When Children Get Grumpy
Children can get grumpy when they become fatigued, hungry, or disoriented. Staying up too late or getting up too early messes with their capacity to cope. Let them have to wait much longer than usual for a meal and they begin to lose it. When children’s schedules are modified or juggled, their grumpiness seems to be magnified many times over. When the family travels and sleeping locations are changed or there are diversions from a regular schedule the chance of grumpiness escalates. Put two grumpy children together and sibling fights increase without much other provocation. It doesn’t take much to make the whole family grumpy under these circumstances.
However, you can work with your children to order their lives so they (and you) can better deal with their grumpiness. There are three different skills to cure or at least relieve the challenges of grumpiness in your family.
The First Skill
First, when children get grumpy it means you must alter your schedule accordingly. If they are going to stay up late the night before, they will need to either sleep in or take naps the next day. Also, major activities take a lot of energy, so having them one day after the other, especially with younger children, can be taxing. A late activity one night and an early activity the next day just doesn’t work well, either. So, make every effort to help children get enough sleep each day, either with naps or quiet time after a shortened night’s sleep the previous evening.
Other times, the grumpiness is caused by lack of food. Smart parents always have food close by for toddlers, but even older children can be relieved of grumpiness with a small snack and a moment’s respite in the midst of hectic activity.
The Second Skill
Second, teach children that weariness is part of life and that it is okay to stop, to curl up, or just lay down for a while even if sleeping isn’t likely to happen. Identifying and expressing exhaustion helps everyone to understand what is happening. Of course, you might set the example by indicating to your children at the end of a long morning:
“I’m a bit tired. Moving to a new home is taxing for me. I’ll just sit down for a bit to rest right now. Maybe after lunch, I’ll even take a short nap. During that time, the rest of you can nap or read quietly.”
Because weariness is inevitable, especially during very stressful or long, drawn out days, help children to understand that is acceptable to be tired and then to rest. Encourage a regular “time alone” after lunch when the family naps, plays quietly in their rooms, or reads. This routine will establish permission to rest for both parents and children.
The Third Skill
Lastly, help children gain skills to talk through their feelings and needs even when they get grumpy. When emotions are running high and weariness is added, grumpiness in others must be addressed with much patience.
“Jacob, you seem a bit out of sorts. Tell me how you are feeling inside and then we’ll rest together for a moment or two on the family room couch.”
In addition to helping children identify when they are grumpy, talk with them about why and how grumpiness is manifest in other’s lives. When you and your children observe it another person, you might wish to speak to them about it when you have a private moment together.
“Did you notice that Mrs. Barnes was especially testy just now? I believe she worked all the night at the hospital and is just returning home. Could you sense that her voice was tight and there were shadows under her eyes? These are ways to know a person is very tired. I hope that she gets a few hours of sleep now.”
When others act ornery, identify the behavior attached to their grumpiness and explain possible reasons for it. This will help your children understand the physical manifestations of grumpiness and how they can perceive it in themselves and other people.
Remember, sometimes it pays to slow down to get more done. Allow your children to get plenty of sleep, help them become aware that they are grumpy, and teach them the skills to communicate about their irritable feelings. Encourage them to take a moment’s respite when weariness sets in. When these skills are in place, your family can be a happier family all around.
Photos used with permission of sxc.hu.