How to Handle a Cranky Child

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Kids are just like adults -- sometimes, they can get mired in a bad mood and exhibit a cranky attitude. But when cranky behavior becomes more common than not around your house, your child may need an attitude adjustment. By ruling out any health-related issues, you can help reshape your child's mood as a way to promote a more positive atmosphere in your home.

  • Rule out any possible health issues before you address your child's behavior directly. Cranky kids are often overtired, overstimulated or even hungry. By making sure that your child gets the 10 to 11 hours of sleep he needs each night, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, fatigue isn't a factor. If your child is consistently cranky, talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of a behavioral or mental disorder.

  • Refuse to engage with your child when he starts being cranky, negative or disrespectful. Even children as young as 5 can understand that a cranky attitude isn't acceptable. If your child starts whining or behaving negatively, try "I'd love to talk to you about this, but not if you're going to be whining. Let me know when you're ready and I'll be here." This sets a precedent for behavior and attitude in your home.

  • Give your child some space when he's in a bad mood. Adding more stimulation, asking what's wrong or trying to communicate with an unwilling participant is likely to make your child more annoyed. Instead, try a self-led time-out, where your child spends some time in his room with a book or art supplies. Space and time alone can help your child calm down and get rid of his bad mood.

  • Offer positive reinforcement whenever your child is in a good mood, uses proper manners or exhibits a positive attitude, suggests FamilyDoctor.org, a website of the American Academy of Family Physicians. When your child realizes that a positive mood is better received than a cranky one, he may be more likely to look on the bright side. Be specific with your praise so your child knows exactly what he's doing right, such as "Thanks for playing with your little brother. I know you wanted to play your video game on your own, but I appreciate you keeping a good attitude."

  • Check your own behavior and set a good example for behavior in your home. If you're often cranky, overtired and negative, there's a good chance that behavior can rub off on your child. By staying upbeat and positive, you show your child that it's what's expected in your home.

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