Dietrich (almost 7) and Madilynn (2) are as alike as they are different. Both are independent, stubborn, and want to do things a certain way. My girl is actually the more strong-willed of the two, the one that is likely to run off into a busy street or touch the hot stove immediately after being warned. At any given moment, I may be managing three different (or four if my husband is home at the time) moods and the subsequent swings. Lately, my daughter screeches when things aren’t going her way. My son often decides it’s his job to dole out discipline – today in the form of biting his sister. I may have bitten him back. He may not have liked it that much. At that moment, I had no other ideas on how to handle the crazy mood swings. Right after telling on her brother and seeing him get in trouble, the silly girl went to give him a hug and kiss and say sorry while he was in time out! This all happened within five minutes! Since then I’ve had some reflecting time.
How does a mommy effectively manage multiple disorders of moods without losing her own mind in the process? I’m not always guilt-free in this, but I do have a few strategies that seem to work in the heat of the moment.
1. Diffuse the situation. If they are upset about something that is truly irrelevant, take the advice of Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain: Make ‘em Laugh! This can be through a tickle fight, a funny face, a joke, or whatever you know always makes your kid crack up.
2. Distract them. Sometimes, we all need a break. Change the scenery. If you’ve been playing inside, weather permitting, go outside or if not, have an indoor dance party. If you’ve been playing with trains, switch to Legos. As long as it distracts them, without rewarding bad behavior, it’s a good strategy.
3. Dish up a healthy snack. Sometimes a bad mood might mean low blood sugar or hunger, and kids (and even adults) don’t always communicate well with words when they are hungry. Perhaps even have special treats on hand for extra grumpy days – again, not to reward bad behavior, but to ward off the moody blues.
4. Dreamland is best. Then again, at certain times of day, the extreme moodiness could mean a nap is coming on, or for older children – a quiet time. This is restful for everyone in the house.
5. Determine the pattern. Often there is a pattern to the mood swings. Sometimes it is related to sleepiness or hunger, as mentioned above. If you can figure out the pattern and what they need, you can avoid some problems altogether. Though very likely, the moment you figure it out, they will change it on you. Kids are tricky like that.
I feel like my best self as a mama and homemaker when I take care of my family. My household doesn’t run smoothly all of the time. In fact, lately, it’s run at the lowest possible setting, as we’ve been in a time of transition. Through this time, difficult as change and instability can be, I have worked to keep my own mood stable for them, for my husband, and that has been exhausting. Bless my husband’s heart, when he is home during the day, he lets me take a much-needed nap – all by myself, with no one touching me! This gift allows me to recharge so I can be a little less scary and a lot less moody when everyone else falls back into disorder.