My Child Is So Moody!

It's difficult knowing where you stand with a moody child. You may find your child goes from sunny smiles to stormy tears in a matter of seconds. She might be playing happily by herself one minute and bursting with frustration the next.

If your child is naturally prone to ups and downs, you have to learn how to deal with her without dissolving in frustration yourself.

  • Show her you care. Talk to your child; ask if something's bothering her. Give her a hug. (Sometimes that's all she needs.) But avoid hovering over her or badgering her to find out what's wrong. If she doesn't want to talk, or doesn't know the answer, let her be, without acting resentful or rejected.
  • Keep it light. A light approach can be a shortcut out of a bad situation. If your child is trying to provoke you, back off. You don't have to assert your authority with a child who's being irrational--she won't learn anything from it when she's in that mood anyway. Try instead to gently kid your child out of her bad mood. If she won't allow herself to be cheered, make sure she doesn't bring you down with her. Wait until she's ready to talk reasonably.
  • Anticipate trigger points. If you know your child's mood usually turns sour when she has to switch activities (ending her morning playtime and getting ready for preschool, for example), be prepared for it. Don't be shocked if, once again, your child is crabby when you tell her it's time to get her coat on.
  • Try distracting her from what she has to do. Tell her a story, sing a song, or describe something silly you did unintentionally that morning. See if you can get her moving without her realizing that she's in the middle of a transition. Give her plenty of warning about the upcoming transition. Or start a pleasant ritual that signals the transition (a glass of chocolate milk before bath time or a walk past the duck pond on the way to school).
  • Make sure she gets enough rest. Moodiness is usually made worse by fatigue. If your child is slowly giving up her afternoon nap, you may be dealing with a cranky creature every evening. Try engaging her in restful, not too stimulating activities if you want to avoid a bad mood. Move her bedtime up a bit earlier.
  • Avoid trying her patience at a cranky time of day. Don't schedule a checkup for the late afternoon if that's her moody period. Arrange it so that she faces the more difficult experiences when she's feeling awake and upbeat.
  • Watch out for your own emotions. If you get moody, try not to pass it on to your child. Model how to behave when you're feeling down. If you've been snapping at your child, apologize and explain that you're in a down mood and you're going to do something to cheer yourself up (bake bread, read for 15 minutes, go for a walk, take a bath, etc.).
  • If your child is feeling downright nasty, ask her to go to her own room, to the backyard, or anywhere away from the people she's mistreating, so she can get over her bad mood.

Ruling Out Serious Problems

If your child has several of these symptoms, she may be suffering from depression. There may also be physical reasons for the way she's behaving. Speak to your pediatrician about the situation.

Look for these signs in your child:

  • Frequent irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A loss of interest in activities she used to enjoy
  • More or less sleep than you think is healthy
  • A loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Lower weight gains than expected for normal growth
FisherPrice Parenting Guide CDROM