a 3 year old who will not cry when hurt badly

by Linda


I have a 3 year old daughter who tends to bottle up her emotions when hurt. She is 'normal' in every other respect. If I see her get hurt, she will see me looking at her. I can tell she is hurt by the way she looks at me and the way her behaviour changes. She withdraws and does not want me to comfort her. I certainly do not over react, like I WANT her to cry, but I just try to let her know that I am there if she needs comforting. If I try to just tell her 'it's okay' or rub her back, she glares at me or tries to slap me or runs away.

I am just worried because there have been occasions where I have not seen her get hurt, but know that something has happened, eg. today I noticed a small cut near her eyebrow. When I questioned it, she yelled at me and said I could not look at it. Being as laid back as I could, I asked her to come to a mirror together so she could see what happened. By her seeing it, it seemed to help her open up and talk to me (as it turns out, she had bumped her head on some furniture that she was jumping near). Another example: I saw her put her hand near a plate that was hot as I was cooking. It would not have burnt her, but it would have been hot enough for her to take her finger off if held there too long! When I questioned if she was okay, she denied that had even touched it (even though I knew she had!) I could tell she was not okay by her usual withdrawal symptoms upon being hurt.

I am just worried because one day she may be in the care of someone else (eg. preschool) and she could fall, hurt herself badly. What if no one realises she is hurt because she is just not willing to tell anyone or tries to cover it up.

Do you think there is anything to worry about?

Thank you,

Dr Maud Answers
Some children have higher pain thresholds than others and this can change over time.

It sounds as if you are vigilant so I am sure your daughter will be safe. I wouldn't worry too much.

If she has a major injury you will probably know by how she acts even if she doesn't cry. If she has a fracture, she won't be able to move that limb normally, for example. In preschool, I am sure the staff are used to watching when children are climbing etc, so you needn't worry too much about that either.

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Nov 15, 2020
No cry (in public/around strangers)
by: Anonymous

I can relate to the not crying part very well. But in my case I was just ashamed to be myself in the public or near total strangers, even around my playmates at the age of 3. Your case seems like your kid is either ashamed to show emotions, especially negative emotions/ weakness because they are either conditioned to think that crying is not accepted or that it gives other people advantage over them or whatever but something undesirable. Maybe its not about you. Maybe they just have high hopes from themselves like if they thinking, "I shouldn't cry to such silly stuffs". I was a thinker kid. Though my mother didn't discourage me from crying but I thought all this things to myself even at such young age. Sometimes you just need to give them confidence and try to pass on this message that however they are, you accept them. That will help them open up eventually. Better if it is done at early age because as we grow up our habits become more concrete and behavioural change becomes difficult.

Mar 02, 2017
No cry NEW
by: Anonymous

My son is 13 years old, and has never
Cried, in his life, not even wen he was born. Why?

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