Helping Your Moody Kid Be Happy

by Lempi Koivisto

Moody KidsIt's a day just like any other. You walk into preschool to pick up your child. There's the usual group of kids happily pushing trucks and toys back and forth.

Slightly off to the side stands your child with a trembling upper lip. She looks ready to crumble into a sobbing heap. Your heart sinks.

Kids are happy most of the time. Your preschooler isn't one of them. She's known for her frown, complaints and frequent tantrums instead of smiles.

In her world the glass is always half empty and nothing is quite right. She feels sad, hurt, neglected, angry and mistreated. Some days it seems she's in a bad humor from the time she gets up until she falls asleep at night.

Your moody kid can be happier with a little help. All of us have a hard time with our emotions when we're hungry or tired. Investigating your daily schedule and family's diet could suggest areas for improvement. This includes looking at your parenting style, too.

A new study indicates that kids with gloomy personalities can develop more positive outlooks. Children who have a gene variant that predisposed them to lower serotonin levels in the brain have been linked with bad moods and depression.

Take Time to Nurture

Some kids need extra attention from their parents, but busy schedules can make scheduling quality one-on-one time a nightmare. Parenting experts suggest that you spend 20 minutes a day interacting with your child.

Minimally once a week, do something fun for both of you. Your child should know you're doing it just because you enjoy the company.

Positive Parenting

Moody children are more likely to maintain happier emotions when exposed to positive parenting, while those who experienced unsupportive parenting show fewer positive emotions.

Positive parenting includes validating feelings, accepting a child's temperament and setting limits supportively. Children feel understood and learn self-control.

It's important to notice and remark on your child's feelings. For example, you say, "I see you're upset when your sister grabs your toy. That's okay but we need to find a better way to handle your anger."

When you say those words, your child might hear, "Anger is okay and I'm not a bad person, but I do need to show it differently."

Split the feeling from the behavior, accept the emotion and deal with the misbehavior instead.

Maintain a Predictable Routine

Young children are more likely to thrive when they know what to expect. If your days seem chaotic, build a schedule and organize your child's life into predictable, comforting routines.

Sleep Patterns

Your child's sleep habits can affect every waking moment of every day. A sleep-deprived child is not as happy as one who gets enough sleep. Tired kids cry, lose patience and break down in tantrums more frequently. If you have a fussy kid on your hands, look at their sleep schedule and make adjustments.

Keep Your Stress Levels Down

A parent's mood affects the child's humor. A calm, happy parent brings out the best in their kid. A nervous, agitated or angry parent shares that mood with the child.

Help your child by helping yourself. Improve your outlook with adequate sleep, healthy diet, exercise, deep relaxation and other stress-busters. Your "me-time" creates a happier child in return.

Good Nutrition

After chocolate milk and cookies, kids can become grumpy, angry and sour. To avoid the sugar grumps, serve a protein with every meal and snack, especially breakfast. Skip the sweets! Encourage your child to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains instead of processed, refined foods.

If your child's in preschool, find out how long he goes without a protein-rich snack. You and the teacher might find a balanced snack improves the mood.

Some kids have sensitivities to ingredients in foods or they have allergies or food intolerances. These can all cause irritability and bad mood, too. Once the diet is adjusted, the mood will improve.

Collect Happy Experiences

Help your child find ways to build a happy memory bank. Moody and anxious kids need help finding positive feelings when trying to sooth themselves.

At bedtime, spend a few minutes thinking about the things that made your child feel good that day. Have your little one gather up all those pleasant feelings and store them in a treasure chest. When life gets hard, he can open up the chest and soak in the treasure.

Will you use these parenting secrets to help your moody child be happier? What types of activities, books, or changes around your house have you done? Tell us what worked for you.