Your kids are driving you slightly crazy, yes? Oh my goodness, I can relate. These tips will help you deal with a grumpy child and teach them how to communicate without whining, sulking, or pouting.
Your son is mad at you because you poured milk on his cereal when he only wanted it on the side.
Your daughter huffs past you in a little ball of rage because her brother is taking all the attention… AGAIN.
You are fed up.
How do you handle a moody kid?
I’ve been there. Frankly, as recently as yesterday.
I find there are two ways to deal with a grumpy child. The first way is preventative. Teaching kids how to identify and COMMUNICATE their feelings will mean fewer tantrums in the future.
The second way is reactive – when your kid’s emotions escalate and you need to take action.
These tips will help you assess the situation, deal with it and not lose your mind in the process.
Kid moody? First, breathe
If you are like me, you can usually handle the first bouts of moodiness very well.
But then, the whining continues.
It drains on you.
It exhausts you until you feel like you are ready to curl up into a little ball and cry.
And there is no shame in that! I’ve done it. The way I see, your kids need to see that their actions push people to emotional limits.
If you realize what is happening before you get to that point, take a time out for yourself and breathe.
Stand there and take a few deep breaths. When you ready, here’s what to do.
Child moodiness: figure out the trigger
This takes a little investigation because kids will never tell you what made them emotional.
Depending on the age of the child, they frequently don’t even know themselves.
Start thinking about what happened before the incident.
Was your child fine and then suddenly moody and refusing to cooperate? What was the incident that made them that way?
Some common triggers are:
- a sibling getting attention
- told to do an undesired activity (i.e. homework or chores)
- being reprimanded
- told to stop doing something fun, like come inside to eat and say goodbye to friends.
Once you identify the trigger, do not feel like you have to solve it!
In fact, unless its hunger (where its probably in your best interest for the long haul to give him or her a snack), let it be.
In my experience, asking a moody child questions about why they are upset will only escalate the situation. Knowing the trigger is for your benefit at this point. You can address the cause after the child has calmed down.
What are the best actions to take at this point?
Ignore your kid’s bad mood
If your daughter answers every question with a whine, you are DONE.
Tell her you are done. Put on your best calm voice and say something like, “Let me know when you are ready to talk to me in a respectful voice.”
Ignore those scowling glances as she follows your movements throughout the kitchen.
Disregard those stomping footsteps down the hallway. You are not playing that game.
Trust me, I have to tell myself that repeatedly: “I’m not playing this game. I’m not playing this game.”
She is seeking out attention in an inappropriate way and my goal is not responding.
My mission is to teach her ways of expressing her emotions that are respectful to those people around her.
If the temper tantrum becomes too extreme, simply…
Have Your Child Leave
This is not as extreme as it sounds!
The thinking goes, if she is not going to act in a way that is respectful to other family members, she needs to go to her room until she can be respectful.
This is not a time out, because your child has complete control of the situation. She decides when she emerges from her room based on her attitude.
Let her stay in her chosen quiet place for as long as she needs.
It’s not too long if your child remains in that place for over an hour. All children require different amounts of time to process the situations and discover why they are feeling the way they do.
Remove all access to electronics because you want her to think.
She needs calm and solitude to process her emotions and work through them on her own.
Sometimes, hugs make everything better.
If you have tried to have your child leave the room, you’ve been trying it for a while and have seen no improvement, try cuddling.
It sounds counterintuitive to some extent because it might feel like you are rewarding your child for bad behavior.
Honestly, it depends on what triggered your child in the first place.
Remember that you are learning as you go as a parent. No one has a child and immediately knows the best way to raise them.
Parenting is constant experimentation between what works for your own child and what works for your personality.
So if you’ve tried one strategy for a while and it’s just not working… think 10-15 times…feel free to change it up.
If leaving the room is not helping your child, hold her.
Hug her and tell her it’s ok to be in a bad mood and ok to be sad.
You may find that she breaks down and cries with this extra attention. Try and see what happens.
Or, she may push you away and continue sulking. At which point, I ask her to leave the room and I comfort myself with ice cream.
Parenting is hard.
Next time your child throws a tantrum, try these steps.
Dealing with child behavior is a struggle for any parent. Here are some resources that will help you through some of the behavior issues you may have right now: