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Whimpers of protest when I declare it time to get out of bed.
Cries to be carried down the stairs despite the presence of two perfectly capable feet.
Whines at the breakfast table because we only have two kinds of cereal instead of three.
One day last week, my 3-year-old nailed all of those within fifteen minutes of waking up. In other words, he woke up GRUMPY.
Even under the best of circumstances, mornings with young kids can be rough. Throw in a grouchy attitude from a tot, and they become downright unbearable.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. There are a few things we parents can do when our toddler wakes up grumpy to help turn the day around—for the sake of all of us.
Here are my go-to strategies for when my son gets up on the wrong side of the bed.
6 Things To Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Grumpy
1. Remember that emotions are contagious.
When your kid wakes up crabby, there’s a good chance that you’re going to wind up feeling crabby by osmosis. Great, now everyone’s in a bad mood!
Better scenario: You turn the tables and adopt an exceedingly sunny disposition that may very well transfer to your toddler. I usually let smiling, singing, and silliness abound until my son starts cheering up at least a little.
2. Offer something special—but without connecting it to the bad mood.
Maybe you offer your daughter a special cup for drinking her morning milk. Or maybe your son gets his favorite book read to him while he’s still in bed.
Often a little treat like that is enough to improve your kiddo’s attitude.
The important thing is to offer that treat with little to no explanation. It’s a special “just because” treat! Otherwise your toddler will quickly learn that being a grumpy bum is a perfect strategy for earning fun stuff.
3. Don’t keep pointing it out.
I don’t know anyone who’s snapped out of a bad mood because someone else said, “Are you going to be a grouch all day or what?”
Actually, the more common reaction to that question is to feel even grouchier.
So find ways to deal with your child’s cantankerous behavior without reminding him over and over again that he’s being cantankerous today.
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4. Slow down.
I don’t know about you, but those speed-of-light, rush-out-the-door-while-shoving-a-granola-bar-in-my-mouth mornings leave me feeling nothing short of exasperated.
Rushing simply does not produce a good attitude.
So when your toddler wakes up grumpy, try to put the brakes on the morning pace if at all possible. Don’t insist she gets dressed, eat her breakfast, and brush her teeth immediately upon waking up; instead, let her linger just a bit. Otherwise, the grouchiness is probably going to continue.
Of course, schedules and timelines sometimes make this approach impossible. But if your toddler is consistently waking up grumpy, it might be worth having everyone wake up 10 minutes earlier to be able to move at a more leisurely morning speed.
5. Try to honor nap time.
Nap time is always critical for young kids, but especially when they’re in a bad mood. That’s because so many struggles we have with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are tied to a lack of adequate sleep.
Heck, that goes for adults as well!
So if your little one wakes up crabby, then today is not the day to power through nap time or stretch bed time. Stick to the routine.
6. Remember that bad moods happen—and that’s OK!
When our kids wake up grumpy, we often try really hard to pinpoint a reason: bad dreams, hungry, thirsty, on the brink of sickness, in need of more sleep as mentioned earlier, etc.
But sometimes there simply isn’t a logical explanation. They just woke up grumpy, simple as that.
So don’t stress over it, just go with it. Chances are they’ll be back to their sweet, smiling selves tomorrow.