Interested in making your kids feel worse than they already do? If the answer is “no,” (and I really hope it is) then you might want to avoid the latest TikTok hashtag, the #CryBackChallenge. The concept here, which originates from some out-of-the-box-thinking-gone-too-far, is pretty simple: Parents are crying back at their children when those children have tantrums. The most prominent video in this trend is of a shirtless dad, who is “taking turns” crying with this toddler.
If this works for this dad, and he feels comfortable with it, that’s fine. We’re not here to specifically shame, specific parents about whatever it is that works for them. However, because this became a trend on TikTok, it feels important to point out that as a basic principle, it’s not a good idea to mock your toddler when they are crying. Your child is a person, and yes, their tantrums may seem to be unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean you respond to unreasonable behavior with mocking ridicule. We get that the idea of “taking turns” might seem appealing, and may even work, but think about what you’re really doing there — you’re actually pretending to cry, meaning you’re confusing your toddler about being emotionally genuine.
On top of that, this concept violates the number one rule of the way parents ought to think of tantrums, which is this: Don’t invalidate your kids’ feelings. When Fatherly spoke to Dr. Rebecca Hershber, a child psychologist, she pointed out that while distraction is a good way to “fix” a tantrum, you want to be careful. “Distraction is a wonderful method because kids are so easily distracted. But there’s a caveat. It’s not at the cost of acknowledging how your kid feels. When I use distraction it’s always after acknowledging what your kid is reacting to and saying something empathic.”
In theory, this #CryBackChallenge is just another distraction, but, from what we’ve seen of it, it’s one that relies on emotional confusion for “success.” And, it doesn’t seem to come from a place of emotional empathy. If you are feigning crying, all you’re really teaching your child is that their crying is invalid and that fake-crying is equally meaningless. Kids have tantrums for a lot of different reasons, and by the time they are out of the toddler stage, most of the out-of-nowhere tantrums tend to resolve themselves. When your kids are toddlers, it’s pretty important to remember that they are establishing crying as a way they can communicate. If you mock that communication, you mock them. Essentially, you are teaching them the opposite lesson of the Boy Who Cried, Wolf — you’re teaching them that crying means nothing. That, on some level, is careless.
Tears are power. Sometimes parents have to accept those tears. Not all tantrums can be prevented. And children certainly shouldn’t have their feelings taken away from them, particularly not because a hashtag made you do it.