How Tears Help My Daughter Find Her Confidence


Thanks to Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection for contributing this guest post about the power of listening to tears. I see this so many times fear and upsets can cloud our child’s thinking, and after having a good cry, they are filled with confidence and ready for new adventures! 

With tears streaming down her little face my daughter turned to me and said “I can’t go in, mama, I just can’t.”  We were standing just outside her new classroom on her very first day of first grade.

We had prepared for starting the first grade. In fact, the entire year before, her pre-school teacher and the elementary teachers had collaborated beautifully in preparing the children for this new adventure.

Aptly named Harmony days, the elementary school hosted several occasions in which children had a chance to visit the elementary school, try gym, art, music and other school activities.  Right before the school year started, my daughter also had an individual meeting with her new teacher. At that meeting, she appeared confident, at ease and determined to start her schooling adventure. She knew the classroom and had even decided which classmate she wanted to sit with.

But tears showed up right before the door frame anyways. It looked like there would be no way to get her inside. Her feet were planted firmly on the ground, her hands squeezing her backpack.  But knowing my daughter, I just waited, quietly. Offering reassurance, I listened but never insisted the tears go away.

Tears are just want my daughter needs before starting anything new.

Even as an infant, my daughter often cried (or laughed wholeheartedly) through transitions.  

Waking up from a nap at age one usually came with tears.

Falling asleep even now at age six happens more easily if we laugh up a storm.

Trying new foods,  traveling to a new place, a shift in our usual routine…it’s a sure thing that tears are going to show up.  And my job is clear: I get to listen. I don’t get to fix, shush or coddle. But it’s a delicate and fine balancing act. I have to trust my daughter a great deal.

“Don’t fix, don’t soothe.”  Reminds Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting. And I often allow these words to guide my mind  when my daughter’s tears do show up.  So that I can provide the space needed for her to offload her emotions and find her own inner strength to face her challenges.

The amazing thing about these tears is that when they show up, if I listen, if I allow my daughter that time and feeling to fully pass through, she bounces back into calm so very quickly. It’s like this gentle but needed tornado of emotions must sweep through her. And then in the place of tears unwavering confidence and determination appears.

This day in front of her classroom was no different. And so I stood by her, offering a hand to hold and patiently waited for my daughter to signal she was ready to step over that threshold.  

The tears came full force for about a minute. Her little face red, her mind working fiercely. One hiccup and a long sigh later, the tears subsided.  A request for a big hug and smile showed up next.

“Ok. I can go in. I am ready. I love you mom. I ACTUALLY CAN DO THIS.”  She said, enthusiastically putting one foot in front of the other and marching towards her new classroom.

Peace & Be Well,


Author’s Bio

Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counselling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and “bluey” the fish.

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10 thoughts on “How Tears Help My Daughter Find Her Confidence

  1. My daughter cries and cries when I leave her at preschool, it’s heartbreaking. At this point all I can do is just leave her to it, she does eventually stop and enjoy her day for the most part x #dreamteam

    1. It is heartbreaking especially when they are small. One of the things that can help is to stay there and be with them when they cry, until they finish. It can take a while but it allows them to get all of the upset out so they can go off with confidence. And often after a few big cries, they’ll be much happier about being left.

  2. I love this!
    Being a “fixer” myself it would be super hard to just be patient, but you seem to have it down, great job, Mom!
    How nice of the teacher to meet individually with the new students, that must be an important factor for the kids.

  3. I struggle with this idea of ‘don’t soothe’. Isn’t holding hands soothing? My two are big sensitive criers, and I definitely try to employ all this stuff 🙂 But I also let them know that I’m there for them any time they need a cuddle. Often they don’t want one when they are going through this, but they know it is there, and I feel that soothes them.

    1. Hi Johanna, the idea with the don’t soothe is to remember that it’s OK to let the tears roll, sometimes in an effort to comfort or soothe we stop the tears (even if well meaning) but as we know our child and their needs we can gage what is supportive and positively soothing. Does that help?

  4. This is amazing to read – my instinct is the fix, and so interesting to read that you have to let them feel what they need to in that moment. Thanks for linking up to #dreamteam great to have you!

  5. I am a fixer too, I did not figure out yet how to stay out of ‘it’completely.. But I think I found a right compromise for both of us.. I try to encourage her or just hug/hold her and wait for her to calm down.

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