In the 1972 award winning book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, author Judith Viorst outlines the snowball effect. In the book Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair; your child could have fallen out of bed, had a bad dream or just feel out of sorts. However it starts, it is a tough situation for a parent to be in. There are ways to cheer up crabby kids, and it doesn’t involve standing on your head or spending a penny.
Observe. Discover what might be the root cause of a cranky morning. Did they not get enough sleep? Is Daddy gone on a business trip? Are they sad because they want to see Grandma again like they did yesterday? Try to pick up on their blue mood clues without twenty questions that can shove the cranky mood deeper.
Give the grumps a cold shoulder, so to speak. Ignore the attitude, but not the child. Don’t change your routine, or cater to the child if it is simply a morning funk. Borrow a hint of wisdom from Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Fire Your Shrink- Do It Yourself Strategies for Changing Your Life and Everyone In It. She suggests that you act as if everything is the way it should be. Children who receive special treatment when they are cranky as opposed to on happy days, can get into a bad pattern.
Empathize. If there is definite reason behind the grumpy morning, such as losing a pet, or other changes in their life, then letting your child know you understand is appropriate. Let them vent and discover what is really bothering them. You may be surprised at their thought process. More likely than not, what they are worried or upset about is different from their smaller perspective. For this reason it is important to listen more than you speak when handling a cranky kid.
Divert. Offer an alternative that has been proven to be enjoyable. Look through photo albums, turn on music or ask for their help in the kitchen. Cleaning works for my daughter. Without too many words, I hand her a small basket, dust cloth or ask her to wash the sliding glass doors. The repetitive movements and positive reinforcement she gets from a completed job often cheer her up.
No Rewards. Be careful not to unintentionally reward your child’s bad behavior. If a cranky child throws a temper tantrum and then gets a cookie or new toy to pacify their behavior, then they will quickly learn how to “work the system.”
Practice a little baby whispering. Stare into a cranky child’s eyes and take slow deep breaths. The attention and modeling can soothe a little one. Even toddlers and older children can be “whispered” make a concerted effort to speak slow and low. At the end of Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day he wants to move to Australia, and mom simply replies everybody has bad days, even people who live in Australia. Keep your replies as bland and the bad mood will dissipate faster.
The Baby Whisperer
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Fire Your Shrink
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