Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry

By Childs-Gowell, Elaine PhD | Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry


Childs-Gowell, Elaine PhD, Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health


Tears and Tantrums: What To Do When Babies and Children Cry by Aletha Solter (1998). Goleta, CA: Shining Star Press (805-968-1868), 177 pp., $12.95. ISBN: 0961307366.

In this age where we are trying to find ways to prevent violence in a very violent society, this book is a winner. If only there were some way to get this author's message out to the "masses" of parents who are raising their children in the same old knee-jerk ways.

Many years ago I was a Public Health Nurse; later, I taught student nurses what I would call preventive psychiatry. I have been a psychotherapist now for 27 years, and these are the messages I have been sharing with my students and clients: "Violence begets violence", "children and adults need to cry out their pain", and "empathie listening" is the most effective tool when children and grownups are distraught. All these messages are clearly and carefully delineated in this book with lists of "do's" and "don'ts" and "how to's". It is a book which will lend itself well to Corrective Parenting, the form of psychotherapy in which I am involved If my clients had been raised with the active listening, and attentive parenting Dr. Solter recommends, they would not be in psychotherapy now in their forties and fifties, (and I would not have a vocation)!

The book gives good background on violence against children in Western history. Punishment was essential and parents should "break the child's spirit". My own mother said, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," an adage which continues to be held sacred in parts of our society today. Children's crying was considered an expression of evil. Crying is still regarded as taboo, and is unwelcome behavior in a child of any age, particularly when there is no obvious loss or pain.

Many people are uncomfortable with demonstrations of feelings. The author points out that these behaviors re-stimulate old abuse and archaic feelings in the witnesses, and their discomfort drives them to turn away or to try to assuage the sufferer's grief. Solter points out that research shows crying serves an important function, releasing neurohormones that promote well being. She points out that it is important to facilitate the tears and the tantrums, to stay with the child through the "storm" (we call it "riding the tiger"). …

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