How to Handle a Cranky Child

Even the happiest of kids can have cranky days.  If you are faced with a tot that's not at his best, Mighty Mommy has 5 tips on how to survive those unpleasant moments and turn them around.

Cheryl Butler
4-minute read
Episode #323

Tip #3: Check the Schedule 

If your family is routine-oriented and you get off track due to an unexpected appointment or delay which interferes with your child’s mealtime, nap ritual, or other expected event, then your child’s crankiness could simply be the result of a break in the routine. 

Younger kids who don’t have the ability to express their feelings well can easily get out of sync and react badly to a sudden shift in their routine. If that's the case, the best thing to do is to course correct and hopefully avoid cranky patterns in the future.

Tip #4: Interject Some Fun

Most of us don't enjoy being around people who are in a foul mood.  In my household with 8 kids, the chances of having more than one crankster at a time was often a good bet. One person’s negative outlook can send a ripple effect throughout the rest of the house and if the cranky bug catches, you’re faced with a nasty atmosphere. 

Just as it takes one person to set off a cranky cascade, it can take just one person to turn it around and change the vibe from whiny and unhappy to playful and fun.

For example, if one of my kids was in a bad mood because he didn’t get a favorite snack or toy, instead of wasting my time telling him why he was wrong to pout, I just started talking in a funny voice or making silly faces to lighten the mood. It often got the other kids laughing and eventually even the crabby camper ended up laughing, too. 

Instead of dwelling on the cranky behavior, turn on fun music and start dancing around the room, singing aloud. This will often deflect the bad mood and help the child who is having a hard time loosen up. (And yes, I still use this tactic for my teenagers.)

Tip #5: Hug and Let it Be

Everyone gets into a bad mood from time to time and sometimes there’s nothing we can do but wait it out. When all else fails, reassure your child that you love them with a big hug and a gentle tone of voice, then just let the crank be. They will come around eventually.

What are some ways you get your cranky child out of a bad mood? Share them with us in the Comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mightymommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Also visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

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Angry boy and crying child images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!