|Happy help for grouchy kids
Author: Dr. Betty Richardson
Q. Our youngest son Sean, age six, is grouchy in the mornings and off-and-on during the day. His grouchy, somewhat pouty expression, his frequent complaints and finding fault with everything and everyone around him are wearing us down. Are some people born grouchy while others are always happy or somewhere in between? What advice do you have for us on how to change his grouchy behavior into something more pleasant that we can enjoy and celebrate?
A. It may be that some people have an inherited tendency to be grouchy. Scientists have found genetic evidence of an inherited happiness factor in those few people we know who are always happy no matter what is going on. If there is an inherited happy personality, why wouldn’t an inherited grouchy one be possible too? Of course not all grouchiness is inherited. There are other reasons for grouchiness such as not knowing how to make one’s needs known, lack of sleep or rest, boredom, hunger and having a parent or significant caregiver who models grouchiness.
Here are some ideas for dealing with grouchiness:
Check your behavior; if you’re modeling grouchiness, you need to model more of what you want to see in your child.
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. A sleep-deprived child is an irritable child who doesn’t do well at school in addition to not doing well at home.
Provide some snacks at appropriate times. One video on the internet shows a grouchy, pouty child begin to smile as he starts to eat his milk-dunked cookie.
Use distraction. There are times when you can get a grumpy child involved in doing something fun like listening to a story or taking a nature walk; soon he forgets to be grumpy.
Sing. With children who like singing I’ve found that singing “You are my Sunshine” will have them joining in and smiling before the second round of the song. Listening to music can also help grumpy children.
Have a heart-to-heart talk with your child. One mother described getting down on the child’s eye level and explaining that his behavior was affecting the way the rest of the family felt all day, and told him to ask for what he wants rather than complaining and pouting.
Hopefully one of these ideas will work for you; if nothing works and the grouchy behavior gets worse, check in with a mental health professional. Extreme irritability, complaining and finding fault can be symptoms of a mood disorder. A professional can help you come up with a plan for dealing with the behavior if nothing you try works.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.