Crying in School

Updated on October 11, 2006
M.R. asks from Rocky River, OH
10 answers

Seeking advice on crying in school

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for the help. I have new ways of looking at things that I didn't even think about. I am going to take this advice and talk to his teacher. He goes to a therapist once every three weeks or so to talk about feelings about his dad, but I will be bringing this up to her also. I am also going to contact the school counselor. Thanks for all the responses and I will keep looking for them and let you all know what happens. It's nice to know there are others going through the same thing.

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answers from Columbus on

Wow! That is such great advice! My son is almost 8, also gifted, and has very similiar anxiety issues. I love the suggestion about the cue to the teacher to be excused to compose himself. I'm definitely going to consider presenting that to my son's teacher. Luckily, everyone at his school has been so sympathetic and helpful. We've been working together on my son's problem these last few weeks since school started and he's doing much better; I think we're going on two weeks without a meltdown! In our case, he is just such a perfectionist (and somewhat obsessive - and from what I've read, both are very common in gifted kids) that he just can't hold himself together when he gets terribly disappointed -in himself. So then he overreacts, tries to hide his crying by hiding under his desk which, of course, draws more attention. And the terrible cycle continues. It was so heartbreaking; but again, we have tried lots of different strategies and we're slowly working through it together. Some of the things that have worked for my son:

-reciting the alphabet backwards in his head when he feels that he's getting upset
-having a book in his desk that he has permission to read at time like this to distract himself
-relying on a gifted program in which the math is more challenging and he's not so bored as to dwell on minor mistakes
-making efforts to have at least one good friend in the class he can lean on (moving his desk so as to be close to that support person)
-giving him some sort of release at home; whether it be sports or even TV to zone out. My poor little guy was so tense from just 'keeping it together' at school all day, he needed to kick a ball around by himself for a while before homework, etc.
-staying in contact with his teacher through e-mail, that way maybe you can work together to pinpoint some of his triggers.

On a side note, we have seen a therapist (my son is a talker, he actually enjoys someone listening to only HIM for a whole hour!). I think we could all use someone to objectively listen to us and offer strategies to cope with daily life. He always seems less burdened after a visit. So we try to schedule that whenever we can afford it.

Good luck - with a caring mom, I know he'll get better!!



answers from Columbus on


I don't know if your son's teacher is a new teacher, but I have been an elementary teacher for 17 years and have seen students who go through phases like this. Some children are just more sensitive or express themselves by crying in response to certain situations. I am also a mother or 3,now grown, so I have experience from both sides!

This is probably indicative of your song's basic personality. Maybe he is a perfectionist, but here is part one on my lengthy thoughts on the situation. They address the symptoms.Perhaps you would like to share them with your son's teacher.

1. Unfortunately, crying in school, especially for an 8 year old boy, will bring additional problems for him from his unsympathetic peers, so in addition to wanting to help your son with the underlying cause for his own sake, we want him to stop crying at school.

2. It will probably take longer to remedy the underlying cause, so we'll start with the response to what he his feeling-frustration, fear, incompetence, etc. Establish a different plan for handling the situation at these times! Whether it's going to the teacher right away, placing some sign or signaling to the teacher when he feels it coming on, giving him permission to signal and leave the classroom for a minute (with a special pass somewhere on the teacher's desk that is not a big deal-discrete so the class is not focusing on him). The sign could be something like placing a personal pencil sharpener on his desk.
Make sure the teacher leaves instructions for a substitute teacher.

3. If by some chance, your son seems to be taking advantage of this and abusing his privelage to leave the room to get himself together, then the plan should be modified. Maybe he is only allowed to use it once or twice a day, or week, depending on how often it's happening. The idea is to continually decrease the number of times he needs to use his option as he gains control. But we don't want to panic him by decreasing it too rapidly.

Addressing the underlying causes

1. Is your son tired? Can he see close up? Does this happen at any other time? Is he dyslexic? Can he hear well? Does he get headaches? Eye strain? Are you sure it only happens at school or in math class? What is your son good at? Think of the multiple intelligences-is he a language person, a builder, an athlete, interpersonally skilled...? Point out his strong points to him. Explain that people all have different strengths and weakness and that's okay. What about asking him how he feels when he can help someone with something that he's good at? When he needs help with something, that gives another student a chance to feel good about helping him.

2. Your son's exclamation that he just wants to have fun tells you that he is not having fun. So what does he mean by this? Remember, he doesn't necessarily have the vocabulary to express himself perfectly, so what does fun mean to him? Ask him to give examples of what fun is, what is not fun about it, what the other kids are doing that is fun, etc.

3. How long have you been single? Is there something that happened recently or has he heard something about his father or you that could be upsetting him? He may be worried at school because he does not know what is happening to you at home. I've seen this a lot. Children want to be at home with their mother when dad has left home. They are afraid something bad will happen to their moms if they're not there. Will mom be there when they get home? 7 hours at school is a long time to be away from home when you're worried. Your son may even have heard something from his classmates about parents separating, fighting, etc. and worry that it will happen to him/you. Do you have any other children? What about pets? Anything there?

4. Below is good info from
The Crier (Who Sheds Tears)

Behavior: Specific attitudes and actions of this child at home and/or at school.

Responds to any kind of pressure or conflict with tears. This behavior is different from that of the crier who is always crying foul.

Extremely sensitive and often worries that everything will go wrong.

Sometimes seems to feel the burden of the world on his/her shoulders.

May also think that he/she is "different" and disliked by classmates and teachers.

Believes that his/her class work or personality will never be acceptable to teachers.

Often teased by classmates.

Often a loner.

Seems to need a friend.

Usually relates easily to caring adults.

Effects: How behavior affects teachers, classmates, and parents in the school learning environment and the home family situation.

Teacher may not know how to talk to this student-much less how to relate to him/her, and may avoid the student as a result.

Teacher may feel so uncomfortable that he/she fears approaching this student.

Unfortunately, teacher may punish this behavior, feel it's a sign of immaturity, or treat crying as a discipline problem.

The Crier (Who Sheds Tears)

Action: Identify causes of misbehavior. Pinpoint student needs being revealed. Employ specific methods, procedures, and techniques at school and at home for getting the child to modify or change his/her behavior.

Primary Causes of Misbehavior

This student honestly cannot face people, especially if failure in any form is involved.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Escape from Pain
This student is easily hurt and reacts with much feeling to the world about him/her.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

This student needs to learn to assert him/herself.

This student needs to develop an understanding of self and a belief that he/she is OK. The student may come to accept that it's not bad to be a very sensitive person.

Be patient. This is the first step in helping this child change or cope with such behavior.

Next, remove any negative feelings you hold toward crying. It's not necessarily a bad or abnormal behavior.

Talk to this student in positive ways about his/her sensitivity. Tell him/her that sensitivity is a strength-if kept in perspective. Say, "Just as some people hide their feelings, yours are simply out in the open for all to see. Your friends are lucky-for they know more easily how you feel." This technique allows the student to minimize rather than maximize negative feelings he/she may hold regarding crying.

Let the student know that you're on his/her side. Remember, this child thinks others are against him/her because of too many tears.

Get involved in his/her goals. This is the best stance you can take to help the child use his/her sensitivity constructively.

Always contact parents for insights.

Seek the help of former teachers and counselors if deeper emotional problems may exist. Chances are, however, this child is just a very nice, caring, loving, and sensitive person who can't hide his/her sensitivity.

Remember, the crier may be a very capable person, but is very emotional in any kind of stressful situation. This emotional makeup may never change, and it will take patience to work with this student.
Mistakes: Common misjudgments and errors in managing the child which may perpetuate or intensify the problem.

Calling this student a crybaby.

Trying to shame him/her.

Believing he/she is weak.

Failing to look at crying as a positive act. This may intensify the problem. Remember, tears are not negatives. In truth, they may be totally positive.

Overprotecting this student and failing to deal with the behavior.

Failing to understand that this may be an emotional characteristic that will never change.

Michell, if I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Hope this helps! Good luck. Let me know if you need clarification on anything or if your teacher has a question. (I wish I would have known your son's name for this! It makes it so impersonal to keep saying 'your son".



answers from Cleveland on

My eldes son has gone through the something like that.He would go to the office to find out he was stressed out about alot of things witch led to depression.Maybe you should take him to see a counsler?Not sure if you want to or if it would help...but it has helped my son alot.Hope this helps.
S....mother of three one with Cystic Fibrosis...



answers from Youngstown on

He's just going through some emotional changes. Usually gifted children are more emotional than other children. I have five kids total and two of which are gifted in math also. I've noticed out of all of my kids, those two are more emotional than the others. They feel they have to be perfect all the time even if we aren't the ones stressing it. It's something that's just in them. All I can say is keep encouraging him to do his best but to also have fun while doing it. Tell him it's okay to have a wrong answer sometimes because no one in the world is perfect and that everyone, even the some of the smartest people make mistakes. Believe me, he will get over it.



answers from Dayton on

When I was in fifth grade, I went from an outgoing, good student to an introverted, anxious kid. The reason was that my social anxiety had begun to rear its ugly head. I was a perfectionist in school, but in fifth grade I had a teacher who tended to embarass kids. I lived in fear of getting answers wrong or somehow embarassing myself. So during school I would not say a word...would not volunteer and would cry as soon as I got home. You might do a search on social anxiety and find a checklist and see if any of the symptoms are present.



answers from Youngstown on

i personally have never dealt with that issue...but does he know he is gifted in math?....if so maybe he is just expecting perfection for himself even though he knows that you are not expecting perfection..hope this helps



answers from Cleveland on

How sad:( My son is very similar. Doesn't cry when he goes to school but this is the first year and sometimes before he leaves, he still gets panicky. My son is now 9 and in the 3rd grade. I'm not sure why my son does this but he is slowly getting better. I think he feels I won't be home when he gets home or I will leave and for some reason forget him?? I'm not really sure what to tell you but just assure him that we all make mistakes and that that doesn't make him any less than the kid next to him. It may be an anxiety problem? Have you talked to your doctor about this or even a child psychologist. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with him but maybe someone outside of your immediate circle could figure it out.
Maybe he's just Mom's "man" and feels bad being away from you? My son told me one time, he didn't want me to be "alone" and would rarely go anywhere if I didn't go!I assured him this was not the case either:) He is just very sensitive about me but is slowly outgrowing it. Maybe you just have a sensitive guy too? I hope so, there is nothing wrong with that but I know it makes you feel bad. Good luck~



answers from Cincinnati on

Hi M.,

Your message about your son reminded me so much of myself at that age that I had to post a response. I was a big crier at school, so much that I would pretend to be sick every morning to avoid going. I was tested as gifted in reading and was sent to the grade above me for reading class every day. My parents and teachers wanted to make sure I was challenged, but all I wanted to do was fit in with the rest of the kids. I certainly didn't want to be looked upon as "special", especially at that age! It tends to put a lot of stress on a kid, even though most people would be proud of their talents. My parents didn't know what to do for me, so they ended up sending me to a child psychologist. She diagnosed me as having "anxiety". I hate to tell you, though, there really wasn't a fix to my problem. Being organized and prepared for school helped me out, and I think just grew out of it. Anxiety is a problem that's hard to fix. Hang in there, and make sure you tell your son that he's not the only one. This too shall pass.




answers from Cleveland on

Hi, I am going to assume he is gettin good grades. If that is the case it sounds like e is putting too much pressure on himself..a lot of gitted kids do. I think the best thing to do would be to talk to a counsler that knows a lot about gifted kids.

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