‘STOP CRYING’ – By Laura Coutts

Emotions are a big part of who we are not only as adults but as children too. They are part of everything we do and are included in every decision we make. Children can feel a vast range of emotions which may fluctuate throughout the day in the same way an adult’s emotions can. They may be so excited about going out to their favourite park however, they may also be sad about having to take off their favourite pyjamas to get dressed to go, that goes for both adults and children. Often children are told to ‘stop crying’ or ‘don’t cry’ when they are upset, regardless of what they are upset over. Be it crying because they do not want to get dressed or because we cut their toast in the wrong shape or because they do not want to share. Adults may think these things are trivial and not worth being upset over but to children they are. They are a feeling. Although the notion that all children are and should always be happy may sound good, like adults, children feel a range of emotions such as sadness, joy, anger, excitement, frustration or worry. It would be impossible, no matter how hard we tried, to ensure children were always happy. Frequently sadness, frustration or anger from children may be viewed negatively, but why?

Do we not often, as adults, feel a range of emotions, such as sadness, over things that may not be of significance to others but is of important to us? Even laughable situations where we look back and think we cannot believe we were so upset or angry over what we later felt was insignificant. In that moment we were unable to mask our emotions and could not minimise our reaction. Would we tell adults to stop crying or to basically stop feeling what they were if they were upset? And if we did would if help? Why is it that children are told to stop crying or not to feel sadness? Is it because it makes adults sad to see them unhappy or is it because adults feel uncomfortable? Do adults believe that children do not understand their emotions so should not be allowed to express them? This sounds rather self-centred and suggests children should not feel these ‘negative’ feelings until they come of an age in which it is appropriate or okay to express themselves emotionally. As if there is just a switch that clicks at the ‘appropriate’ time letting them know it is now okay to be sad or upset when they feel like it.

I think sometimes adults who tell children to stop crying may forget that children are beings, like themselves, who feel and connect with everything within their environment, as they do. By telling children to stop crying are they hearing ‘I love you when you’re happy but not when you show tearful emotions’? Are children who are told to stop crying or to supress their emotions being denied basic rights? The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC) states that all children and young people have the right to express their views freely about anything that affects them. Now I know some may debate whether getting the correct shape toast is really something that truly affects a child, however as the UNCRC states children have the right to FREELY express THEIR view on ANYTHING so they have the legal right to do so. By denying children the right to feel sadness then are we not then denying them the right to freely express themselves and be who they are? If they are denied their feelings or emotions as children, then how are they to handle or process them as adults? Could this not hinder how they cope with their emotions in future?

Instead of telling children not to cry and to be happy, how about we tell them it is okay to feel what they are feeling. It is okay to be sad when they feel sadness. It is even okay to be angry and frustrated. It is okay to express themselves and that we understand how they feel, even if it is because they had triangle shaped toast yesterday so we assumed it would be the same today and they broke down because they wanted squares. By knowing they can voice their emotions freely, children may feel empowered and autonomous as they grow and form their identities which may lead to them being empowered as adults to feel and to express themselves. This may help prevent some of the increasing mental health that takes place because individuals felt they could not speak out or communicate how they feel.


United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (UNCRC) ‘Your rights under the UNCRC’ United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Youth Voice Available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/youthvoice/pdfs/uncrc.pdf (Access 20th July 2021)

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