Pressing the reset button: Helping kids change their mood

Most days are great, but some days we just need to press the reset button and try again. Check out these strategies to turn around the mood in your home.

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  • Children yelling, toddlers crying and messes everywhere. Some days our households get out of hand and it's up to parents to turn the mood around. If you've ever had a bad day, you know how hard it is to get off the cycle of negativity and help your kids adjust their attitudes. The next time your family needs a do-over, follow these steps.

  • Identify the problem

  • When it seems like your kids are melting down constantly, there is usually an underlying problem. Often, kids act out when they're tired, hungry, off their usual schedule or stressed about something.

  • Think back over the course of the day and identify any mood breakers. Did you stay up late last night? Are there any upcoming holidays, birthdays or is school starting or ending soon? Does everyone just need a sandwich? By meeting our kids' basic needs, we can quickly troubleshoot any obvious irritants. Also, when you know what's wrong, you can do a better job of preventing bad moods in the future.

  • Take the drama down

  • Ever notice that, when one person starts yelling, everyone has to get louder and louder to compensate? End the cycle of yelling, whining and pouting by getting your own emotions in check. When kids see their parent approaching a difficult day calmly, they are more likely to follow suit. You set the emotional tone for your entire family.

  • You can also encourage peace and quiet by eliminating stimulation in your house. Turn off extra lights, straighten up major messes, turn off the TV and replace loud music with a soft, relaxing CD. Your kids will pick up on these subtle environmental cues, and before you know it, they will settle down as well.

  • Provide a distraction

  • Contention often arises because of sibling drama, so get the family involved in something everyone can agree on. You might want to bake something as a family, burn off some steam playing outside or sit down and read a book together. Any member of the family who can't contribute nicely to the new activity can spend time in his room alone.

  • Often, kids get caught in a cycle of overstimulation, so know when your kids need time alone to decompress. Everyone needs personal space to recharge, so don't feel guilty about sending your kids to opposite corners of the house. Even teenagers can benefit from the occasional nap time.

  • Restore order

  • Once you have everyone calm and collected, get back into the normal swing of things. Provide appropriate punishment for misbehavior, speak to your kids about how to handle their emotions next time and get on with life.

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  • Children thrive on structure and schedule, so try to honor their internal clocks as much as possible. Focus the rest of the day on having meals and getting to bed on time. This will set you up for success the next day.

  • Every family has bad days. Kids have to learn emotional self-control over time, and they're bound to get it wrong every once and a while. When you find yourself faced with a challenging day, take a deep breath and remember that you can alter the emotional landscape of your home. Your kids are looking to you for guidance on how to deal with difficult days. Keep calm and know that tomorrow will be better.

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Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.

Website: http://moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com

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