My 5 Year Old Son Is Crying About Almost Everything...

Updated on May 18, 2011
J.V. asks from Las Vegas, NV
12 answers

So for the past couple of days my son has been on a crying spell. Don't know why and it's getting really old. For whatever reason he'll start crying when he doesn't get his way or when he doesn't like what is being said. I have tried to ask him why he is crying and he's normal response is I don't like what you say mommy. That is getting old as well. My mom even talked to him last night about the crying and how he should act like a big boy. I've tried to ignore it but then it gets worse. I've tried to talk to him and tell him that if he's good, good things happens. So far he has T.V. taken away till tomorrow night. I don't know what to do. He did this same thing a couple of weeks ago and he ended up getting a lot of his toys taken away. He got them all back knowing that if he started acting up again they will be given away and he can't get them back. He's 5 years old and a good kid. Just the crying needs to stop and I'm running out of ideas about how to help him and how to change this behavior he thinks he can get away with.

*Ok let me rephrase what happened a couple weeks ago. There was more than crying to it. He wasn't listening, not doing what I asked him to do and pretty much he wasn't getting his way. I'm not in telling him boys don't cry. I'm trying to raise him in a way that he knows it's ok to show emotion. The crying is when he doesn't get his way or he doesn't like what he hears. I'm very open to him about his feelings. I do talk to him about his feelings so that I can get a feel of what's going on in his head. Again I am NOT telling him boys don't cry. I much rather his express himself with emotions than not have him express emotions at all.*

*My son does have a cool down spot and it's in his room. I walk him in there, sit him down and try to talk to him. If he keeps crying I tell him that I'll be back when he's calm and we'll try to talk again. I'm not trying to be a "bad mom" to my son. I do talk to him and love up on him. All I know I can do is love up on him and tell him that no matter what I will always love him. All I'm asking for is advise on how to go about him talking about his feelings and showing them in a way where he can get across what he wants/needs. That's all I'm asking for.*

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So What Happened?

Well after sitting down with him days before I typed this out he was telling me nothing was bothering him. This morning though he finally told me what was bothering him and I sat there with him listening to what he had to say. I told him that he could tell me anything that is bothering him and not to hold it all inside. He didn't tell his daddy what was bothering him. So I think this is a good start for us. I'm still going to look up the book that one of the mom's suggested and read it. I'm hoping that he continues on telling me what is bothering him no matter how small it is. Thanks.

More Answers


answers from St. Louis on

Your post breaks my heart. Your son is only 5 years old. It seems from your post that you are punishing him for being unable to communicate whatever is hurting/bothering him in an adult manner because "his crying is getting old". That is so sad. I feel bad for him.

You really need to work with him to get him to communicate what he is feeling. Has something changed at home? New baby, job, something significant? Something at school? There has got to be something going on in this boy's world to make him suddenly start acting like this. And this change may seem insignificant to you, but to him, it is obviously noteworthy. It could be simply he is feeling a little more emotional lately. Adults are entitled to that, why aren't children? Maybe he feels your annoyance?

You also state that he did this a couple weeks ago and you took things away from him at that point, but that he started acting up again. So, I would say taking his toys and things away is not working.

Talk to him, but don't expect him to act like an adult. And I would stop punishing him for his lack of communication skills. That is all this crying is
(again, based upon the facts shared here). You have given us no indication he is "acting out" or misbehaving other than crying.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree with the other poster - if this is not his usual behavior then he may be getting sick, getting teeth or molars, having a growth spurt, seasonal allergies, etc. I am cranky too when I am tired or don't feel well. Has he been sleeping well? Hard to say what to do unless you have the whole picture. And sometimes you can't pinpoint "this hurts" but you are just "off". If you perceive he is just acting spoiled and wants his way, then you are doing the right thing. You may a try a totally different approach and give him a great big hug and cuddles and tell him you just want him to be happy and you love him. Some kids are super-sensitive to tone of voice or volume (mine are) so perhaps you are projecting anger or annoyance without being aware of it, and some cuddling might counteract that. But this super sensitivity is evident from birth, at least in my kids. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lancaster on

I agree with both Mommas, Teenmom and CaWriterMom. Your little guy sounds like there might be something underlying there. Allergies, growth spurt, teething, getting sick, not sleeping well...Even down to a change in school, friends, etc.

Next time it happens, just squeeze him in a big hug and tell him how much you love him. Sit on the couch with him and rock him back and forth.

Try it a few times. It may take a while for him to understand that you aren't going to punish him and that he's being understood.

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answers from Sacramento on

Any signs he may be getting sick or have an ear infection? If this came on suddenly, that might be what's going on. Our daughter was super fussy last week (lots of time outs) and then got a fever and threw up on Saturday.

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answers from Portland on

I'm pretty sure your son would like the crying to stop, too. For him to be able to do that in a healthy way, without denying or suppressing his feelings, you (or a professional) will need to help him get to the bottom of his unhappiness.

This isn't happening without some cause, and whether that's patterns that have developed in his life, or a chemical imbalance in his brain, he can't just make it go away. He has even less emotional control than an adult, and I don't know a single grownup who can make their feelings change at will. Punishing to change a feeling doesn't work – it can just cause the feelings to go underground. But they'll eventually emerge in some other way, and the connection can be invisible and even more puzzling.

I hope you will get a wise and very readable book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. It teaches a series of really simple techniques that can help you draw out your son, help him find the basis of his unhappiness, and even help the two of you find solutions. Kids can be pretty amazing problem-solvers when they are given support and some basic tools.

Please try the ideas in this book. You may end up wondering how you got along without it. (I've used it for the last 2.5 years with my 5yo grandson, and it's pretty fantastic.)

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answers from Biloxi on

Why punish him for being over-emotional. That sends the wrong message. 5 year old children cannot articulate their emotions and can cry for a variety of reason - happy, sad, frustrated, scared - you name it.

Instead of taking away privileges, teach him the words he needs to express himself. Ask him leading questions when he cries. "Are you hungry" "Are you mad" etc. Teach him how to calm himself down - "okay, I know you are upset, but Mommy can't help you figure out what is wrong when you cry like this. So, let's take a deep breath, out with the bad in with good" Once he learns how to calm himself down, and you teach him to better articulate his feelings, the crying will cease.

So ease up on him, teach him better ways to communicate, and he will grow up being able to handle and express emotions.

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answers from Phoenix on

Another workaround for him not really being able to communicate his feelings is to give him alternatives for what he can/should do in these situations. What ways would be acceptable to you for him to express those feelings? Some parents would not allow any expression of displeasure at the things you've mentioned (not getting his way or not liking what he's being told), but kids his age need some way to express their feelings. If they express it in the acceptable way (I always tell my son to say that he is disappointed or angry--he is also 5), then you can validate that. "I understand that you are angry about ___, but we still have to get ready for bed/leave the park/whatever thing he doesn't want to do." Really, about a year ago my son would cry at the drop of a hat. Every single thing set him off. I understand how trying it is. But now he rarely cries without a very good reason like being hurt or sick or something. So it may be that he will grow up a little, get better at understanding and expressing his emotions, and he will basically grow out of it. The only way I can see to speed that up is to teach him how to express negative emotions.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J.,
Sounds like both you and your son are feeling some stress here. I see that you want to use words as your primary strategy for communicating with him and I wonder if that is his best way to communicate when he becomes overloaded with his response to what's occurring.
Are there certain times that create any pattern for his meltdowns-time of day, before or after certain foods, structured or unstructured times, particular words that trigger (like "No"), unpredicted circumstances, etc. You might be able to accommodate or prepare him if you can find a link that gives you clues.
Also, perhaps you could offer him alternative ways to signal that he is not liking something and wishes it to be different? He could use a hand signal such as scissor like finger movement to indicate "cut" so the situation could stop and allow him to catch up in processing and managing. Or a colored index card to represent stop (red) and go(green) could allow him to turn the card to the direction he needs.
My thought is that before he is ready to identify why he is distraught he might need a way to "get off the ride" first. Then he might need a visual to help him communicate at a later time (like an "emotion chart" where he could show you which face represents his feelings).
If he sees an immediate response when he appropriately shows he needs a "stop" moment, he might begin to shift these behaviors.
Hope some of this is helpful, S.

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answers from San Diego on

How is his sleep? I am a firm believer that lack of sleep can dictate behavioral problems. If he hasn't been sleeping well lately, this might be a cause. Besides that, I agree with the other mommas( allergies, getting sick, etc. ). Sit your child down , face to face, and talk to him in a loving way. Do this for several days, try to get to the root of the problem and hopefully things will get better. Good luck to u!

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answers from Dallas on

My son did this. I think you need to approach it differently. I first approached it more with punishments, time-outs, etc. But then I learned about positive discipline, and it does wonders... Here's what I do:

When he cries, I hug him. Even if he's crying because I just told him he can't have something he wants and he gets mad at me. I validate his feelings with something like "Honey, I know you really wanted that, but you can't have it right now. I know that is hard and frustrating for you. Would you like a hug?" Oftentimes a hug does wonders for him. Just knowing I understand his feelings seems to help lessen a lot of his frustration.

If he doesn't stop crying, I tell him that he might need to go to his "cool down spot" (not time out) to relax until he feels better. This is not a punishment. This spot should be a place that offers comfort and peace to help him relax. It just teaches him that if he behavior isn't "public" behavior, then he needs to take it private until he can get the proper behavior for groups again. It's a good lesson to teach because never do we ever figure out how to never feel angry again. But it is helpful to know what to *do* when we feel angry. Even adults should go find a cool down spot when they feel angry.

I will take him by the hand, and nicely sit him on his bed (which is where his cool down spot is). If I am able, I'll sit and talk to him about it. I will sometimes ask him questions to help him talk it out and figure out his own feelings better. He will sometimes give the FUNNIEST responses. I never tell him he's bad or wrong or anything like that for feeling how he does. That only creates more frustration for him. And the truth is, most of the time when people feel emotions, you can't just stop feeling them. You have to learn to deal with them and express them *properly*. So, I try to help him figure out how to do that.

Oh, and I've also made sure I give him enough time during the day where I listen and focus on him. I give him lots of positive attention so that he's not trying to act out with negative behavior. I have noticed a definitely correlation between his crying spells and me being extra busy and not giving him enough attention.

I also like to look at it from my own point of view. If something happens that upsets me, or if I'm fighting with my husband or a family member, does it help me to have them tell me I'm wrong and that I need to behave better...or does it help me if they listen to me, validate my feelings, and help talk with me about it. For me, the latter. I *hate* it when people tell me to stop feeling certain ways (happened a lot when I was a kid). If my hubby and I are disagreeing, it helps a lot if he'll approach it different with me and bring out the kindness with a hug and some quiet time to talk it out. It doesn't help at all to have him get upset at me. It's no different with kids. They want the same thing.

I feel like I was in your shoes just last year. It was so frustrating, and I didn't know what to do. But this has helped tremendously. I was a little uncertain at first if it would really help or if it was the right thing to do, but it's done awesome. And I feel like it's teaching instead of punishing...much more important. He has not started acting worse because of it. He doesn't do it in order to get attention that I give him during it (this is where giving attention other times becomes very important). He will get upset and often calm down much faster than usual. He ends up happier and feels understood and his overall mood has changed drastically. He cries WAY less often now...very rarely, actually.

Hope that helps!

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answers from Honolulu on

Never stifle... a child's ability to express their feelings.
Especially Boys.
Never infer, that boys don't cry.
Then they will grow up, all pent up and never expressing themselves or being scared too or will be 'strong and silent' and you will never know how he feels.... and when he is a Teen... you WANT them to be able to come to you with their thoughts/problems and be able to TELL you, their feelings.
Don't make a boy think, they should not, cry or have emotions.

Crying, is a child, not being able to handle certain things. It is a "Coping-Mechanism". For which, the Parent has to teach them, how to manage, how to cope, that it is okay to have feelings, that it is OKAY to tell his Mom etc. That you are a TEAM about it... and will talk about it and help him.
A young child, a boy, does not come fully developed yet, to handle every single emotion or stress or problem.
They need help in 'learning' coping-skills.
How to think... positively. That there are MANY different ways to think about something and to solve it, etc. To show him how. Validate his feelings, while showing him how... and what can be done about it.

Punishing someone for 'feelings'... to me, is not good.
NOT good.

How would you feel, if everytime you had PMS and icky feelings, your Husband took away things from you, and refused to help you??? And then he told you to be quiet and act like a real woman and suck it up????
Would that help?
It would only make you not trust him and you would not 'want' to go to him, anymore... with your problems or concerns and you'd stop telling him your feelings. He would teach you that as a Husband, he will not validate you nor support you.
That is not good, between partners.
And that is not good... to teach a child.

You said he is a "good kid.'
He is just going through a rough patch or phase.
So help him.
DO NOT PUNISH him over it.
These are his feelings.
A child needs GUIDANCE.... for their feelings. They do not 'automatically' know how.
Just as, some ADULTS, don't even know how to handle their feelings/emotions/problems/stresses.
So start now, and teach your little boy.... by validating him and his feelings, letting him express himself in a good way, and teaching him that he CAN come to you, and that you are his shoulder to lean on, TOO.

The more he gets told, he 'cannot' have feelings... the more he will get pent up and frustrated and act out.
And then become, a pent up Teen who does not know his feelings. And then become an emotionally pent-up Adult Man... who is that way with his partner.

He is a child. 5 years old is not easy.
He needs guidance. Not being punished over his feelings.
What if someone did that to you? About your feelings?

All the best,

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answers from Hartford on

Your poor little boy. He's upset about something, doesn't know the words to communicate it to you, and he's being punished for it. He's not trying to "get away with this behavior." Crying is a form of communication and he's doing it because he doesn't have any other way to let you know what he's feeling. Telling him to just stop and act like a big boy completely dismisses his feelings and is teaching him to bottle them up rather than learn how to express himself effectively. He's not doing this "to you" but this is something that needs to be worked out "for him." Losing privileges and toys isn't fair.

Teach him the words for his emotions, teach him that talking about what he's feeling and if something is upsetting him can help him fix what's bothering him. Ask him if there's pain or if something feels sick. Ask him questions or if there's something he needs to say.

Or maybe ask him if he needs a hug from his mommy.

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