While the notion of “crying quietly” is old-fashioned and paradoxical, it is totally helpful to staying sane.
I believe it is important, in the early years of life, for little children to get a grip on their crying. Crying is not the Unpardonable Sin, but it should not be allowed to get out of hand. Even a toddler can be taught to not wail at the top of their lungs unless necessary.
In our house, we have generally followed the rule that if the child is crying loud enough that he/she can’t hear me over their crying, they are crying too loud. We simply tell them nicely, “Ok now. Stop crying. Come on now. Quiet down.” The younger ages may get soothing and hugging, but the preschoolers are expected to quiet down (at least to sniffling) before progress is made. All our children are told “No, no crying” if they begin crying because they are upset about a situation or verdict (i.e. “I’m sorry, you have to give the piece back to your brother. He was using it.”). This is simply because we believe that some crying is warranted and the rest is just evidence of a bad attitude. And our experiments have proven that children are able to learn this 😉
Now that doesn’t mean you can be harsh or disengaged. A small child crying is not to be ignored. And even at the young toddler age, they are usually crying over SOMETHING. The important thing is to look at the reason why they are crying and quickly assess to what extent their reaction is appropriate. If the child is hurt or scared, they can wail as loudly as they want. If they are frustrated or honestly reacting to something sad, then crying can be gently curbed down a few levels while help is attentively given. If the child is demanding, throwing a fit, or otherwise just mad at you, then the crying should be admonished. (And love given when they obey.) Even if my little sixteen-month old bursts into tears when I put her down, I tell her nicely “No. No crying. We don’t cry because Mommy has to put you down.” And then she gets some encouraging pats and something to do.
I only write this because most moms I see let their toddlers and preschoolers wail about everything. It could be leaving the playground, not eating their corn, going to bed, being in a stroller, falling down, etc. It is all World War III. And there is no need for it to be. Kids need to learn perspective, and there’s no cognitive reason why they can’t start when they’re a toddler. One year olds can learn, partially, the difference between crying because they’re genuinely needing to and crying because they don’t get their way. (Make extra provision for hunger, bed, and cuddles, though.) And eighteen-month olds have the ability to quiet down enough to hear you talk. Not only do little children get smarter from hearing your explanations, but they learn how to let you into their little worlds. They don’t develop that sassy two or three year old thing of, “I Know You’re Talking But I Could Care Less Because I Don’t Have What I Want” thing. It doesn’t mean they’ll never throw a tantrum. Although they may throw considerably less. But it does mean that they’ll be less locked into their little world when they do. It is amazing how much yardage you can get with a volume control on the crying.