What Do You Do With The “Crankies”?

Does your child tend to be cranky, especially in the morning? Everyone gets irritable from time to time, and that’s OK. Still, it isn’t always easy to be around a cranky kid.

Recently a major parenting forum included a post by a parent who wants to know how to deal with her 10-year-old son’s “crankies.” Here’s what I suggested :)

1. Generally speaking, if a kid tends to be cranky, look for a source. Is he getting enough down time? Does he spend extended time in activity he really enjoys, as opposed to being shuttled to and from activities he may not enjoy so much? Does he get enough meaningful connection with you and your co-parent? It’s not possible to create the perfect life for a child, but his mood can be an indicator of his general emotional well-being.

2. Be sure you’re modeling what you want to see. When you’re cranky or unhappy, do you express your feelings the way you’d like him to express his feelings? He won’t articulate his feelings the way you might, but do you use “I” statements, do you ask for what you need vs. criticize, etc.? This kind of modeling is important.

3. Some people are Not Morning People. And you may be able to ease his transition from sleep to morning by having some kind of genuine connection with him right as he wakes up. If you snuggle in bed for five minutes, or just sit on his bed, in silence or quietly talking about whatever he wants – your mornings might be very different!

4. Morning time is not good screen time. Screens are overstimulating at this time of day and it’s hard for kids to focus on getting ready for the day if they have screens to distract them. So keep the screens turned off.

5. If he’s complaining about something he can manage for himself, try to set things up so that he can in fact handle it himself. For example, if he gripes about little things like the bowl you select for the cereal, have him fix his own cereal. If he’s griping about something you’re doing that he can do, see if he can be responsible to do that for himself. This teaches him that he can manage a problem instead of just complaining about it.

6. When it comes to crankiness with siblings, know that it is possible to teach kids to communicate with each other in a genuine and respectful way. It’s possible to teach kids to ask for what they want as opposed to just complaining or whining or acting out. You would have to guide them both through this process (social scripts are good for this), but once they learn these communication skills they’ll poke at each other less, because they’ll have another, more effective language they can use.

Some kids seem prone to crankiness because they’re more sensitive, so more things bother them. For other kids, crankiness is more of a habit, a not-so-effective way of communicating needs and preferences. Either way, there are things you can do to ease the crankies. What’s worked for you in the past? Send me an email and let me know!

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