Simple Ways to Cope With Your Grumpy Child

grumpy child

Reading time: 3 minutes

Suitable for: Families of primary-age children

Do you have a grumpy child? We can’t expect our children to always be happy. We all have patches when we feel grumpy.

Many children experience periods of sadness in their childhood. But maybe your child seems to be moody all the time?

We can use lots of words to describe being moody. Your child might be grumpy, miserable, have a bad attitude, surly, always moaning, or never happy.

Deciding whether they are behaving disrespectfully, or if their behaviour results from feeling anxious, can help you decide how best to tackle it. 

Looking for reasons behind your grumpy child’s behaviour

Children are often unhappy or anxious because of changes in their life. Your child may seem surly because they’re worried about moving home, starting school, or changes to your family situation. Puberty can also cause behavioural changes. 

Talk to your child about what you’ve noticed. Often, they are just looking for a listening ear, so avoid trying to solve all their problems for them.

You can explain how their behaviour is making you feel and help them find better ways to cope when they’re feeling worried about something.

unhappy child

You might notice your child’s behaviour happens at a particular time or location. Physical feelings of hunger, thirst, and being tired can have big effects on your child’s behaviour. Loud, bright or crowded spaces overwhelm many children.

If you spot a pattern, you can make simple changes to help them cope or avoid the situation. 

How to handle your grumpy child

Children can increase challenging behaviour when they know someone is watching, or because they can tell you feel embarrassed. This is often because they feel embarrassed themselves. If possible, take them to a quieter space, without an audience, before you talk.

Remind your child how you expect them to speak with you. Focus on how it made you feel when they spoke that way. Stay calm and don’t lose your temper or it will quickly become a shouting match. 

Tell them what you want them to do, rather than what they shouldn’t. You can ask them to “rewind” and try again rather than giving a long lecture.

Focus on one thing

Ignore any other behaviours and focus on the one thing you want your child to do rather than how they do it. For example, when you ask your child to make their bed, they might mutter under their breath as they walk away.

You could call them back and lecture them on their attitude, and demand they speak politely. Or you could stay focused on what you’ve asked them to do, which is make their bed.

Choose your battles rather than trying to tackle everything at once. 

Further help

If your child seems to always be feeling low, or you notice a sudden and dramatic change in their behaviour, it’s important to seek medical help from your GP rather than hope it will sort itself out.

Similarly, if your child’s attitude is affecting their ability to make and keep friendships, there are concerns at school, or it’s affecting everyday life, you may need some further support.

Next steps

We know parenting can be tough.

Our regular webinars and parenting classes can help you better understand your child’s emotions. We’ll explore the behaviours you’re experiencing and give you practical ideas you can try at home to reduce arguments and family conflict. Browse our upcoming events.

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