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Daughter seems to cry all the time...

Our nearly 4-year-old daughter seems to cry all the time. Recently she wept because we were late picking her up and she thought we weren't coming. Once a classmate told her "You are late," so she cried. I used to get annoyed with her crying and would yell, but then I learned that encouragement and patience helped much more. However, with a full-time job I lose patience with her sometimes. We really want her to be more confident, but have no idea of how to do this. Please help. -- C.J.


First have your doctor examine her to be sure there is nothing physical that is creating her anxiety. It never hurts to be sure that nothing physical is wrong. Many young kids have ear problems that do not actually hurt, but that irritate and stress them out. These ear problems also can affect hearing, which of course affects her language and her understanding of things being said around her. DO check her hearing. Then work on her self-esteem.

Self-esteem and self-confidence is based on two important things:

• Feeling lovable for just being one's self
• Feeling competent or capable.

Moms & dads need to nurture BOTH of these things to improve self-esteem.

For example, you can nurture independence by letting her make simple choices of what to wear (of three things you lay out) or what cereal to get at the store (of three choices). These small things will help her fee capable.

If you are patient and let her dress and undress herself, and if you ask her to help out with simple chores like setting or clearing the table or sorting the clean socks, she will feel valued and competent.

Praise her for just trying to do her best at school, but don't set expectations that are too stressful.

Be sure your praise is meaningful and descriptive. Don't say "good job" repeatedly. Instead tell how you liked something she did or said, and why. For example, "I really liked the way you got dressed and were ready on time. That helps me out a lot when I am busy. Thanks." Or "I liked the way you used those colors in your painting and how you experimented with the paintbrush." Descriptive praise is much more meaningful than "That's really nice."

To nurture the youngster's feelings of being lovable, use descriptive praise that tells her you love her as she is, as a person. You can mention her sensitivity or her ability to be observant, or her sense of humor, or her great hugs. These are things that are part of her personality, and not based on achievements. Feeling lovable for "just being me" is just as important as feeling capable.

Last, talk to her teachers at the school to ask them for help in this effort and for any insight they can provide.

Ask them to bolster her confidence. Tell them exactly what you'll be doing at home to accomplish this, and ask them to do the same.

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