How do you handle cranky kids?

Good Monday morning, readers!

Without going into too much detail, I have had a cranky child on my hands for the past week or so, and it has been very hard on the rest of the family. This particular child has had a very short temper and has often resorted to yelling, pushing, and other such tactics, and I can tell that this behavior has caused all of the other family members to be more on edge as well. My strategy has been to say, “If you are going to act like that, you will need to spend some time in your room. You cannot be around our family when you are yelling like that.” The benefit is that this gives the other children (and me!) a break from the chaos, and it also gives the child a chance to cool of. Sometimes this works quite well, and other times it does not yield the desired outcome.

What are your strategies for handling cranky kids?

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  • For my younger children, when they are cranky, I start by giving them chamomile tablets, then I am very vigilant about their sleep and diet- I try to have them nap, and I make sure they are getting a good amount of protein and not so much sugar.nFor my older children, I bring them to confession.

  • If there’s no organic reason a child is cranky (not enough food or sleep or exercise), and there have been no recent changes to routine (good friends away on vacation, too much free time or not enough), it’s reasonable to assume that there’s some emotional need that’s going unmet. It seems counter-intuitive, but a special time with Mom is often exactly what’s needed.u00a0 nnBehavior is a form a communication, especially with young children. It’s okay to say, “Wow, I’ve noticed you’ve been having a hard time with your feelings lately. I was thinking maybe you need a little extra love.”nn

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never heard of chamomile tablets, could you please tell me more about them?u00a0nI love that you bring your older children to confession – can’t wait to have my first receive this sacrament at the end of this school year, it will be so special to share this experience with him!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this reminder, Julia, you are so right and I am going to take this advice to heart today.

  • Texas Mommy

    A protein snack is also one of my first interventions! I think it is also helpful to see if you can recognize what triggers the crankiness. Lately, as we have dealt with some very wildly aggressive behavior with our oldest, my husband has been asking me to think back to what prompted the violent meltdown. There are definitely patterns for him. In fact, we may go back to a behavior journal.nnIs there anything that calms her down in a way that engages her (rather than being sent to her room to rage/brood?) (I’m assuming it’s M, but maybe that’s not fair!) I send Dash to practice piano upstairs, which is helpful because it requires his full attention as his pieces are challenging and utilizing many sense and the inputs calm him down most of the time.u00a0nnI also love Julia’s advice. While there may be physiological or stimulatory reasons for crankiness, it may be a plea for more attention. Or maybe it is the anticipatory stress of the school year gearing back up. We have one that doesn’t like change so seeing the school supplies and backbacks laying around is stressful.

  • Jurismater

    I agree with all the comments here. I always start with (1) very early bedtimes for 2 or more nights and (2) more careful diet especially protein and vegetables.nnIf this is any help, I also think that the summer is wearing on my 3 year old daughter (third in the birth order); she’s been especially cranky for the last couple of weeks. For us, school shifts the pecking order–the oldest goes to school, so the second oldest is the most important one at home and gets to be the “big kid” for a year or two. Now we’re getting ready for our second oldest to go to Kindergarten, so my 3 year old daughter will be the big girl at home. I think it’s really really high time for that, and she’s beginning to suffer from being bumped to third in line, the baby among the older kids, for the entire summer now. We are just hanging on and doing the best we can until school. Getting my oldest off to school transformed my #2 from a frustrated, immature, extremely difficult child into a calm, helpful, thoughtful, self-controlled little gentleman. It was night and day.

  • Chamomile tablets are sold as “teething tablets”.u00a0 I buy them at Walgreens- they are Hyland brand and I find them in the baby aisle.u00a0 They are little white pellets that disolve in the kids’ mouths.u00a0 I usually start babies on just one, but for a fussy toddler, I will give 2 or 3.u00a0 I think the chamomile is a sedative.u00a0 I have given it to my older kids as well.nConfession is such a great parenting tool!u00a0 It is great for the kids to reflect on what they have done, and everyone benefits from the graces!u00a0 We actually had our second child do his first confession before his second grade class (at the recommendation of my husband’s confessor and with the approval of the parish priest) and it was a huge blessing.u00a0 I will likely have all of my children make their first (and second and third, etc.) confessions early.

  • Mary Alice

    I totally agree about the room time, I even assign it to myself — following up on JM’s post, sometimes the kids hear me say “mommy is not ready to be nice so she needs a time out.”u00a0 I send children to their rooms with instructions to come back when they are ready to be nice.u00a0 If they come back cranky, then I assign an amount of time, since they were not able to make the judgement themselves.u00a0 nnThe best is when the child then falls asleep!nnMy over tired toddler hits, so he really does have to be isolated for the safety and well being of all.n

  • Mary Alice

    Older children can be sent for a short run as well, just a quarter of a mile around the block can do wonders.u00a0

  • Kate E.

    When I saw L hit H yesterday I had such an immediate flash back to Jack at just that age. It was the same face, and the same hit, and the same overtired, frustrated time of day. Jack’s phase of this didn’t last super long (I think it was just that summer) but I remember it so well. Since he didn’t have siblings he saved the hitting for his closest friend and all our furniture and once his mother (that was a day). Seriously they made the exact same face though. It was almost deja vu. And then it made me a little sad that Jack isn’t that age anymore, and then I thought that it was weird to be nostalgic over hitting so I kept to myself, only to share it now.nnNow we are in the next phase which is whining. Ugh. By the time our afternoon wrapped up yesterday I got a car trip full of whine and I was DONE! After being sent to his room he really did calm down though and was apparently very helpful to his Dad at bedtime (I fled the house).u00a0 Today we have instituted a whine consequence and we’ll see how it works.u00a0 Much like JM’s little gal, I think summer is wearing on him. Our diet has been off, and structure too. Days are either filled with soooo much big activity or lazy not doing much…and I think neither one is good in excess.