Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing

There are few things more annoying than fussing, whinging children. We have all seen parents feed the fuss and we have seen others who seem to want their children never to show they are sore, sad, scared or overwhelmed. Here’s a truly magnificent and easy way to solve the problem, and we – the parents – have to do very little work.

We had a great night out at friends for dinner Saturday night. There were 10 children altogether ranging from four almost-nine- year olds, to our Butterfly toddler. The kids were great, they basically disappeared (except for feeding times!) and created their own adventures and excitement. But, naturally towards the end of the evening a few tears emerged. Mostly it was our Owl. Like all of us with an Owl temperament he’s easily overwhelmed by sensory information and excitement. Thank goodness for Boring-Cuddles.

I have been a devotee of Diane Levy’s Boring-Cuddles for six years now. They’re magic once you get the hang of them. With any distressed child (sad, sore, scared, overwhelmed) you just hold them. You don’t speak or make shusshing noises (my Conscientious side finds that tricky), you don’t push them away (my Self-Sufficient side often finds that hard) and you don’t make any eye-contact. You are basically there as an ‘open palm’ to support only. That way they learn to process their big emotions. They do the work, we don’t have to do anything except accept the process and be there. They calm and pull away in their own time. Of course, if you and they aren’t used to it, it can take a few minutes to work. But we’ve used Boring-Cuddles from as early as the rolling…oops banged your head…stage and noticed that even with small babies, and  with the naturally hyper-sensitive Owl, they work within two minutes.

So on Saturday night when the five year old Owl crawled up on to my lap and sobbed his heart out, I didn’t shussh him or go with him when he wanted me to play. I just sat and held him, at first listening to what he had to say (completely focussed on him), and then kept holding him but removed my focus and continued listening to the adult conversation. Soon he was calm again, he had processed his emotions, solved his own dilemma and was gone. Magic. Thanks, Diane.

For more innovative ideas about dealing with tantrums buy my book,


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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59 Responses to Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing

  1. tanoshinde says:

    I’m going to have to remember this. It really sounds like an effective way of dealing with the fussy moments, and fits in very squarely with everything I’ve read in neuro- and developmental psychology. BTW, your blog is impressive — candid, well-written, and full of excellent, thoughtful ideas. I think I’m going to have to bookmark it so when I need a quick dose of parenting advice in the future, it’ll be easy to find 😀

  2. kloppenmum says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and thank-you for the lovely compliments. Boring Cuddles are fabulous: it’s remembering to use them that’s the key! Let me know how you get on with them.

  3. I’ve never heard it called such, but I prefer “boring cuddles” myself. “Don’t try to fix it for me, just hear me feeling it for a minute and then we can move on…”

    We do this with our three daughters as well, though we usually combine it with some active empathizing as well. “Oh, you bonked your head… Are you hurt or just upset about it… You’re sad? Oh… Bummer.” (Cuddle, cuddle, breathe and wait).

    Nice to see someone passing on such simple, grounded, and humane parenting ideas. Please keep it up.

    Be well.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Thanks for the support. I have felt like I have been a bit of a lone voice, so it’s lovely to hear that there are other people around on the same wavelength.

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  5. Mama Bee says:

    I am going to have to try this. I do try to let them figure things out as much as I can but it is very much a conscious effort on my side. I am used to having things fixed or fixing things. Not a good things to get my kids used to. Boring cuddles will start tomorrow!

  6. Ashley says:

    Karyn, I love the boring cuddles idea! It makes perfect sense, and in a way we’ve already been doing this, we just didn’t know what we were doing! When Cora wakes at night or is especially fussy I find myself just holding her close, not saying anything, and swaying until she is calm. And it does work! Thanks, Karyn!

  7. lilzbear says:

    Boring cuddles…what a great idea! As a new mom, I have poured over tons of books about parenting, and what always amazes me is that so many effective methods on parenting and raising kids is exactly what I have seen my grandparents and in turn my parents do for us. And they didn’t use any books, internet, or other support groups to get the information…they basically used family for support and traditional values to how things need to be done, I see a lot of return to these basics in so many parenting styles today…

    • kloppenmum says:

      I think, then, as now, there was a mix of parents who raised trophy children, parents who raised cling-on (past age 5) children and parents who raised mature children. However, I do think there were more mature children raised in the past. That’s kind of where my thinking began.

  8. Hey, your blog is like a wonderful book of secrets. Thank you for passing these parenting gems on.

  9. Chaz says:

    Sounds like a great approach. You know, I can actually remember the feelings of being hugged as a kid. By Mom, Grandma, preschool teachers or others when I was upset. I dont ever remember their words, but I do remember them hugging me and sometimes a gentle swaying. That must say something about the value of a good hug.

    I can see your point about words being overwhelming. And these geater efforts to persuade or control the immediate behaviour of the child may not come from a place in us that is very understanding of what the child needs. If he/she is overwhelmed, more talking may be the exact opposite of help.

    My step son has Aspergers Syndrome. He is often over-stimulated by noisy crowds and setting like malls and gatherings. The last thing he would need is a talk-down. He just needs reprieve or a positive sensory outlet to drain off his overloaded senses.

    So ya, I can see the sense in it. Thanks!


    • kloppenmum says:

      How lovely that you can remember the feeling of being hugged. Boring Cuddles are a great way for children (or adults for that matter) to process their emotions and find balance. And you’re right: adults trying to help either by fussing or by telling the child they can’t really feel anything…despite being full of good intention, is counterproductive. I don’t know a lot about the autism spectrum, but I’m sure you’re right about your step-son. Thanks for leaving such a long comment.

  10. Santo says:

    Brilliant! I wish I had known about this when my children were small …
    Great blog, very well-written and full of interesting material … Best wishes!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Thanks for the thumbs-up. I’m pleased you enjoyed the blog…feel free to pass any information on to anyone you think would be interested. Best wishes to you, too.

  11. Pipi says:

    OMG this is so like my 21 month old son.

    And yes, sometimes it is hard to accept the fact that while other toddlers are running around, yours is just sitting on your lap, frightened. And hearing other mommies saying “it’s because you spoiled him too much,” or “didn’t you take him outside your house once and a while?” and the most heart-breaking “children resemble their parents’ confidence, perhaps you’re not confident enough in public?” and so on..

    But I guess being a parent teach you to not give a damn about what other people say, and after 30 minutes of watching other kids, my son finally stood up and join the crowd.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Temperament plays a huge part in how children manage in the first five years in particular, and then in new situations. We have two children who will go to anyone, play alone for hours etc, and our Owl…I’ve been told repeatedly that we ‘did it’ to him – make him sensitive that is…sigh. He is now (age five and a half) very self-assured and a leader in his class. Use the Boring Cuddles and see what else I can blog about that will help. : )
      You don’t make children truly independent by pushing them – but by satisfying their dependency needs…

      • Lisa Whisnant says:

        I am so glad I read this article. It is brilliant! My son is 6 months old and I am nursing him and hugging him while I hold him and thinking how nice it is that I read this when he’s little. I wish everyone in the world could read this and understand it. Our would would be better for it. So many parents are so far away from their instinctual knowledge of parenting and it’s truly sad. Keep up the good work and spread the word!!

        • Lisa Whisnant says:

          That was supposed to say.. Our *world.would be a better for it. By the way, I shared this on my facebook page. Hope you don’t mind.

        • Thanks Lisa,
          It is great to have this knowledge early on in our parenting. It certainly helped us a lot with our highly sensitive baby and our over-dramatic son and…well any child benefits from parents knowing these things and implementing them IMHO. 🙂

  12. That does sounds like magic. Thank you for sharing this advice.

  13. Richard says:

    Such a good Mom! I was not fortunate enough to have kids (long story) but I enjoy reading your parenting experiences and advice. Very lucky children.

    • kloppenmum says:

      I do my best. Very cool that you follow this blog without children: the aim is to explain people to other people…so it’s not compulsory to have your own kids. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Pepper says:

    I like the stuff I see here. Hope to keep coming back.

  15. This is great! I have a 6 year old and a 1 year old that both fuss. (Though my 6 year old is doing much better 😉 But I still have a toddler that we literally call a “fuss” most of the time. I have been trying so many things to calm the fussing and ease the tears–this is the most simple approach I have seen and still loving too! Thank you for posting this! I am enjoying your blog! 🙂

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi and thanks for commenting. I’m pleased the Boring Cuddles make sense to you. They really work, and actually made me feel like ‘I’ hadn’t done enough work – the first few times I used them. I’m also pleased you’re enjoying the blog. I thought you might after our ‘discussion’ about playing.

  16. Yedei says:

    I love this! I’ve never heard of Boring Cuddles before, but I will definitely have to try it.

    • kloppenmum says:

      They are fabulous, but it can be tricky not to talk and not to push them away in the beginnng. Let me know how you get on: I’m always interested!

  17. mandyunruh says:

    Boring Cuddles. Such a beautiful, natural instinct. Thank you!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Yes, I love that they work with our children – so they can calm themselves, rather than have us shuush them because society wants stoic people. Thanks for commenting.

  18. mindslam says:

    What a great post…that should help out alot of people!

  19. Christine says:

    I love the concept and will definitely try the Cuddles approach. Keep writing, I’d like to read more!

  20. eco mom says:

    Hello for the first time! I loved this post. I think we underestimate how helpful just a little snuggling and holding can be.

    I wish my husband would agree. It seems when the children are very upset, his goal is to make them stop vocalizing it, and I don’t understand that. He’s pretty attachment parenting-ish oriented, but really seems to have a hard time just letting an emotional breakdown be.

    I was really upset about something the other day, and started crying, and he just gave me a hug until I calmed down. What’s so wrong about a kid needing that too?

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi there yourself! Obviously I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it…people manage according to how they have had their big emotions managed in the past. Men in particular have problems with children making a noise because they were often told to ‘suck-it-up- or be brave. If you start with the Boring Cuddles, and point out the difference after you’ve been doing them for a while, he might get it. Or not. But if you’re helping your children manage, it’s probably enough. Give them a go, and let me know what happens.

  21. Ash Kestler says:

    I’m glad we stumbled upon each other’s blogs. Boring Cuddles is great, and I find, a very intuitive approach. This is how I handle my little Finn’s fussies, and it works wonderfully – now I have a name for it!

    • kloppenmum says:

      That’s great. It is an intuitive approach for many people, others find it difficult not to speak or make a noise and still others will push their children away. I’m pleased it made sense for you!

  22. Asta Burrows says:

    I shouldn’t say this – but I can’t wait for the next time the wee lad needs a boring cuddle – can’t wait to try it!

  23. Sonja says:

    I didn’t know there was a name to these cuddles or that it is a strategy, but to me it was a natural thing that I did that. I think I learned that from my mom, she was great in cuddling, and kids just need those all the time to feel the support. Thanks for keeping your blog and being so natural!

  24. ecoziva says:

    I had read something similar at the Parenting Passageway and it really is a great resource. And now I love the name Boring Cuddle 🙂

    • Parenting Passageway is a great blog, I agree. Boring Cuddle *is* a great name isn’t it; that was Diane Levy’s (NZ Family Therapist) name for them and it just sums them up so well.

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  26. Mama Mo says:

    I am intrigued by the Boring Cuddles. I nurse my boys, and I use a variation of the Boring Cuddle with them already. But I do have a question: How much interaction is used in the first stage? Are there reflective statements? “Oh, I see you bonked your head. How did that feel?” Or is it just the eye contact and empathetic listening?

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  28. aliceyaxley says:

    I like and use this. If I’m understanding correctly, something similar stuck with me through parenting from reading Liedloff’s book ‘The continuum concept’ long before I became a parent. She describes watching Yequana mothers comforting their children: when needed, the mother staya completely relaxed while making her arms or lap available for the child to use. The child takes the comfort. It’s very different to the kind of sympathetic interaction where the mother tenses up to sympathize with the upset child; the Yequana way I think depends on the attachment being strong and in place – perhaps the ‘tense up to sympathize’ thing may emerge because the attachment between adults is not strong and often ineffective in indutrialized society. It may be functioning as an attachment behaviour to try to pick up the child’s attachment relationship, rather than being able to work within it as the Yequana Liedloff observed were able to.

    • Hi and great suggestions,
      Yes I do believe Diane Levy read the Continuum Concept and then named these Boring Cuddles for uz westerners to understand how to do them! There are many reasons why western adults, well some of them, struggle with this, and one is because we haven’t been parented according to what our biology expects – not saying anyone’s parents didn’t love their kids or mean well – when our biology isn’t satisfied we become anxious, when we become anxious we pass that anxiety on to everyone around us and so the patterns of behaviour perpetrate throughout our history and societies. Intrigues me no-end. I am going into this in more detail in my “All about Tantrums” book due out before Christmas. If you friend me at facebook (karyn at kloppenmum) I’m going to let everyone know there when it’s out. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, it’s always good to hear from readers. 🙂

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