The other day, after I picked up my daughter from camp, I asked how her day went. “Fine!” she said, sounding grouchy. “Why do you always ask me that?” Because, I responded in my most rational tone of voice, “I’m your mom, and I like hearing how you enjoyed yourself.” We exchanged a few more words as it became increasingly clear that she was overheated and tired, our discussion ending when she shouted that endearing phrase, “You don’t love me!” After we got home I handed her a little fan and said, “Go cool off your body and your brain.” It actually worked, because 10 minutes later my previously-scheduled sweet child emerged from her room.
Everyone gets the grumpies at times, kids and adults alike. Only we don’t (usually) screech, wail, or throw ourselves on the floor. So how to handle it when your kids are in a bad mood? For answers, I turned to the best experts I know: other parents. Their suggestions for handling a little Mr. or Ms. Crabby:
1. “One day, our 5-year-old daughter kept whining ‘Can I watch a movie?’ over and over, even after my husband kept saying ‘No.’ Finally, he got sick of repeating himself, so he taped himself saying ‘No’ on the voice memo recorder on his smartphone, handed it to her, and said, ‘Press here every time you ask that question.’ And she did it! I walked in to find her saying, ‘Can I watch a movie?’ then pressing the button to hear ‘No,’ again and again — but giggling instead of whining.” — Jeannie K.
2. “I usually let it ride, but if I’m feeling like supermom I try to break it down with HALT: Is kid hungry/angry/lonely/tired.” — Katrina M.
3. “Sometimes TV, sometimes humor, sometimes we do a restart — he gets sent back to his room to start the day over. My latest technique is kids’ yoga. We do the DVD together and everyone feels more relaxed and calmer.” — Alana K.
4. “When whining turns to crying, I zap the tears falling down my boys’ faces with the tips of my fingers like I’m playing a video game, sound effects and all. Eventually, they laugh. Works every time!” — Jennifer G.
5. “I sing to my daughter, and also read Pete the Cat books and steal his phrase: ‘Do we cry? Goodness no! We keep on singing!'” — Amanda P.T.
6. “Work it off! They want to give me attitude? Doing a load of dishes will turn that into gratitude. If they still want to grump at me, there’s a load of laundry to go in. It makes them realize that they got it pretty darn good that their life is picture books and Minecraft while someone else is making them sandwiches and tying their shoes for them. It also has given them a better appreciation for the things I do every day.” — Breann H.
7. “Car ride. Change of venue. Time.” — Jen G.
8. “Cuddling on the couch and then watching a movie. Sometimes, they just need some love.” — Lisa L.
9. “If grumpiness turns into unacceptable behavior then start 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, a book that addresses child discipline with humor and practicality.” — Peggy M
10. “Water! A bath works wonders on my grumpy kids … and myself.” — Debbie S.
11. “Providing it’s not sickness induced, I vacuum around the situation. You are not engaging in it (cannot hear them), and you are doing something constructive.” — Mary L.
12. “A really tight hug followed by a talk — all me — about how difficult some days can be, and it’s OK to be grumpy, or sad or lazy and not want to do things; that it’s OK for him to have those days sometimes. It usually helps, or maybe he just gets tired of me talking to him and knows the only way I’ll leave him alone is if he calms down!” — Monica J.
13. “Tickles and silliness always seems to get me a smile. Sometimes my son needs the pressure to divert his focus, and the physicality of the tickle gives him what he needs.” — Pamela L.
14. “Outside time! Messy play, water play, sprinklers, mud. Grumpy is usually associated with bored or under stimulated with my sensory-seeking kids.” — Traci B.
15. “Annoy them so much that they have to turn the frown upside down!” — Jen G.
16. “I use my smartphone or camera to take pictures and/or video. I reserve this trick when we are out running errands, and I need him to snap out of it quick. He eventually wants to see the pictures and video and will start laughing. It’s silly to see yourself crying and carrying on.” — Christina P.
17. “I let them be grumpy. We all have those days when we’re just not in the mood, and I don’t think children are the exception. If one of mine seems to want their mood attended to, then I do what I can to cheer. Otherwise, I let them work it out.” — Toni M.
18. “I go with the dropping-him-at-Grandma’s-and-having-a-glass-of-wine option.” — Kim T.
Image source: Cropped photo from Flickr/CBGB_Hoser