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Toddler crying for no reason? Why it’s happening and useful tips to save your sanity

What those toddler tears can mean

From the time a child enters the world, they cry when they need basically anything. Crying is simply one way babies can communicate. As they get older, they may also cry simply when they want attention. But, if your toddler's crying for no reason at all, you may be desperate to figure out a method to make it stop. There are a few approaches you can take to solve the issue.



What You Need

  • Patience

  • Understanding

  • Determination

Crying baby in onesie
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Why do toddlers cry for no reason? Solving the mystery

To know how to make a child stop crying, it is important to understand why they cry in the first place. Crying is an important, if not crucial, part of grief. It is a healthy and normal mechanism by which to show sadness. Crying also serves as a good physical release. Studies show that after crying, people have lower blood pressure. Big displays of tears evolved as a means to demonstrate a dire need for attention.

Remember that young children have a very limited scope of the world, so things that might seem trivial to an adult can be devastating to a toddler. Children experience emotions that are as equally deep as those in adults. They may cry for a variety of reasons.

A mother holding her crying toddler. - Yuri A / Shutterstock

Exposure to overwhelming stimuli

Too many sensory stimuli can be quite overwhelming because young children are still learning how to process and react to their environment. Too many sights, loud sounds, or anything else that creates sensory overload can cause children to feel frightened and unsure of how to act. As a result, they start to cry instead.

A toddler crying in their room.
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Crying is an effective distress signal

Naturally, crying is a sign of distress. For example, when a child is in pain or is afraid, they might begin to cry. This is a natural response that requires immediate attention, and at some point in your parenting journey, you’ll recognize the difference between the cry of distress versus the cry of disappointment or exhaustion.

A toddler crying in a store.

They’re exhausted and ready for a nap or bedtime

Another possible reason is that they’re merely tired. Sometimes, little ones can’t verbalize when they’ve had enough, and they’re just plain exhausted. Instead, they respond by shedding tears and acting like they’re fighting off the need for sleep.

child crying in a house by a window
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They want attention but don't know how to tell you

But, what if there appears to be nothing wrong yet your toddler is still crying? It’s possible that they just want a little bit of attention. At times, younger children are still figuring out how to ask for a moment of your time. Instead of communicating what they need, they’ll simply start crying.

Toddler girl crying
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Should crying be discouraged? You might be surprised

While you can discourage crying, most psychologists suggest you do not. Although many people were raised with the idea that crying is bad, in actuality, it isn't necessary to try to divert a child’s coping mechanisms away from crying.

Crying is really an act of healing, not one of pain, as a person who cries has recognized that something negative has happened and is beginning to process that fact. Approaching your crying child with a kind and nurturing attitude helps them realize that it's ok to express themselves through tears. Both you and your child should cry when the urge to do so comes on.

Crying is a person’s first available mode to communicate with their caregivers. There are a number of readily apparent reasons for the behavior. These include your child feeling hungry, wet, tired, or hurt. Be sure to rule out these justified explanations for crying prior to jumping to the conclusion that the crying is baseless.

As your child gets older, they should hopefully vocalize most issues they have instead of crying about them — speaking is more concise and allows the problem to be addressed quicker, so they will want to talk to you. But again, if they do cry, don’t fear. Help is near!

A mother holding her crying toddler sitting on the bed
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When and how to address crying

For the most part, crying is OK for a child, but there are ways to address your child's crying when their behavior isn't acceptable. If they're crying, you can try to comfort them and address the reason for their sadness.

Ask them what emotions they are feeling. In some cases, a child may be crying as a way to act up and get a parent’s attention. If that's the case, there are some ways you can address the behavior.

Step 1: In these instances, ignore and turn your back on the child (as long as it’s safe to leave the child be). Giving in to purely attention-seeking crying gives your child the idea that crying is an acceptable means of getting what they want.

Step 2: If they want attention to get a certain demand fulfilled, encourage your toddler's best behavior by not complying.

Step 3: Avoid talking about the request at length.

Step 4: You may also let your child occasionally cry to teach them they don’t get everything they want right away.

Little boy having a temper tantrum
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How to calmly deal with the dreaded tantrum

Tantrums are an example of a time when crying should be dealt with immediately. Unlike attention-seeking behaviors, tantrums should not be ignored. These crying fits usually occur as a way to avoid doing something asked of them. While tantrums aren’t easy to fix, they can often be prevented. Here are some ways you can combat those dreaded temper tantrums.

Step 1: You can potentially decrease the number of tantrums thrown by your toddler by explaining to them prior to a difficult situation that if they start to struggle, you will gently put your hand on their head and offer to help them.

Step 2: Children don’t like having their autonomy interfered with, so telling them about that plan is intended to encourage them to complete the task independently.

Child crying while mother is on phone
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What not to say to crying toddler

Dealing with a crying toddler, especially one who seems to be crying for no reason, can be frustrating. However, simply instructing your child to stop crying isn't the most effective way to get them to actually stop crying. Avoid telling them to "stop crying", or "don't cry", or being dismissive of their feelings since that just tells your child that you don't understand why they're upset and have no interest in finding out.

“It actually doesn’t matter why they’re crying,” Dr. Rebecca Schrag Herhsberg, clinical psychologist and parenting coach in New York City explained to Fatherly, adding that it simply matters that you take the time to ask them why they may be upset. Dr. Gene Beresin, agrees, adding, “It’s not about you. It’s about your child,” and that “your first job is to take care of your child.”

Crying can be annoying and frustrating at times, but it never lasts forever. By working with your child to assist them in communicating their needs, you can hopefully lessen the time they spend crying and have more enjoyable moments together. That means a happier life for all involved.

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