Tears and Tantrums: What To Do When Babies and Children Cry

Reviewed Publisher: 
Goleta, CA: Shining Star Press (805-968-1868), 177 pp., $12.95. ISBN: 0961307366.
Reviewed Title: 
Tears and Tantrums: What To Do When Babies and Children Cry (1998)
Reviewed Author: 

In this age where we are trying to find ways to prevent violence in a very violent society, this book is a winner. If only there were some way to get this author's message out to the "masses" of parents who are raising their children in the same old knee-jerk ways.

Many years ago I was a Public Health Nurse; later, I taught student nurses what I would call preventive psychiatry. I have been a psychotherapist now for 27 years, and these are the messages I have been sharing with my students and clients: "Violence begets violence", "children and adults need to cry out their pain", and "empathie listening" is the most effective tool when children and grownups are distraught. All these messages are clearly and carefully delineated in this book with lists of "do's" and "don'ts" and "how to's". It is a book which will lend itself well to Corrective Parenting, the form of psychotherapy in which I am involved If my clients had been raised with the active listening, and attentive parenting Dr. Solter recommends, they would not be in psychotherapy now in their forties and fifties, (and I would not have a vocation)!

The book gives good background on violence against children in Western history. Punishment was essential and parents should "break the child's spirit". My own mother said, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," an adage which continues to be held sacred in parts of our society today. Children's crying was considered an expression of evil. Crying is still regarded as taboo, and is unwelcome behavior in a child of any age, particularly when there is no obvious loss or pain.

Many people are uncomfortable with demonstrations of feelings. The author points out that these behaviors re-stimulate old abuse and archaic feelings in the witnesses, and their discomfort drives them to turn away or to try to assuage the sufferer's grief. Solter points out that research shows crying serves an important function, releasing neurohormones that promote well being. She points out that it is important to facilitate the tears and the tantrums, to stay with the child through the "storm" (we call it "riding the tiger"). Child therapists use crying in Birth Recovery work, and in Holding Therapy. These processes are used extensively with adults in Corrective Parenting therapy also. The same rules for dealing with a crying baby or screaming child also apply to adults in psychotherapy. If a child is allowed to cry, scream, and tantrum while staying connected with the adult present, I think we could prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in countless future adults.

The author points out that control patterns in adults have their roots in the childhood experience ofthat adult. The need to avoid being re-stimulated on their own trauma is what drives adults to the addictive behaviors our society is dealing with today. The consumption of chemical substances; overeating; nail biting and other habits; muscle tensions and rigidities; being a workaholic or couch potato are among the control patterns indulged in by adults who do not wish to deal with their own feelings. These methods repress the feelings and the release of neurohormones. Much healing is effected simply with the release of tears. With children and adults, it is advisable to undertake these activities in a protected environment where the therapist's office is soundproofed, there are mats to work on, and other group members to support the releasing activities. A child having a temper tantrum in a mall causes considerable discomfort but an adult tantrum at the mall might bring the attention of the police!

Tears and Tantrums is an important addition to the parenting materials currently on the market. It will be helpful to parents, daycare workers, other child care workers, pediatricians, psychotherapists, and a myriad of others needing to understand the importance of tears. It could also help prevent PTSD, ADD, ADHD, addictive behaviors, and other responses to overwhelming events in human lives-meaning children, adults, and the child in every one of us. I am going to make Tears and Tantrums required reading for my clients.

Publication Date: 
03/1998