and supports them through their tears....showing the child they are totally accepted even when expressing negative emotions

aware parenting NEVER advocates to leave a baby/child to cry ALONE......

it is very sensitive to emotional needs and is based on the idea that "tears are healing" and once you have cried about a certain emotional hurt, you are then able to move on.

aware parenting also believes that children will with time learn to regulate their emotions and express them in healthy ways.....rather than turning to other things like food, entertainment, drugs, alcohol etc to "sooth" their emotions. "







What is your take on this? I personally can identify with this as my instinct is to just continually hold and reassure my child when they are hurt until they are feeling better and let go of their own will. But when this happens around my large (and opinionated lol) family they will always interrupt this moment by trying to distract him. Which also works. So I'm torn between the two techniques and would like to know what you all think about "Holding them while they cry it out" Vs "Distracting them to take their mind off it."

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Anna - posted on 09/20/2011

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I think you need to consider why the child is crying. For the most part my kids cry because they are hurt, either physically or emotionally or legitimately disappointed. I think that's completely different from an 'I want my own way' kind of crying. I guess I react to the first with comfort and soothing and to the latter with distraction. It's a question I've never thought about before though. I probably mostly just do what seems right at the time.

Merry - posted on 09/20/2011

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True! I guess the difference in my mind is letting them know their feelings matter and that you validate their emotions and then after that help them move on. Not just ignore their feelings or try to force them into hiding their emotions.
Besides, giving them a drink of water every time their sad like Rachel in glee seems to confuse the child into not knowing when she is even sad! She just feels thirsty because that's always what her dads gave her when she was sad.
Lol, funny reference!
But yeah if every time eric is sad he wants a hug and a kiss from me that's healthy IMO, but if every time he's sad he expects a chocolate or a new toy or a fun game to ensue, that could be problematic.

Merry - posted on 09/20/2011

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Well I know one mom who takes this to the extreme, any time her kids cry or even the smallest whine she starts saying control it, control it, hold it in, don't let it ut. And then she quickly goes into distracting techniques, what's your name? Ish ur name gabby grumpy pants? Gabby cries alot? Then she starts tickling or someone to get her to laugh.
Now it's just like her kids aren't EVER allowed to haveANY emotions! Even when they get excited and happy she starts telling them calm down be quiet control yourself.
So even if they're hurt there isn't more then a moment of comfort before she quickly gets I to distraction.
Same technique for her 1yr old, 3 yr old, and 5 yr old.
And I think she looks heartless when she does that.
What I do is a combo of both types.first when he's hurt or mad or sad or scared or excited I let him feel his feelings, I'll tell him what he's feeling like you're scared aren't you? Or hug him and kiss him or nursehim. But then if he continues beyond the time I can tell is true emotion I will start using distraction stuff like if he's hurt I'll kiss it better and blow a raspberry on his leg or hand etc. Or maybe I'll accidentally do something funny, etc.
I want him to learn that every emotion is valid but no one wants to watch him over do any emotion. Feel it, own it, then move on.

Jenni - posted on 09/20/2011

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I agree with you Jenny, and this post. And my MIL *always* tries to distract my crying children and also tries to appease them everytime they cry.
She doesn't mean any harm, it's just instinct for her and I think she has a very low tolerance for crying, whinning etc. When my SIL was visiting she got on her about it. ;)

She's been a bit better about it since. But it's not the end of the world to me... grandparents are suppose to spoil, aren't they? lol I don't find it really affects my children's behaviour overall, they're pretty resistant.

But yes, I've always just held my children when they want to have a good cry. Unless of course it is indeed to have a physical need meet.

I have a theory that distrating a child with food or drink (for example) leads to children/adults who turn to food or drink as a comfort/coping mechanism.

It's ok to just have a good cry and let it all out in a love one's arms.

The only time I really use distraction is for babies and young toddlers when they are doing something they really shouldn't be but are too young for other disciplinary measures.

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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@ Jenni

Thanks for you long posts, I always love to hear what you have to say and agree about the process you described :)



“I don't think we should make a big fuss about 'minor' things when comforting or baby talk them: "Oh you poor thing!!! Oh lemme see!" *kiss kiss* or mirror their extreme emotions to a less than traumatic event.”



I’ll be honest; my instinct is to do this! I rarely do however because I know people look at me like I’m a weirdo. So I try and do this really quickly and then just hold them a bit and try to move on. If the distraction does not work I have no problem with holding them for a couple more minutes instead of trying my absolute darnest to distract them.





When I’m home I like to scoop my kids up into my loving arms and say “oh poor Daniel, that hurt you, you hit your fingers on the wall and that hurt!” And give him a big loud kiss.



I’ve taken note of when I do this, these last couple days and my son will always respond better to this rather than if I try to down play what happened or distract him or pretend in anyway that it did not happen and that he should not worry about it. Usually all it takes is for me to show that motherly over concern and he’ll smile back and wiggle out of my arms to go off to play. But he is a very sensitive kid, so maybe that’s why it works for him.



I do also agree that sometimes depending on the type of pain, it is better to distract them so that they don’t think about it hurting, but usually by the time they come to me it doesn’t physically hurt so bad.



@ Laura

“And then she quickly goes into distracting techniques, what's your name? Ish ur name gabby grumpy pants? Gabby cries alot? Then she starts tickling or someone to get her to laugh.”



This is exactly the type of way my MIL tries to distract my grumpy son. She teases him to no end and makes me feel awkward. I know she is just playing and having fun (and she’s had 11 kids of her own with twins thrown in so I guess it’s a very natural instinct for her). But, but, but…..I noticed the last time she did this that I kept going along with it because I didn’t want her to feel bad, I didn’t want her to feel like I disagree with her teasing when my son is upset. Then I thought about it and shouldn’t I be sticking up with for my son instead of trying to please her?



I don’t know what to do with her, she’s a real tough character and always knows better! MIL’s….*big sigh*

31 Comments

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Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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I guess each kid is different and mum always knows best what works for her own kid.

Stifler's - posted on 09/20/2011

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Because when my kid falls over we're like "you're right mate, mummy kiss it better and you go off and play" and he doesn't cry and continues playing happily. If Damian's mum or someone is like ' ohhh poor baby you got hurt" etc. he starts crying to get more attention.

September - posted on 09/20/2011

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I use both techniques; it really just depends on the situation. If our son is hurt of course I hold, comfort and reassure him until he's ready to move on. Now if he's doing something he should not be doing then yes I distract him with something that is ok to do. It really varies and I don’t see one technique being better than the other.

Merry - posted on 09/20/2011

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Yeah Eric seems to carry on crying until I make a point to coddle him a bit and then he's satisfied and moves on.

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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@ Emma regarding "Half the time they cry louder because people are like ": ohhh poor baby".

What makes you say this? Not rhetorical or nasty, just curious about your experiences that lead you to feel this way.

I used to think that is what happens when I observed it in others. But when I've tried it on my own kids I find that it stops them crying much sooner than a distraction would. Have you tried doing this?

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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I don't see why people have such a big problem with mothers smothering their young kids. I have a SIL that does this and know first hand how annoying this can be. But it was only annoying while I disagreed.
Now the way I see it is that you can never spoil a baby, and you can never over love your kid enough while they are 1-3. As they grow older you should wean this smothering off as they need to become socially more responsible and functional.
But if I'm staying home with my kids while they are young I should have every right to smother them with love without getting frowned upon. It only becomes and issue if the smothering continues past 3 or 4 years old.

Stifler's - posted on 09/20/2011

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I am the "you'll be right" parent. If they're seriously hurt they'll cry no matter what you say. Half the time they cry louder because people are like ": ohhh poor baby" .

Rosie - posted on 09/20/2011

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i guess i always give a hug and kiss, and acknowledge that something is wrong...but then i try to distract with something else. maybe i assume to much that other people wouldn't just ignore their kids feelings, lol.

Rosie - posted on 09/20/2011

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isn't you comforting them kinda the same thing as distracting them? i mean you're distracting them with your comfort.
IDK, i think it's to overthought.

Merry - posted on 09/20/2011

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Yeah when I'm in pain I count till it's over. Didn't work in labor though, the only thing that got me through that pain was rocking on my knees, squeezing matts and my aunts hands and staring into matts eyes as I breathed very deeply and slowly. Still flipped out here and there wanting to rip off my belly :)
Good memories *sarcasm* :P

Lady Heather - posted on 09/20/2011

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yeah, it's totally useful for pain management. I even use it on myself. If I get a paper cut or something I sing a song until I can't feel it anymore. Haha. So I do the same thing with Freja.

Elfrieda - posted on 09/20/2011

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I've never thought about that before, and I'll keep it in mind.

But I think I'll keep distracting my toddler, especially when he wants to play with something he shouldn't be touching. When he hurts himself a little bit, a kiss will make it all better, but when he REALLY hurts himself, falling on his head on the concrete or something, where he is bucking and breathless with the pain, there I try to distract him once the first shock has passed by rocking and patting him and dragging the cat out from under the sofa for him to pet. I think distraction is actually helpful for pain management. You know it always hurts more when you think about it.

[deleted account]

i don't think distracting them is repressing their feelings. If they have strong feelings, it wont' work and they'll cry period. I think offering the distractions is loving too.

Sometimes (not always and not in every case) I really find attachment parenting to be a little smothering.

Jenni - posted on 09/20/2011

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Sorry, blech... responding again... But I just read what Juleah posted, and I'm going to have to go with Karla on this one... It's very rare I disagree with *anything* Juleah says. ;) but.....



I believe it's an age appropriate situation... when they're babies and young toddlers it's ok to provide comfort alone... and you mentioned the 'next step' unknown to parents to teach them to regulate their emotions... there is a next step...



As they age you can teach them age appropriate ways of venting in addition to turning to a loved one for comfort. I mean, as an adult everytime I'm upset, I'm not *always* going to have a loved one to comfort me there. So I need additional tools to regulate and vent my emotions.



So I would think that teaching children different ways to cope and regulate would be important with age.



Regulate by teaching them, it's not the end of the world if they scrape their knee... this comes with experience... the more they fall down and scrape their knee they less tramatic it becomes. Maybe by providing comfort until they are calmed down a bit and then saying: "Ok then, time to put one of your Dora bandaids on!" Showing them the silver lining. Or once they've calmed down a bit, "Let's walk it off." Keeping in mind they our looking to us, their parents, on how to respond or react to events.



I don't think we should make a big fuss about 'minor' things when comforting or baby talk them: "Oh you poor thing!!! Oh lemme see!" *kiss kiss* or mirror their extreme emotions to a less than tramatic event.

While comforting it would go more like this: "Ouch. That looked like it hurt. Did it?" calmly but with concern.



As they age providing them with appropriate venting mechanisms depending on the particular location and situation. By modelling for them appropriate coping mechanisms.



If it's a common issue of not getting their way. An appropriate coping mechanism could be just turning it around and looking at it in a positive way:

"Wow, what a neat toy... maybe you'll get one for your birthday?"



So yes, in addition to providing comfort... you could also be teaching them different coping mechanisms, teaching them to look at the silver lining (or the bright side), teaching them it's not the end of the world (by modelling that it isn't by remaining calm yourself), looking for other solutions and moving forward.



Let's say I have an 8 year old who experienced cruelty from a fellow student at school. She'd come home upset crying... first thing. Provide comfort and concern. Ask her what happened. If she wants to discuss it, discuss it. If she doesn't... you can suggest that maybe she write out her feelings and the situation on paper. Ask her if she wants to discuss what she wrote later and help her discover her own solutions to resolve the issue.



I do agree independence and emotional maturity must be taught in addition but it can be a gradual, age appropriate process.

Jenni - posted on 09/20/2011

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It is interesting though, think of all the different ways us adults cope with strong emotions; disappointment, fear, pain, sadness, anger, frustration...



We may talk to a loved one, want to be cuddled and held, want to be on our own and work it out, yell, eat, drink, swear, squeeze a pillow, exercise,turn to drugs, internalize it, write a vent on COM ;) etc.



Some of these can be negative outlets and some can be positive outlets.



I think it's vital to teach children positive outlets to vent these emotions so they don't turn to negative outlets as teens/adults.



Depending on how distraction (and the individual child, of course) is used it can be detrimental and cause children to repress these emotions and not provide them with the appropriate tools to vent them.

Karla - posted on 09/20/2011

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From Jenni "The only time I really use distraction is for babies and young toddlers when they are doing something they really shouldn't be but are too young for other disciplinary measures."

That's exactly what I would do, they really aren't cognitive enough to understand other method at that age.

Jenni - posted on 09/20/2011

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Oh and you're right, it does depend on the child. My daughter and SD love cuddles and hugs when they're upset. But if I try to hug my son (unless it's from an ouchie) he resists. With him, he needs to calm himself down on his own first and then comes to me for comfort and reassurance.

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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When I think about it, my two kids are very different in this regard. My DD will easily be distracted by almost anything when she cries, were as my DS will get even more upset if you try to distract him, and you need to go to great lengths to find something that will distract him.
Different emotional needs I guess.

Karla - posted on 09/20/2011

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I’ve used both as well. I always preferred the “aware parenting” but my oldest daughter could cry for a long time because her helium balloon flew away… so yeah, after a time I was ready to move on and use some distraction.



Jenny, I wonder if your family kind of creates natural expectations? My thought is, it’s better to deal with these emotions honestly and openly at home, but when you’re at a family gathering you might want to rein it in a little, and that’s what they are teaching your child.



For what it’s worth, my kids all seemed to naturally start to deal with their disappointments and tears on their own starting from about age 9. They’d go to their room to cry, and we would usually talk about it later if they wanted to.



Funny story, when my daughter was about 10 she was in her room bawling loudly. I finally went and knocked on her door and she said “just a minute!” A few seconds later she opens the door and she has a huge smile on her face. (hiding those tears!) LOL Poor kid. I came in and talked to her and she broke down and let me know her problems. That was so funny to witness though.



I disagree with JuLeah on this one, I never saw my kids expecting their peers and others to accommodate their mood because of this method. My oldest daughter is the only one that has those expectations, but that is definitely due to her personality and not because of this method, and none of my other kids have those expectations but were treated similarly.

Stifler's - posted on 09/19/2011

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I hold and pat them if they cry, if it goes on forever I distract them with toys. I'd rather they be happy being pushed on the swing and fail to see what good hours of crying will do them. If it's a tantrum then I ignore it and walk off if I've said no to more juice or whatever or put him in his room to get him out of my face.

Lady Heather - posted on 09/19/2011

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Yeah, it depends on the kid and the situation. I do not use distraction for tantrums with my daughter. I use it more for when she's doing something I don't want her to do and minor frustrations. I don't have to use that method much anymore because she is now better able to understand my explanations. Distraction for me has just been a temporary thing for when she's too young to understand and I don't want to discipline with some punishment that is not likely to be effective anyways.

Trust me, she gets plenty of time to deal with her crazy toddler emotions. My god, the cat hair freak outs alone are crazy. Yeah, she's terrified of clumps of cat hair on the floor. I got her a blow up hammer and she beats the crap out of them now. I don't know if that is healthy, but it helps her deal with the fear. lulz.

Minnie - posted on 09/19/2011

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I use both. Depends on the child, depends on the situation. My five year old does best to just cry while being held. She's extremely intense and sensitive and fixates on things regardless of distraction. My three year old has always done well with distraction because that's HER personality. She doesn't dwell on things.



I think both methods give children good tools with which to grow and handle their emotions as adults. Sometimes it's good to have a cry, it can be healing. At other times it can be helpful to focus our minds on something else.

JuLeah - posted on 09/19/2011

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I think there is a balance. I know kids being raised with this method ... socially, they struggle. They fully expect peers, teachers ... everyone to accommodate their mood. If they are sad, life for all others stops - it seems their emotions control them, where as in our society, we learn to control our emotions. If they don’t feel like sitting in class, they run out the door. If they don’t feel like listening to a teacher, they walk away. If they don’t like what their father is saying, they hit him.

My circle of friends, we have had conversations about this as in, what do we do. There are larger community functions were out kids interact and it’s a pain in the ass.



I think we need to do a better job of allowing feelings in general, but this system, to me, seems to go too far



Maybe there is a next step not yet understood by the parents I know of that teaches a child to regulate their own emotions ....

[deleted account]

Well... I used to always 'shove my boob' in my son's mouth when he was screaming. Of course, that's what he always WANTED anyway....

I do a lot of distraction and some 'holding while crying it out'. None of my kids, so far, have any troubles expressing their emotions. When he was 2.5-3, one of my son's favorites sentences was 'you made me so mad Mommy.' lol

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