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  • Sarina Shirazee

Crocodile Tears

CROCODILE TEARS or “fake crying” in kids can be frustrating and even triggering for adults. The triggered response likely comes from our childhood (how we were responded to when we cried); what society tells us is an acceptable form of communication, as well as what kind of "mould" children should fit (i.e. compliant, in control, well-behaved; all of which actually go against natural child development). ⠀

Why do children "fake cry"?⠀⠀

Firstly, all behaviour is communication. It's a signal for help. They might be trying to communicate a feeling to us that they cannot put into words, which is very typical for toddlers and even primary-school aged kids, especially if they're in a stressed state (keeping in mind that many stressors are hidden). ⠀

Or, they might be trying to emphasise what they are saying, having learned that adults are more serious and attentive when a child cries.

In any case, they are seeking the help and comfort that adults would usually give with real tears. So they pretend to cry to get our attention (even if it is negative attention). They are desperately trying to get through to us. And a child trying to get our attention should never be seen as a bad thing - a child's most basic need is to be seen, loved and heard. ⠀ ⠀


If this resonates with you, what can you try to do when a child "fake cries"? Empathise. All feelings are valid. Play detective and figure out what the problem is if necessary, then help them with it. Telling them to stop crying will extinguish the signal that something is wrong, without addressing what's actually wrong. It may also teach them not to express themselves, and that they're on their own when they have emotions that adults don't feel comfortable with. (This isn’t to say you give in or drop a boundary if that’s what they’re upset about). ⠀

The more responsive we are to a child's needs, the more they'll realise that they don't need to "fake cry" to get our attention. ⠀⠀


It’s often when a child displays their least favourable behaviour that they need us the most. Children, just like adults, do the best they can with the resources and knowledge they have.


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