Why Do Parents Get Mad When You Cry?
Crying is a natural emotional response for people of all ages. However, some parents respond with anger or frustration when their child cries. There are a few reasons why this may happen.
The Stress of Parenting
Parenting can be extremely stressful at times. When a child cries, it can push an already stressed parent over the edge.
The constant demands of parenting combined with other life stressors means some parents have limited patience when their child cries.
Lack of Sleep
Many parents struggle to get enough sleep. Infants and young children often wake multiple times per night. Sleep deprivation leaves parents functioning with a short fuse. The cries of a sleepy, frustrated toddler can easily trigger an angry response.
Most parents struggle with financial stressors like debt, the cost of childcare, healthcare, housing, etc. Juggling all these demands leads to anxiety and tension. Crying can compound that stress and cause an angry reaction.
Difficult Life Circumstances
Some families deal with extra life challenges like a family illness, divorce, job loss, etc. These put parents under incredible strain. Crying may anger parents who feel overwhelmed and have nothing left to give.
Some parents have unrealistic ideas about parenting and child development. When their child cries, it clashes with their notions of parenthood.
Expecting Children to Behave Like Adults
Young kids have big emotions with limited ability to self-soothe. However, some parents expect children to respond to adversity the way an adult would. They may see crying as manipulation or bad behavior instead of an age-appropriate response. This perception leads to anger and accusations that the child is “overly-sensitive”, “spoiled”, or having a “tantrum”.
Belief Crying Is Optional
Many parents were told as children that crying is optional rather than instinctive. Some parents still believe children can easily stop crying if they try hard enough. When their child remains upset, this false perception leads to anger and threats to “give them something to really cry about.”
Harsh reactions to tears are often a learned behavior. If parents were neglected, shamed, or physically punished for crying as kids, they may react the same way to their own children without conscious thought.
Violence and Neglect Normalize Anger
Severe dysfunction in a parent’s own childhood distorts what they perceive as a “normal” reaction to emotions like crying. If violence, anger, threats, or neglect routinely followed tears during their childhood, parents may reflexively react the same way despite rationally knowing it is inappropriate.
Many react angrily without realizing crying is triggering unresolved childhood trauma and learned behaviors from their own parents. Individual counseling helps parents separate involuntary fear responses from intentional parenting choices.
Protective Factors for Parents
While many parents react poorly to crying, some maintain empathy and respond supportively. Protective factors enable compassion even during frustration.
Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and bounce back from difficulties. Resilient parents practice self-care, maintain healthy relationships, use positive coping strategies, and seek help when needed. These skills help parents remain calm and compassionate.
Knowledge of Child Development
Parents who understand the norms of child development know what to reasonably expect at each age. They understand crying is normal and age-appropriate rather than a purposeful behavior requiring discipline. This knowledge protects against anger.
Parents with strong emotional support systems have lower stress and higher frustration tolerance. Support systems provide parenting guidance, childcare help, someone to call during hard moments, reassurance that crying is normal and will pass, etc.
Healthy Communication Skills
Parents with healthy communication habits are less likely to react harshly to crying children. They know how to label and express their own emotions appropriately. These parents also engage in positive conflict resolution with partners, friends, and kids. Their coping abilities lower reactivity.
Self-aware parents notice rising tension and frustration within themselves. They consciously question their perceptions and reactions before responding. If needed, self-aware parents know when to walk away and self-soothe until calm.
Impact on the Child
Harsh reactions to a child’s crying has both short and long term consequences. Unfortunately, anger and threats in response to tears often escalates distress instead of soothing the child.
Heightened Stress Response
Children need a calm caregiver to help them regulate big emotions. Yelling or belittling kids for crying has the opposite effect. It elevates stress hormones and intensifies physiological symptoms making it very difficult for kids to soothe themselves.
When parents routinely react with anger or dismissal to tears, children stop seeking comfort. They bottle up feelings and potentially withdraw from relationships to avoid potential negative reactions. Both bottling and withdrawal can hinder emotional development.
Greater Anxiety and Trauma Responses
Threatening children for tearfulness trains the brain to associate crying with danger. As a result, anxiety increases along with more severe physiological responses. Frequent activation of the brain’s threat response changes neural pathways over time.
Potential Behavioral Issues
Punishing normal emotional responses teaches unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some children learn to lash out with anger instead of crying to feel more in control. Others dissociate from emotions altogether which can cause relationship issues later on.
Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues
Childhood trauma from excessive anger has been linked to higher incidence of conditions like depression, self-harm disorders, aggression disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and drug abuse later in life.
Healthy Responses from Parents
The most beneficial reaction when children cry is compassion, emotional coaching, and support. Responding this way builds trust and emotional intelligence. Here are some positive strategies.
Children look to parents to co-regulate emotions. By staying calm, parents model proper responses. Use deep breathing if needed to settle rising frustration.
Acknowledge the child’s tears without judgment. Make statements like, “You feel very sad right now. It’s okay to cry.” Validation helps kids improve emotional awareness and develop self-soothing skills over time.
Suggest a soothing activity like rocking, listening to music, talking about feelings, or reading a book. Being present and providing comfort teaches children their emotions matter.
Set Limits Compassionately
If crying accompanies defiance, set limits firmly yet gently. Use empathy and avoid hurtful words. “I know you feel upset. Let’s take some deep breaths first, then we can talk.” Model problem-solving skills.
Ask trusted friends and family for parenting advice, childcare help, or simply non-judgmental listening ears during overwhelm. Connect to local parent groups. Therapists can also help.
The compassion a parent shows when a child cries forms a basis for trust, attachment, and emotion regulation skills kids will use throughout life. While it can be challenging, responding with empathy instead of anger or dismissal has lifelong impact.