Minimizing children’s pain

Treppenwitz posts about the common Hebrew expression used by parents when kids have minor scrapes:”Lo kara kloom,” or “It’s nothing.” Since his blog decided to eat up my comments, I’m responding here.

“Lo kara kloom” is a way of comforting a child and sending him the messsage that everything is okay. But it is often used to minimize or ignore genuine emotions.

Many parents overreact when when their kids get hurt. Yet underreacting can be just as
harmful. Have you ever been upset about a situation, only to be told that it’s nothing? Years ago I was in a car accident; my ribs were badly bruised and painful. For many reasons, the accident was traumatic and it took me a month to recover. I resented the friends who, instead of acknowledging my feelings, implied that I should get over it and be glad that the accident wasn’t more serious. I knew that; I was grateful, but I still suffered. (Actually, the only one who really understood was my own mother a”h.)

I once saw a little boy in the park bump his head on a piece of equipment. Hard. The mother didn’t comfort him, pick him up, nor acknowledge his very real pain in any way. While he screamed hysterically, the mother kept repeating a variation of “lo kara kloom:” “It doesn’t hurt, you’re fine, you don’t need to cry.” Is this a way of toughening up boys?

Our job as parents is to recognize when our children are going to pick themselves up after a fall and skip off, and when they need cuddling and sympathy. It starts when they are babies: Do we recognize that they are crying for a reason, or do we assume that they are manipulating us?

By reflecting children’s feelings, and giving them a proper dose of sympathy or comfort, we help them learn when they can manage on their own and when they need our help. But we need to keep in mind that what looks to us like “kloom” (nothing) may actually be “mashehu” (something).


  1. The best is when OTHER adults tell me/my kid that “Lo kara kloom!” and I’m trying to give the hug, affirmation, etc. I’m in no way an OVERreactor, but it makes me crazy when others pipe in to tell my kid to suck it up!

  2. I don’t see ENOUGH parents saying “lo kara kloom”. I see them, after having their kids in day care all day when they SURELY didn’t look after them, picking them up for every little thing and looking for other children to blame that theirs got hurt. “Lo kara kloom” is very good for minor bumps and mishaps, but not as good as sitting on Imma’s lap and getting kissed and hugged. For my boys, I believe in both. I want them tough but secure.

  3. In my family I am the one who says Lo Kara Kloom, and also suck it up, be a man..
    My wife, on the other hand, is sensitive and kisses the boo boos.

  4. What’s wrong with kissing a boo-boo? You can kiss it while saying lo kara kloom so the kid knows this too shall pass and even quicker with some TLC. The point is not to make a big issue of things that are minor, so that when the big things come along, the kid will handle it better.
    I have not, in recent years, seen parents saying lo kara kloom too many times. They are busy being guilty about not being around their kids enough, and catch a “tremp” on boo boos to show how much they really do care. Then it’s mothers like myself who DO say lo kara kloom but are around our kids 24/7 who end up being the ones to seem odd.

  5. Ari Kinsberg says

    we are like rafi and his mrs

  6. Tamiri
    Why do you have to turn this issue into a working mom/SAHM issue?
    I think it has more to do with parenting styles (or lack thereof) more than anything else. Some parents really don’t know how to differentiate between the big and small issues; so some just either ignore everything or pay too much attention to everything.
    Some parents also project their anxieties onto their kids, making it even more difficult for either parent or child to learn to feel more secure with minor mishaps.
    It really just comes down to really knowing your own kid, when they need to be cuddled and when they need to be dusted off.
    Also, not sure where you live, but here in Israel most Israeli mothers don’t feel guilty about not being home. They think it’s weird if you do.
    Anglo mothers here in Israel are another story.

  7. Abbi, just my experience. 22 years of mothering both here in Israel and in the States. There is a marked difference between parenting styles of MOST SAHMs and MOST non SAHMs. Everyone’s kids come out great, but not through the same channels. Hard to explain, but I really can pick out the kids who are brought up at home.

  8. I would ditto Tamiri on this. I tend to do more comforting for the younger children and do more “lo kara kloom” equivalents for the older ones.

  9. But we need to keep in mind that what looks to us like “kloom” (nothing) may actually be “mashehu” (something).
    Well said.

  10. Tamiri
    That may be your experience or perception, but in my four years of mother ( i.e. clearly we are of different generations) I have yet to meet an Israeli mother who feels an ounce of guilt about going back to work or feels that this daycare somehow harms her child, in either J-m or Ranaana, where I currently live. L’hefech, they are concerned about children who stay home, as young as 6 months, who won’t be properly socialized.
    Additionally, the whole working mom/SAHM war seems to be a distinctly American pastime. I haven’t heard anything resembling that kind of debate in the media or among ordinary mothers. I’m actually grateful that we don’t have that here, because I find that whole debate, and the intense judgementalism that usually comes along with it, very tiresome and unproductive.
    As for being able to pick out kids whose mother works, again, I think that says more about your own prejudices than about whether a mom chooses/has to work or not.

  11. mominisrael says

    I agree with Abbi that not everything is related to guilt about mothers’ choices. Some mothers have an easier time identifying their children’s needs. Mothers who work outside the home need to put extra effort into getting to know their kids when they are home, and not everyone is willing to do that. Mothers who are at home don’t always have an easy time in this area, either.
    The guilt issue is most pronounced with the formulabreastfeeding debate, where health professionals and public health bodies hesitate to give mothers accurate information about formula risks (with a lot of “support” from formula companies), so they won’t feel “guilty” if they decide to formula feed. No one can make you feel guilty. Let’s assume that each mother–and father–makes the best choice that she can for her kids.

  12. mominisrael says

    Trilcat, it’s painful to feel judged for something you have no control over.

  13. As someone who’s trying desperately to breastfeed with a VERY low milk supply, I have had MANY people judge me for giving my baby a bottle… I continually remind myself that at every feeding, she eats more than I pump in a whole day.
    There might be some dangers to formula, but there are more dangers to starving your child.
    I think people should be very very careful about reserving judgment.
    Not every woman has the option of being a SAHM and not every woman would be any good at it either.
    Even in this case, if your kid’s a huge whiner, then yeah, you might tell them to suck it up.
    If the kid almost never cries about anything, and they fall and start screaming, then it’s probably something.
    So I’m not terribly quick to judge.
    Usually with my nieces and nephews, if it looks like they took a bad fall, I ask what hurts and take a look to make sure nothing looks damaged. If it looks like they just need a bit of TLC, I’ll often give them a cuddle and say “you’re okay” while rocking them a little until they calm down and are ready to play again.