When the Children Cry

I have always loved this song by White Lion. The lyrics, despite being quite simple, perhaps a bit naive and not of high literary quality, convey a profoundness not often found in rock ballads. Some children seem to be “programmed” to cry more than others and as a parent of four children, I have certainly had some very interesting experiences regarding crying children. My gifted son used to cry in elementary school over homework. The weird thing: he’d rather cry for an hour than do his homework in five minutes — it would have been easy for him. How can a highly intelligent six year old be so irrational? It would take many years for me to find out.

Many years later I told a class of mine this story. When I had finished, a 16-year old girl raised her hand and said: “I still do that. It’s often hard for me to force myself to sit down and do my homework and not have tears in my eyes. That girl and my son have something in common: their personality type and temperament, both are INFPs in the Myers-Briggs system.

These introverted and shy children already often cry a lot as babies. They are called “highly-reactive” and are often hard to soothe. These babies are often referred to as “colicky”. Colicky babies often may have a reaction to cow’s milk in the baby food (lactose intolerance). This lactose intolerance would make sense in my evolutionary model of personality types, in which highly-reactive babies are of the “hunter-gatherer” type. Hunter-gatherers are generally lactose intolerant as they haven’t evolved the necessary enzymes that the descendants of farmers and herders evolved.

However, cow’s milk is not the only reason why colicky babies cry so much, they are simply more highly sensitive than other people. I have been arguing that high sensitivity is a remnant of our hunter-gatherer past, that people with a long line of farmer-herder genes have lost.

Children who cry a lot are therefore not “sissies”. There are deeper reasons behind this phenomenon as they really feel hurt or stressed more than other children. If your child cries easily is is a sign of high-sensitivity and (hunter-gatherer) neurodiversity:

Early signs of these are colicky babies (as mentioned above) and toddlers who throw frequent tantrums. I know this is what toddlers do, in particular during their terrible twos, but you know the difference between a normal tantrum and one that ends with a meltdown. Here are some reasons why hunter-gatherer children cry:

  • Overstimulation (deeper level of processing of environmental stimuli)
  • Oversensitivity towards noise, textiles, food, etc.
  • Feeling treated unfairly
  • Feeling criticized unfairly
  • Forced to do something the child doesn’t understand the relevancy of

The first two points have to do with hunter-gatherer physical sensitivity, the remaining points with hunter-gatherer social sensitivity. Hunter-gatherers treat their children in the same egalitarian way like everybody else. Children are generally not forced to do any work or anything at all. There is no “authoritarian parenting” (which most likely arose with farming). Hunter-gatherers also have a relaxed attitude towards “social norms”, i.e. what Michel Gelfand calls “loose culture”, whereas farmer societies tend to have a “tight culture” that expects obedience, strict adherence to rules and social conformity. As hunter-gatherers are not quick to criticize, criticism is generally considered a serious sign, a step towards ostracism. This is actually the reason why hunter-gatherer type children, like gifted children and children with ASD, take criticism (sometimes not even ill-intentioned) to heart reacting with seemingly inappropriate sadness or anger. All the worse is when they get bullied, it feels to them like the whole world is against them.

Just like hunter-gatherer type babies might not have the enzymes to digest cow’s milk easily, a child that cries over homework is therefore likely to have this “egalitarian hunter-gatherer” software installed in his or her brain. The invisible scars may sometimes remain for a long time and sometimes oppositional defiant disorder may the outcome. Reacting to a defiant hunter-gatherer type child with authoritarian force is, therefore, the wrong way to do it, as it is reactive and not proactive aggressive. The right way to react is with egalitarian kindness.

Last, but not least the lyrics of this great “hunter-gatherer” song:

When the Children Cry — White Lion

Little child

Dry your crying eyes

How can I explain

The fear you feel inside

’Cause you were born

Into this evil world

Where man is killing man

And no one knows just why

What have we become

Just look what we have done

All that we destroyed

You must build again

When the children cry

Let them know we tried

’Cause when the children sing

Then the new world begins

Little child

You must show the way

To a better day

For all the young

’Cause you were born

For the world to see

That we all can live

With love and peace

No more presidents

And all the wars will end

One united world

When the children cry

Let them know we tried

’Cause when the children sing

Then the new world begins

What have we become

Just look what we have done

All that we destroyed

You must build again

No more presidents

And all the wars will end

One united world

When the children cry

Let them know we tried

’Cause when the children fight

Let them know it ain’t right

When the children pray

Let them know the way

’Cause when the children sing

Then the new world begins

Songwriters: Mike Tramp / Vito Bratta

When the Children Cry lyrics © Vavoom Music Inc., Mike Tramp Music

Originally published at http://the-big-ger-picture.blogspot.com on January 19, 2021.

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