A cranky child is nothing new. Children can be moody and out of sorts for too many reasons to count, frustration being the most common. As tiny hands try to learn new things, it can take several tries before they achieve success. Repeated failures can lead to frustration, and frustration to crankiness. Children are not always cranky, and they do not always get frustrated, but certain events and feelings can arise that eventually lead to some form of outburst.
What is “Cranky” Behavior?
In most cases, a cranky child is a frustrated one who exhibits irritable behavior. A child who is not easily pleased or is extremely moody, is often referred to as “cranky” or out of sorts. Crankiness, anger, aggression and frustration are linked to a certain degree. If a child throws a fit because they do not get something they want, they are said to be cranky. The same is true for a child who is having trouble completing a task or learning something new.
Understanding cranky behavior can help parents figure out what is wrong and, possibly, how to fix the problem. Parents who know how their children normally behave can begin to figure out the problem by using a simple process of elimination. Watching what the child eats and how they act will also offer important clues.
Find Out What Is Causing the Crankiness
A cranky baby could also be upset because they don’t feel well. Because of their inability to communicate or their inability to understand anything other than pain, they may not be able to tell you what is wrong, where it hurts or how badly. When a children experience physical feelings they are not accustomed to, it can lead to a variety of emotions. Frustration, anger, irritability and sadness are common. In some cases, the inability to express themselves can cause more irritability than the actual discomfort.
If the crankiness stems from something other than physical discomfort, it’s important to find out what the problem is and address it as soon as possible. Children who are constantly getting whatever they ask for may start to throw temper tantrums when something is withheld. A “spoiled” child can be very demanding and will often throw a fit if they do not get their way. The most basic remedy for this behavior is to teach the child that they will not always be given whatever they desire. Sometimes enduring lengthy, spirited temper tantrums is the only way to accomplish this.
Coping with Crankiness
There are several ways to cope with cranky kids. When kids are extremely upset, it can be difficult to get to the bottom of the issue. The most important thing you can do is to get their attention. If you can get them to make eye contact and speak directly to them, you may be able to calm them enough to ask pointed questions. When kids get upset continually talking to them may only make it worse. Use a single word or phrase they understand that will allow them to focus on the situation at hand and not the emotions driving the frustration.
Encourage your child to talk about the problem if they are old enough. Older children may not feel as if they are listened to. If that’s the case, show them that you will listen and try to uncover the issue by asking questions and communicating with them in ways they understand. When communication is limited due to age, you can try other tactics. For very small children, mimic their physical movements or use similar body language. This will not only grab their attention, but it will cause them to pause. Once you have their full attention, use single words or short phrases to determine what the problem is.
Tactics to Manage a Cranky Child
A more advanced way to calm a child is one that is efficient for adults too. Teaching your child to monitor their own breathing is intriguing to them and can help you calm them down once things start to get out of hand. Have the child place a hand over their diaphragm so they can feel themselves breathe. They will begin to notice how erratic their breathing is. Show them how to slow down their breathing by feeling the movements within their own bodies. When they can accomplish this, reward them hugs and praise.
Create a happiness chart that has several faces on it ranging from upset to sad to happy. It can be a good tool for you to use when you notice your child beginning to act out. The chart is beneficial with small children in helping them describe how upset they are. There are times when a child has no real reason to be upset other than because of wanting attention. If this is the case, take an extra few minutes and read them a book. Take a walk or share some play time together. A few minutes here and there may be just what is needed to prevent emotional outbursts.
There comes a point when the child is so upset that it is practically impossible to get their attention. Putting them in time out may help to solve this problem. By setting them off to the side where they are no longer the center of attention, they will soon realize their outburst is no longer receiving the attention they want. This can be the turning point in the tantrum and will allow you to get their attention. This may only take one or two minutes, especially with a small child.
Always reward communication skills and good behavior by showing them extra affection and a bit more play time.
Take Time for Yourself
As a parent, you are constantly doing things for others. Your children can take up a large part of your day, especially if things are not going well and they are being a proverbial cranky pants. It is important that you always set aside a small portion of your day just for you. It allows you to relax and cope with the stress that a parent faces on a day to day basis. Even if you have to wait until the end of the day when everyone else is asleep, a few minutes to soak in a bubble bath or drink a glass of your favorite beverage on the patio, those few minutes can work wonders.
Affording yourself this small privilege will prevent you from being overwhelmed by your daily activities. Some days can be extremely hectic and dealing with small children who are cranky can put a real damper on your day. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the positive. While this may sound cliche, deep breathing provides your brain with extra oxygen that enables you to think more clearly and focus on the tasks at hand. Embrace the simple pleasures that can be experienced in a few minutes time. They will be the keys to relieving your stress and enjoying your children’s company.