Comfort is ALWAYS ok

Why you should ALWAYS comfort a child – no matter why they’re crying

“Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.”  ― Peggy O’Mara

Comfort is ALWAYS ok

There seems to be a perception out there that somehow comforting a child is a reward. Can we just talk about the bizarreness of this for a minute? The idea that love, support, a hug, is a reward. The definition of a reward is something “given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement”. Should comfort and love need to be earned by a child instead of given freely? I think we would all agree that should definitely not be the case. And yet, we are urged to withdraw our affection when children displease us. If they have a tantrum and we comfort them through it we’re told we are ‘rewarding bad behaviour’.

Well, I say no. That’s not how it works at all. Concentrating on only their behaviour in an attempt to train them to do as we please does them a disservice. People are far more complex than merely a set of observable behaviours, and children are people too. Behaviour is not a stand alone thing, there is ALWAYS a reason for it, even if you don’t know what it is. But more importantly than that, isn’t our children’s emotional well-being more important than their obedience? People are so scared to ‘give in’ to children or reinforce bad behaviour that we’ve lost sight of our goals. Don’t we want children who know how to deal with their emotions, who know they can come to us with anything, who trust us, who we have a great connection with? Withholding affection doesn’t seem like a sensible way to make that happen to me.

Comfort is ALWAYS ok

It makes me quite frustrated that people have been led to believe that too much affection can be a bad thing. That when a child is having a tantrum, comforting them would be the wrong thing to do as it would encourage more tantrums in the future. But that’s not true at all. Comforting is not ‘giving in’. You can actually hold your limit and help your child deal with their emotions surrounding that.

‘I can see you’re really upset. You would really like to jump on the bed. That seems like lots of fun.’

It’s possible to empathise with your child’s feelings without changing your mind on something that you have decided is non-negotiable. Empathising shows them that you can deal with any of their emotions, nothing is too big for you. They will know that they can rely on you and that they are safe. We all know children have BIG feelings. Imagine feeling that way and then also feeling alone, misunderstood, judged, punished, or shamed for that. It’s our job to guide them through those feelings, not to shut them down as quickly as possible. You can’t learn to process your emotions without being allowed to experience them.

Comfort is ALWAYS ok

So forget the ‘rules’, forget the comments and warnings. Go comfort your tantruming child! Ask them if you can help, acknowledge their feelings, empathise with them. See what happens when they feel heard and understood and supported. Experience how your connection grows stronger when you work through these things with them instead of punishing them for normal child behaviours.

Comforting does NOT reinforce bad behaviours.

Comfort is ALWAYS ok.


January 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Very thoughtful and we’ll written, thank you, I loved it xx

January 6, 2016 at 10:32 pm

A million times YES! Children are people too. X

January 7, 2016 at 8:38 am

Thank you for sharing this! Agree 100%

January 8, 2016 at 4:54 am

Well said! I 100% agree with this. I will always comfort my child and she still knows when she has done wrong. She doesn’t need me to ignore her cries or tantrums to understand right from wrong.

January 11, 2016 at 2:02 am

I love this. I am going to share it on my page!

January 11, 2016 at 7:49 am

Excellent advice for a well balanced family life style. Parents should behave as adults, not “parents” .

Purnima Shetye
January 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

Loved the statement .. Children are people too! How often we forget that!

January 12, 2016 at 2:56 am

I understand your point. However a definition of “comfort” is in order. A parent has a right to feelings, too. If I am very angry with my tantrumming child, it would be disingenuous at best and sending very mixed messages to offer a lap, a hug and soothing words to the child.

Parents and caregivers need permission to feel their own feelings and sometimes it is far more appropriate to say, “I need to calm down first. Then I will help you calm down if you need it.”

    January 12, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Agree! Need to be feeling in a calm space yourself first to be able to help others.

    August 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Anger is not ok. Suck it up. Your child comes first. Learn to deal with your emotions. Besides, hugging a child and making them smile can brighten even the darkest mood. Even if my child were to disobey, I’d rather make them smile. If you sit and talk instead of yell, it works better. When I was a kid, if an adult yelled at me for misbehavior, it prompted me to repeat. I’d never listen to an adults demands, but rather if they asked nicely and in a calming voice.

      Autumn Vandiver
      September 8, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Anger is a valid emotion just like any other. It’s ok for an adult to feel anger. What they DO with that anger is what matters. Lynne mentioned that she might need to calm down and deal with her own feelings (like anger) before comforting her child, so as to be a reliable, connected source of comfort for him or her. For you to say that she needs to learn to “deal with her emotions” indicates a real misunderstanding of what that looks like.

      Diana Ankney
      January 25, 2019 at 7:28 am

      Anger is a perfectly normal emotion and every human on the planet experiences it. How people deal with that anger is what is important. Any parent can become overwhelmed and stressed out, it is not unexpected that they may not be in the best frame of mind to deal with a tantrum at that moment.
      When emotions run high and children add to the pressure cooker of a parents day, it is always best to separate yourself from the child to avoid losing control. It also sets a better example for a child to see that adults do get anger, upset, scared, stressed or any other emotion. You cannot reserved emotional education to just “happy” feelings. Once the parent calms down, they are better able to help their child deal with their emotions. Plus you can teach your child how to deal with negative emotions in a more appropriate manner.

      I am raising an autistic child who has outbursts and needs time to decompress. When she has her moments, I ask her if she needs to go have some quiet time. She goes to her room which reduces the external stimulus. After a few moments she will return to the family room calmer. At that time she is ready to be hugged and cuddled. Sometimes for extreme situation, she just has to be sent to her room. There she can vent her frustration in a safe environment, because trying to comfort her at that time will only makes the situation worse as it adds to her burden of stimulus. She has to process her feelings in her own way.

      On the other spectrum I have another child who is a typically developed child who learns quickly. He learned that he could manipulate the situation to get his sister in trouble and gain attention. I watched him throw himself on the floor and scream and cry. He accused his sister of pushing him. Having been outside his range of view he didn’t know I watched him do that and knew his sister had not touched him at all. He did not need to be cuddled for comfort as he was not hurt or upset, he was acting.

      So yes, some children are just that smart they do know how to manage the adults in their life.

      The first rule of parenting is to understand every child is different and they all have to be handled according to their needs. Parenting is not a once size fits all list of actions.

      Stop judging each other and understand life if hard, parenting is harder. Help each other along the way and stop judging those who are doing the best they can.

      vanessa schwengel
      January 8, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      How will your child deal with anger as an adult?……..he wont

    January 23, 2018 at 5:25 am

    DISAGREE how incredibly selfish that sounds! Angry with your child? This falls right back onto the disciplinatory regime! I was never touched enough as a kid,, much less comforted when i was crying beyond the age of 1. My dad would always say “you want to cry?? I will give you something to cry about!”
    Suck it up and be that icon of love your child KNOWS they can depend on NOW. Or are you just not dependable? honest question.

      Michelle Stone
      January 9, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Not angry with the child, with the behaviour. It is perfectly human and normal to get angry. It is what you do with the anger that causes disagreement and potential issues. Yelling at a child may not help but once in a while it will because your child is seeing true emotions. If your child never sees you angry they will believe that their anger is wrong and try to repress it and that is just as damaging. It may be when you are angry you can’t hug and that is ok too, the key is to talk honestly(not go straight to yell if you can help it, although be aware that there are some who can’t help it and shaming unbalanced articles like this just reinforce their own perception that they are bad people)

    January 12, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you for addressing this. Well said.

    January 13, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    When my child (now known to have ASD) pushed my limits when he was young and I had a hard time with feeling angry, I discovered that I could still use a puppet to speak to him. It made a world of difference for us. And, it helped me learn how to channel and put my anger about what happened aside.

January 12, 2016 at 7:36 am

My mother tells me all the time that my daughter is “playing” me when she wants a hug because she is upset, or that I shouldn’t comfort her at all when throwing a tantrum and that “I’m giving in” will have a “spoiled child who no one wants to be around” and that i’ll have “hell to pay later” and she’ll laugh at me. So thank you…thank you for this article. It reinforces what I believe. I needed to read this. I will continue to comfort my child.

    January 12, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Even more difficult in the face of such negativity! Good on you xx

    June 16, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Ugh. I’m so sorry. My parents tsk tsked my sister for the same reason. I love my parents, but they withheld affection sometimes as punishment so I could feel the wrath. I learned at a young age to hide from them if I did wrong. In my psyche I believed I was loved it I was good and not loved when I was bad.
    It’s just an andecdote, so take it for what it’s worth, but I decided to not do that with my child. She runs and tells on herself when she does something bad. 😂 Yes, she gets disciplined but we always hug and talk it out while she’s crying so she understand why she’s being disciplined and that we love her no matter what.

January 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm

This article just turned my life around. Will print it out and put it on my fridge. Thank you so much!!

April 14, 2017 at 6:54 am

Excellent article !
It is tricky though to be able to comfort your child when you have been told that is not the way to do it, that you will spoil her and lose control.

Also, how do you suggest comforting a 2year old with a tantrum if she’s is crying to loud?
Is she actually listening to me ?
What do you think about my situation?

example: sometimes when she is tired she becomes very bossy about where to nurse (which chair, sofa or bed), but sometimes the place she wants is not always possible to use so she cries and screams and gets very frustrated while I am trying to explain to her the situation and the other options we have, at the same time she keeps asking to nurse (while she is crying )…. so what I do is let her feel what she is feeling and try to tell her that I am going to give her milk once she is done expressing her feelings… Try to stay calm myself (I also get frustrated when she doesn’t want to listen). I offer my arms but she rejects me and eventually she calms down, comes to my arms nurses in the place that is available and then once we are all calm down and nursing I try to explain as clear and concise as I can what I was trying to say before.

Thanks for sharing your experience!
I have been reading most of your articles, they are very useful and mind opening!

    Ronit Ricoy
    June 15, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    I’d recommend The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel. It helps us to understand what is going on in their brains with the big emotions and when they can/cannot “hear” us (and therefore what is/isn’t helpful to say/do at the age stages and stages of emotion)… understanding the why and how helps us to best support our kiddos and keep our sanity.

    June 26, 2017 at 12:01 am

    I think you are spot on with how you handle your daughters feelings. She’s a lucky girl.

    January 15, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I love this article with one remark, “Never reason with a child drunk on emotion”(Parenting with Love and Logic). Learning this and keeping this statement in mind saved us more than once. When they are in the middle of a tantrum is not the time to try reason with them. Wait until they have had a chance to calm down.

June 15, 2017 at 8:59 am

As a Yiayia (Grandma) who has lived with her now 2 1/2 yo grandbaby since she was born, I can attest to this. She is so responsive to my loving care, even when she’s in the throes of a huge tantrum. I will pick her up and hold her like a baby, and she quiets right down and loves being in my arms. Love is easy to give, and it works!!

Linden Malki
June 16, 2017 at 3:01 am

You can comfort an upset child without condoning the behavoir. My mom used to scream at me to “stop crying this minute!” when there was no way in the world I could stop no matter how much I wanted to. I was usually crying because she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say; she didn’t have to agree or give in, just respect the fact that I was trying to communicate something, even if was stupid or unacceptable. You cannot reason with an hysterical child, or for that matter, a child who is not old enough to communicate logically. The next step was usually a long lonely time out when I would build up a giant case of self-pity. A calm “I’m sorry, you can’t do that” with a hug would have saved a relationship that did not improve with time. (Unfortunately, she passed away when I was 17, so we never had the opportunity to establish a good mature relationship.) I never put my own kids in timeout; I would grab them and hold them until they calmed down, without giving in to whatever they were doing that was unacceptable. They grew up to be good people, and their own kids are nice people as well.

    June 4, 2019 at 9:49 am

    That’s awesome! I’m so sorry you were never able to cultivate the desired relationship with your mother! But how amazing is it that you were able to change the trajectory of future generations! I love that!

Linden Malki
June 16, 2017 at 3:10 am

You can comfort an upset child without condoning the behavoir. My mom used to scream at me to “stop crying this minute!” when there was no way in the world I could stop no matter how much I wanted to. I was usually crying because she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say; she didn’t have to agree or give in, just respect the fact that I was trying to communicate something, even if was stupid or unacceptable. You cannot reason with an hysterical child, or for that matter, a child who is not old enough to communicate logically A calm “I’m sorry, you can’t do that” with a hug would have saved a relationship.

June 16, 2017 at 3:13 am

What about a child who lashes out physically during a tantrum? I do not send the wrong message that hitting someone is ok and that is ok to abuse someone you love. And I also struggle with how to respond appropriately to these shows of force (4 year old child). We do not use corporal punishment, but I don’t know what a logical consequence to hitting during a tantrum should be. I usually walk away, sometimes closing a door because I do not want to allow the hitting.

    June 16, 2017 at 3:14 am

    Do not want to send the wrong message ^

      alex pearson
      June 16, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      A really good tip for 4 yo’s in the midst of a meltdown is to ask them a simple question like “Bobby, can you tell me 3 things that start with the letter M {or P or T or whatever}. It seems to engage the brain in a different spot and makes them stop and think about the answers instead of whatever had tipped the into the meltdown zone. I’ve tried it a few times with Miss 4 recently and it’s brilliant!

        June 17, 2017 at 2:37 am

        This made me chuckle. Not that it isn’t a good suggestion, but some kids just need to feel their feelings. My son is also a hitter when mad and the more you talk to him, the more mad he gets. If I tried to hold him I’d be getting slapped in the face. Not happening. So I let him feel his feelings and when he’s feeling better then we have a hug and talk.

          June 17, 2017 at 3:37 am

          My son is, too. I understand it, because that is how I feel. I am an adult, so I know how to control myself, but I respect that he needs to be left alone. I just say, “We’ll talk/cuddle when you are ready, buddy.” It works for him.

    Marywhite Griffith
    June 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    All of my kids used to do this as well!! I tried everything (even resorted to spanking after the hitting continued and it only made it worse) I was at the end of my rope when a friend gave me essential oils. My entire life changed. My children’s tantrums stopped. No joke. The screaming stopped, the hitting stopped. It was a miracle ! They also started sleeping at night . After much researching I have come to the conclusion that if normal training is not working on a child and they are having continued out of control tantrums it often is due to the brain misfiring or the way their brain is wired. Essential oils if diluted and put on the big toe help to reverse faulty DNA and work on a cellular level to improve brain function. One little bottle of oil lasts up to 6 months. Less is more so you literally are using way less than a drop. The secret is to use it regularly. My children’s problems we’re severe so at first I reapplied every 2 hours. Then as I saw improvements I moved to 3 hours. Then 4. As they steadily improve you apply less and less. After 2 years my children are like different kids. I apply oils once or twice a day now and even if I forget they still don’t have insane tantrums or melt downs. The only reason I still use the oils is I find it really makes my children happier and more imaginative during the day. I now have a 3rd child who is 1 and he has the same brain problems as my 4 and 7 yr old had. I recently started using oils for him and having the same results. If I remember to put oils on his toe he is a happy, good tempered child. If I forget the screaming is non stop. He hits, smashes his head on the floor and throws things. I couldn’t survive without oils! Seriously. Anyway, feel free to text me if you have questions. I know this was a rather out of the box reply, but I know exactly the struggle you have been facing and had to share. 864_505_4699. Contact me anytime and I will be glad to share more of my story! Btw, it sounds like your an amazing mom! I wish I had known to just walk out and close the door with my first 2 before I had the oils.

      June 16, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Hi! I’m in the same boat could you please share what essential oils you used or an email address where I could reach you would be great!

      Liz Smoo
      November 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      so then, using some kind of stimulant or depressant (oils, do you really understand the make up of these oils) is better for your child than love and understanding? I don’t buy it

Marianne Stuart
June 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I agree! Answering the cry is always the best thing !

Amanda Morris
June 17, 2017 at 4:59 am

How about teaching them to control their emotions, but WAITING to talk to them WHEN they’ve calmed down? “hugging” them WHILE in the throws of a fit, will only reinforce to them that the uncontrolled behavior is acceptable, and will get them they attention they seek. With my boys, if they were pitching a fit. I would calmly say, when you’ve calmed down, we’ll talk about it, until then, I will leave you to think about it. No anger, just non-committal to their overreaction. Usually after a bit they’ll come and say sorry for their out burst, and we hug or talk til they feel on better footing. I’m NOT not showing them love by creating a boundary on their emotions and teaching that while yes, they have emotions we shouldn’t let them control the situation. learn to process them constructively and not destructively!

    Mom to Seven
    January 22, 2018 at 2:06 am

    That would tend to tell the child that they have to behave a certain way to be loved or accepted, “I’m not going to show you affection until you can get yourself into a condition I will accept.” It is horrible knowing that you will only be loved if you are “good”, and not if you are a mess. I got that message from my parents, with the same “I don’t want to reward her bad behavior” idea. What I needed more than anything in the world was to know I was still loved even when I was a total mess and couldn’t hold it together anymore. I wanted to know that even at my worst, I was still worth loving. When a person experiences that type of total acceptance, they learn how to give it to others. When you teach a child that they are only loved when they are calm and under control, it teaches them to be intolerant of other people when they are emotionally out of control. It makes them get frustrated with others more easily, because you have taught them that when you are not in control, you are not worthy of being loved… that love is earned by your behavior. I still struggle with this as an adult, it made me a pleaser and insecure in my relationships.

      August 22, 2018 at 5:30 am

      I disagree. When he is angry or upset, he needs to be left alone to cry it out, yell and scream, or whatever. I do not attempt to comfort him during these times-he simply doesn’t want it. You can’t make blanket statements about children’s behavior because not everyone will fit into a neat little box.

      February 6, 2019 at 2:12 am

      I felt the same way growing up. The love my Parents gave felt very conditional to me. If you… behave, then…I’ll listen. I believe it’s led to my feelings of insecurity and inadaquecy. As a parent myself I have a need to raise my kids unconditionally for their emotional health and well being as well as my own.

    January 6, 2019 at 5:54 am

    All kids have to BE EXPLICITLY TAUGHT how to cope with their emotions; this doesn’t “just happen” as they get older. (In fact most adults still don’t know how to handle their emotions very well!) So kids being left on their own when upset is not going to help them learn effective coping strategies; effective” being the operative word as all kids will learn to cope as all kids are adaptive and resilient, but most often it is not effective coping skills they learn. Instead most just learn to avoid/ignore and distract from their intense emotions, which will typically lead to a whole host of other struggles as they get older. If a kid doesn’t want to be held when he/she is feeling upset, it’s best to then still stay in the same room and not send the kid into isolation, which is further damaging and conveys a message that they are unacceptable or unlovable when they are experiencing an intense (but normal) emotion.

      Michelle Stone
      January 9, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Correct all kids do need to be taught how to manage their emotions and every child is different and therefore the way to teach them is different. Exactly like in school where some people learn by doing, others by seeing, others by hearing. For some children trying to do anything whilst they are feeling the emotions won’t teach them anything and for some it will. For some children the calm talk afterwards where they get to tell you what they were thinking and you get to explain your response is the way to go and for others just being held is enough to make the rest seem unimportant. This idea that there is only way to do things when every child is different is what puts added pressure onto parenting, as if there isn’t enough. Mums, dads, grandparents I suggest you go out there and raise you child your way, be sure to be putting the interests of your child first and follow your instinct. Don’t do something if your gut tells you it’s wrong, otherwise you have the tools and the love so go be the good enough parent. Perfection is not necessary.

June 17, 2017 at 5:59 am

I am touched by he number of people who are touched by the dilemma of how to respond to a sensitive child with a strong will to be heard and reacted to. These are the kind of situations which we – as parents and children of parents who are ill-equipped to have the wisdom in all things related to children and discipline – react reflexively based on our own experiences with discipline by unwise parents. The circle can be broken, but only if our leaders want to intervene with mandatory, subsidized counseling of all couples wishing to or already on the path to having children. It is the responsibility of the state – no matter how controversial it may seem – to offer guidance and perspective to would-be parents. May the circle of inappropriate, uneducated, reactive parenting be broken.

    Jonny Lou
    June 17, 2017 at 6:01 am

    Great comment.

    July 28, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Sorry, couldn’t disagree more! Where does the State come into the picture?? Are you suggesting our children belong to the State? If not, then how in the world is it their responsibility? It is the Parents responsibility to think, read, grow, and educate ourselves, on how to be the best parents we can be! The buck stops here! Keep the State as far away from my family, and the choices that we make out of love for our children. I’m sure we don’t get everything right, but I’m willing to bet that any parent who loves and tries, is going to do a better job than the State!!

    Diana Ankney
    March 3, 2019 at 4:59 am

    You have got to be joking, the States can’t even decide on which bathrooms people should use and you want them to make decisions about how to raise children. The States are run by people just like any other person. They are not educated any better than the rest of us on how to raise children. They are interested in making policies that generate a feel good emotion for spoiled adults. Children used to mature and act like adults at a younger age, because life taught them to be adults and prepared them for adulthood. Today’s “adults” are afraid of words and cannot take care of themselves. Life is hard and parenting does not come with instructions. What child development specialist believed was a best practice years ago is now considered abusive. Yes, there are people who should not be parents, because they are down right abusive, but their are plenty of parents doing the best they can to raise children in a world that has gone completely crazy. Children need their basic necessities of shelter, food, and care provided. They need to be loved and taught how to love. They also have to learn that life is not always going to make them happy and sometimes they are going to get their feelings hurt. Not everyone can be a winner and sometimes they are going to be the loser. They have to be taught how to be good loser as well as learn to be kind winners. You are not always going to agree with everyone and sometimes you just have to learn to disagree, that does not mean you cannot still be friends with people who do not believe exactly what you believe. People are different and that is why the world function. If everyone was exactly the same we would live in a very boring place. The janitor cleaning the school, the house keeper cleaning the hospital, are just as important as the CEO sitting in that big office or the surgeon operating. We need people of every type to make this world function. If you don’t think that is true, remember how much you pay the doctor, when you get an infection from the half cleaned bed in that hospital.

Jonny Lou
June 17, 2017 at 6:00 am

Children are little versions of big people. How would I like to be treated when I’m angry/scared/frustrated/overexcited? (Wish getting overexcited was a more common problem these days!) if I’d like sympathy, comfort or attention then I think to some extent that’s probably what I should react with. Patience! How I appreciate people showing me patience!

Charmian Magee
June 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I think the line comes when you have repeated bad behaviour such as hitting and hurting and shouting in people’s faces when they are not upset. There needs to be a chance for them to learn to calm themselves at some point or they never will. And when a parent is driven half mad by relentless bad behaviour for years. Then it can be very difficult to be in the receiving end of an angry 3/4 year old that just wants to make you react in anger or will not let a subject go. I always stayed with my little ones when they cried tired or hurt or tantrumming, until they were at an age where they clearly did wrong on purpose and repeatedly, and I was running low on the patience and ability to help them deal with their feelings without loosing my rag. There has to be balance. Parents are only human too.

    June 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Wow, just wow….. I believe this approach and as a grandma I wished I had been able to do this as a mother and auntie!!!

June 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Yes! My grandma never understood this (to her, all crying by a child was bad behavior that deserved scolding or punishment), and when I comforted my son when he was upset that I said no to something, she would say I was letting him “wrap me around his little finger.” She told me that when a child is bad, I should “take my love away” and when the child is good again, I should return my love.

UGH, no!

Tina Carrigan
June 20, 2017 at 2:34 am

wow! I have not yet looked at your website or background, but I consider myself to be an expert on children and what they need. You are spot on-this may be he finest piece of writing I have ever read about children and emotions. Though I was a pretty good parent, I wish I had known a little more while I was raising my own children 40+ years ago. A child is a gift-all people are gifts-all people deserve to be cared for and comforted, even those who are not comfortable with that attention. Thank you for this beautiful piece-I will share it widely.

June 20, 2017 at 8:16 pm

What happens to a three-year-old’s mind when they are scared and get spanked by their mother? That was me.

    June 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    You grow up afraid and cautious. You either become a chip off the old block and pass on the shameful habit of shaming, scaring or whacking the child at the scent of any misbehavior on his/her behalf OR you never discipline the child and unconditionally shower the child with undeserved praise and affection. Fear tactics passed down are hard to moderate in a reasonable fashion.

      June 21, 2017 at 1:06 am

      Or, you educate yourself and stop the cycle of bad habits. You decide to be the parent your children need despite the parenting you received as a child. You have the ability to be a wonderful parent. I understand what Richard was trying to communicate, but don’t forget you have a third, more positive option. 😉

Kim mcalister
July 27, 2017 at 10:59 pm

I cannot express how great this piece of writing is! Life changing and just words I needed to share this perspective on our daughters tantrums with my husband

Autumn Vandiver
September 8, 2017 at 10:57 pm

I really and truly value these ideals. Having said that, I disagree that comfort is ALWAYS what’s needed. Nothing is absolute and nothing is black and white. Let’s say for example, the way a child is tantrumming is to kick and scream and not be safe with the children around them. Or that they are smacking their mom. As a preschool teacher in those situations, my first move would not be to comfort. It would be to create safety for the tantrumming child and everyone in their “line of fire”, so to speak. I would also not try to comfort them when they are not open to comfort. They have a right to their feelings of course, but they don’t have a right to hurt other people or express those feelings any way they want. My job is to help them learn how to manage those BIG emotions, how to feel them, share them, process them, etc. If I, for example, am hurting other people, I may not need comfort in that moment. I may need someone to set a boundary for me and let me know that it’s not okay for me to hurt other people. That I can feel however I want to feel, but I cannot behave any way that I want to behave. This conversation and practice feels much more nuanced than this article would lead a parent or teacher to believe and requires a lot of skill and patience. It simply cannot be reduced to always or never approaches.

September 14, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Thank you so much for this insightful piece.

January 21, 2018 at 2:46 pm

This is lovely, and the distinction between comfort and reward is worded in a very helpful way.

January 22, 2018 at 10:11 am

How old a child does this article refer to? If a child cries and has tantrums into their teenage years, should the response always be to comfort the child? What if the child has observed adults throwing tantrums to get their way and has learned this unfortunate approach of manipulating others? Is It still the right response to comfort the teenager? What if the child does this into their 20s?

    September 20, 2018 at 4:23 am

    All ages, no matter how young or old. The idea that you are rewarding bad behavior by getting down to their level to calm them sounds like dog training. When you train a dog you reward good behavior so that the dog knows that they are expected to behave a certain way. People are far more complex – I believe someone else has said that before me. No matter how many “what if it’s an angry 3 year old” or “a teen who deliberately disobeyed your rules” situations you come up with, it’s all the same. Now, I don’t say this to imply that you allow that behavior, and yes, sometimes they do need to be left alone or you need to walk away for a moment. However, you have to be consistent and return to talk with them as well as comfort. Teach them that it’s okay to feel angry and take a timeout to calm down, and that you can still talk about what happened afterwards in a loving/understanding manner. Say exactly what went wrong and how it made you feel, without shaming them, and ask them why they did it. If they’re on the younger end, help them communicate, even if you have to ask yes or no questions instead of open-ended questions. Also, it’s okay to make mistakes because no one is perfect in how they treat others or themselves. If you slip up, let your child know that and that you’re sorry. Even if you were right, yelling or hitting (spanking) is something to apologize for, so teach them that. Teach them not to hit by not hitting them and teach them that it’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to take it out on someone else by yelling at them or saying hurtful things. At the end of the day, your relationships are what matter the most, and that no matter what your kids do, tell them you will always love them. Loving someone isn’t the same as tolerating their behavior.

    September 20, 2018 at 4:32 am

    I would also like to add, that in the case of an adult, you can’t to control what decisions they make. You love them and let them know your boundaries. You won’t give them whatever it is that they want, because they are old enough to do it themselves, but you are as consistently kind to them as you can be. Sometimes the best you can do is be a good example, and let the rest play out. Don’t be a doormat, but don’t shut them out either.

March 15, 2018 at 4:32 am

But if your instincts have told you to pretty much always comfort your crying child, or if this approach is working for you, do not feel pressure to stop doing this.

Alissa Frost
September 19, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Also, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to get mad or frustrated. Just remember that the little person is not trying to make your life difficult. They are doing what they do for their own needs and you can get mad but don’t take it out on them. I heard once, explain instead of express your anger. Feel it and then use it, don’t let it use you.

October 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Yes. This. Well said. If the world followed this, we would help raise the next generation of empathetic and caring people.

November 17, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Amen!!! I so agree! Thank you so much!

December 12, 2018 at 4:54 am

I completely agree. Sadly, lots of people I know would argue that. Is there any evidence to support the theory? Like studies, neuroscience, brain development…
I’d really appreciate this.

December 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm

My son can have the most explosive tantrums, often in public and my natural reaction hasn’t always been to hug him during an outburst but when I did once a while back, I was quite shocked to find it worked brilliantly in calming him down. So reading this has helped make me realise that I am definitely doing the right thing there – thank you for posting it 🙂

January 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm

This is beautiful. Thank you for showing us that what we’ve been taught is not always the only way or even the right way. X

Donna johnson
January 6, 2019 at 10:26 am

You are so right on and eloquent! Reading your comments makes it clear that thinking of withholding comfort is dark age thinking. It is hard enough to have those big feelings. The least we can do is provide comfort and reassurance!

January 11, 2019 at 8:02 am

What about when it comes to sleeping and/or sleep training? If you comfort them will they ever learn to sleep or be good sleepers?

January 12, 2019 at 2:47 am

no comment for now

Terri Morrow
March 2, 2019 at 11:34 am

Who wrote this please? Is it Peggy O’Mara? Is she a psychologist or midwife or parent?

Justine Aaron
March 3, 2019 at 5:25 am

Very honouring of both children and parents. Advice from the heart and not the head! Bang on. Well done!

Diane Montpellier
March 3, 2019 at 11:50 pm

Agree 100%

Diane Montpellier
March 3, 2019 at 11:51 pm


March 27, 2019 at 8:47 am

Hello, I recently started volunteering at a daycare in a classroom of about twenty 2-year olds and three teachers. How would you recommend handling a situation where there is a child who is extremely frustrated or angry over a situation (getting a toy taken, getting dropped off by mommy, falling down, being impatient to receive their food, etc) where the child refuses to be held or hugged and screams and cry’s when you try to talk to them? Sometimes a child will flail around and try to kick or hit me away from them. I have tried talking calmly but then don’t listen and just scream over me. Hugging will result in getting kicked. And it’s not possible to leave them alone and let them cry because other children will see them and get upset from the yelling too. It’s a difficult situation to manage, and I would love any tips and suggestions. In some cases, where they are simply sad or tired, they will gladly receive a hug or even ask for one. It always makes them feel better and talking calmly and acknowledging their feelings definitely helps too. But when they are frustrated, it’s very hard to relax them.

    Diana Ankney
    March 28, 2019 at 12:28 am

    Based on what you have written, I have a granddaughter who started exhibiting similar behaviors at around age 2, she is now 8 and still has some of these behaviors. I would suggest that the parents start asking about having the child screened by a professional for autism. It is very typical for a child to hit all the typical developmental markers from birth to age 2 and present with autism markers starting at age 2. It presents in many different forms, but processing emotions can be very difficult. It would be better to find out as early as possible if there is a medical reason for such extreme behaviors, because the longer it takes to get a proper diagnosis the harder it is to address the behaviors. While I hate labeling a child, because it can set up negative reactions in some people, it is important to rule out medical problems, before assuming the child is just being difficult. Plus their is an entire spectrum of developmental conditions that can impact a child’s ability to process stimuli and emotional outburst. If the child is resistant to touch, this is another autism marker and physical contact is not appropriate as they cannot process that contact properly at times. Any change in routine can trigger a “melt down”, which is a very different response to stimuli compared to a temper tantrum However it is very important that the parents speak with their pediatrician about the screenings, as only a professional should make such a determination.

April 8, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Affection without Expectation.
Said the Dollylama

Ruth Goma
April 28, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Parenting in wholeness. Thank you for this.

Hannah Sutton
June 4, 2019 at 2:11 pm

I’m not a mother yet, but I was raised like this and it has honestly made the world of difference to my emotional wellbeing and my relationship with my parents.

As an aspiring paediatrician and an aspiring mother (once the first bit there is achieved) I love these articles, and I really strongly support this notion of parenting without all the societal rules and expectations. Keep up the good work!

June 7, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Exactly, unconditional love means loving even when behavior isn’t ideal. You can stand firm and still love. Reinforce rules and still show affection.
It’s a respectful way to parent.

June 16, 2019 at 8:34 am

I think I just wouldn’t be able to ignore my child when they are struggling with something major. My heart breaks for.him when he is having to deal with such big emotions.

Maria Johnson
August 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

Thank you for sharing this 💕

January 10, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful words.

January 12, 2020 at 2:07 am

I agree and it is sad that so many still have the attitude that children are ‘spoilt’ by too much attention etc. That came from Freud you know and his unsubstantiated ideas still proliferate today. Bowlby argued against Freudian attitudes and provided strong, research based evidence, that comforting a distressed child is actually essential to healthy development.

January 12, 2020 at 5:02 am

You’ve hit he nail on the head

January 22, 2020 at 11:42 am

This is fantastic! I couldn’t agree more 🙂

Manisha Singh
February 8, 2020 at 2:03 pm

I love your posts I would like to read more.

October 30, 2020 at 7:31 am

I work with a 10-year-old child (ASD) that yells, insults, blames, throws things, and gets aggressive towards others when she is upset. Her parents have always comforted her with hugs, soft words, and their full attention. She expresses her emotions the exact same way in public and at school. Last year she was was suspended from school for 1 month. She also has hit complete strangers. How would the above article, apply to this child? Please define ‘comfort’ as well. Does comfort involve fixing the situation that has triggered the ‘tantrum’? How can a child successfully get through these moments when their parents are not around? When comfort is not available? Also please speak on self-soothing. Is self-soothing a skill that is important and can be taught?

December 28, 2022 at 4:22 pm

I don’t think cuddling right after a whipping is a good idea. When I was little (I was spanked from 2-12) the last thing I wanted after being whipped with a belt was to be around my dad. As soon as it was over, he would pull me onto his lap and hug and kiss me. All I wanted was to be able to run back into my room and put my clothes back on, but he insisted on holding me on his lap until I stopped crying. It never seemed genuine, and I didn’t like being touched and held while I was naked. After I stopped crying he would insist that I smile and tell him I loved him. Then I could go get dressed. I hated saying that; I didn’t love him and the smiles were definitely fake.

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