Reasons My Son Is Crying, Greg Pembroke, ignoring child's emotions, crying, emotional strength kids,

3 Reasons To Detest “Why My Son Is Crying”

Family GeekMom
Reasons My Son Is Crying, Greg Pembroke, ignoring child's emotions, crying, emotional strength kids,
Is Crying Funny? (Image: worldofoddy’s flickr photostream)

You’ve probably seen it already, a Tumblr site featuring nothing but two adorable little boys, crying. The captions share the many reasons for their misery. Reasons like, “The milk was in the wrong cup” or “It’s morning.” The site was started only two weeks ago by Greg Pembroke, who shares images of his 21-month old son Charlie and three-year old son William. The site has gone viral. Already, Pembroke and his sons have appeared on Good Morning America and been parodied by Conan O’Brien.

For anyone with small children at home the site may seem reassuring. Yes, other kids cry for reasons that test the limits of logic. And it may seem like a parent coping with frustration by blowing off a little steam, photographically.

I still detest it. Here’s why. 

It’s Easy To Reinforce Misery. What does a child feel when someone grabs a camera as he cries? It’s a strangely distancing reaction by a parent yet at the same time it gives attention to, even promotes distress. That sounds like a great way to reinforce more crying. I don’t know how it feels to be the little boy in the photos. If it were me at that age I suspect I would feel lonely and misunderstood. I’d also notice the tacit approval that comes with each image capture. Especially if Daddy enjoys taking the photos, uploading them, adding captions, and getting worldwide attention. Why learn to cope and control impulses if misery is reinforced? Acknowledging each other’s feelings is a core principle of positive human relationships. Having our emotions ignored, mocked, or treated as irrational doesn’t help us feel connected, let alone understood—no matter how old we are.

Kids Have Real Feelings. Let’s remember, kids experience emotions as intensely as adults do. They just don’t know how deal with them as effectively nor have the experience to recognize that feeling awful is a temporary state. Hence, the positive influence of caregivers.  It may seem to make little sense that a child cries because a slide isn’t slippery enough. That’s a good time for a parent to acknowledge those feelings, helping to build a vocabulary of emotion words the child can use to identify and claim feelings, as in, “I see you’re frustrated.” It doesn’t mean the tears have to be erased or the problem fixed, just that the child’s feelings are recognized. Often recognition itself helps ease the situation. The same with tears because the child can’t climb in the sea lion tank. Why not empathize with the imagination he’s expressing just behind that disappointment, that he wants to swim with the sea lions? It’s not hard to transform it into make-believe, saying something like, “I bet it would be fun to get in the water. Maybe you can pretend to swim right here in front of the tank and the sea lion might see you.” Helping kids find words and actions to express their feelings is just common sense.

This isn’t trivial. As noted in the WHO publication, Facts for Life,

As children’s brains develop, so do their emotions, which are real and powerful. Children may become frustrated if they are unable to do something or have something they want. They are often frightened of strangers, new situations or the dark. Children whose reactions are laughed at, punished or ignored may grow up shy and unable to express emotions normally. If caregivers are patient and sympathetic when a child expresses strong emotions, the child is more likely to grow up happy, secure and well balanced.

The first few years have a resounding impact. That’s when a child internalizes a sense of self based on how he or she is treated. Somewhere, deep in our pre-verbal memory, each one of us knows if we were cuddled and comforted as well as trusted to explore the world around us on our own terms. Maybe early experiences of being coerced, ridiculed, ignored, or trivialized makes it easier for us to dismiss a child’s very real emotions.

It Seems Downright Unethical. Maybe if Pembroke’s site included crying photos along with others showing a full range of his kids’ emotions it would be a more accurate representation of who they are as whole people. (Well, it wouldn’t haven’t gotten the buzz either.) All this media attention will certainly smack a label on his kids. It’s bad enough to be known at their ages for crying. Imagine what it’ll be like to start school.

I wish he’d step back to consider not only the long-range implications, but the implications right now. I don’t think any of us would appreciate pictures taken of us while we’re crying, we’d be more upset if they were posted. And we’d be horrified if weepy photos of dementia patients were posted over amusing captions. Because someone is small and helpless doesn’t make it much better.

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71 thoughts on “3 Reasons To Detest “Why My Son Is Crying”

  1. My parents took pictures of me when I was child and throwing a fit and I’m just fine. Honestly, children indeed need love but aren’t going to be damaged in every way possible if a parent takes a picture or doesn’t tend to every single fit and problem they face the moment they happen. Children in a sense need to “grow up” and learn from what they’re doing wrong/right so please. To all the parents thinking this site is “oh so terrible and dehumanizing” get over yourselves. 🙂

  2. I found this blog post when Googling for the Reason’s my Kid is crying page that my wife showed me last night (parents of a new born and 22 month old… as if i have to justify myself for this comment).

    To all the parents (INCLUDING the original author) saying this is cruel and harsh or ingrains some sense of self worthlessness, or even teaches lack of empathy, or whatever psychological issues you believe such photography will have on their children.

    Many people have provided great rational reason, or provided alternate scenarios than what you might have considered when these pictures were taken… but now my emotional and visceral response.

    Finding humor in the difficult situations of regular parenting life and taking solace in “not being alone in this” is nothing to detest… I suggest you get over yourselves. How pretentious. Maybe you should be concerned about how THAT level of over analysis, micro management, stress, and inability to shrug of the common occurrences of daily life will impact your children’s development.

    I am really sorry that Google brought me back this page. What a shame.

  3. I stumbled across this blog post by mistake. Emphasis on mistake. Please, Ms Weldon, lighten up a little. You act as if people are purposefully making their kids cry just to get a picture on that website. Comparing it to posting pictures of dementia patients is not even remotely an equitable comparison. If you psychoanalyze everything to this degree, you really miss out on a lot.

  4. “Disturbing”? “Detest”?

    It’s moms like you who raise children who are unable to laugh at themselves, and have self-esteem issues because they were always tip-toed around.

    A child crying because his milk is in the wrong cup IS funny. No one suggested berating this tot for hours. A simple snap of a photo is not abusive nor unloving. I would argue this child will have a laugh of his own when he looks back at these in 20 years.

    Get a grip

  5. I’m late chiming in, but I have to commend you for your tack on this issue. It’s right on the money.

    I live in a large city, and I view parents just ignoring their crying children … just…ignoring them. As someone who grew up in what I will politely call a non-nurturing household, it actually hurts me to see this type of thing. So parading your own kids and holding them up to what I can’t help but feel is lightly salted ridicule can only be called new-age abuse.

    To see any child suffer and not try to make things better is a concept I will never understand.

  6. My wife and I guffawed when we read this article. She started out, oh, how shall we say it, all “over-sensitive” about the kids crying, just like you. But by our third child, she realized why I didn’t get too worked up by our kids’ emotional swings, because – SOMETIMES THERE’S JUST *NOTHING* YOU CAN DO TO CALM THEM DOWN EXCEPT IGNORE THEIR CYING! With a zoom lens, it’s been easy (for decades) to snap a shot of your kid *acting ridiculous about something irrational*. These aren’t shots of kids who’ve been shot, or bitten by a rabid dog, but shots of kids losing their sh1+ for NO GOOD REASON! LOL! With phone cameras, it’s even easier than ever to snap off a candid shot, not to mention the shots taken while shooting a sequence for another reason, and just “lucking out”, capturing moments as they happened (which seems to be the majority of the shots in the book made from the various photos posted on the blog).

    Really, these aren’t callous shots, they’re just a HILARIOUS reality check. Sometimes our kids just freak out. About nothing. And trying to calm them down often just makes them *more upset*! My wife and I have three kids in college, a twelve year old, and a 4 year old, and we LONG AGO learned that sometimes *these pictures can help your kids see how ridiculous they can act*! Now, should their names be posted next to the shots? Probably not. But in the Internet age, there are a LOT of things we need to be careful about posting. Hilarious pictures (the occasional shot, okay – I concede that you’re right about what kind of non-constructive reinforcement *constantly* taking these kinds of photos could produce) of kids losing their minds over silly things (which Mom and Dad have no hope of “talking them down” from) are harmless fun. Get over it.

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