Sometimes one (or both) of my boys start acting crazier than usual, or throw targeted fits that press all of my buttons at once. That’s when I go to my arsenal and make sure they’re getting enough of what I think are the three most important keys to a happy childhood: routine, protein, and sunshine.
Get back on track with routine and rituals
Kids thrive on routine and ritual, and when it’s missing, they often act out.
Routine offers a stable foundation, and a safe way to live the day. So, I ask myself what the past few days have been like. Have we veered often from our typical daily routine? Do we even have a typical daily routine? If each day has to be different because of life circumstances (moving, vacation, job interviews, changing schools, etc.), then can we establish some rituals around meals, bedtime, nap time, and time in the car, that help make each day feel more grounded?
The rituals you establish don’t have to be complicated, but they do have to be consistent.
For example, you might start praying before you eat at every meal (maybe with a different little extra prayer depending on whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner). Or you might read a story after teeth are brushed before bed.
I lump sleep in with routine, too. If your kids are acting out, lack of sleep is a very common cause. Are they napping enough? Do they need an earlier bedtime? Are they having trouble falling asleep? They may need some extra time to wind down in the evenings, perhaps with some quiet reading time to help them calm down and get ready for sleep.
Don’t forget this mood stabilizer
The second potential cause of kid craziness that I look at is their protein intake.
Are they eating enough during the day? And what are they eating? Is it mostly empty calories? Instead of having a snack of graham crackers at 4 p.m., could they have an early dinner, or a more substantial snack of cheese?
I have a picky eater who doesn’t have much of an appetite. But I’ve noticed that offering a cheese stick or scrambled egg as the only options, when I would have offered pretzels, results in happier, more balanced behavior. I know that my own behavior changes when I’m hungry, and I don’t always cope with it well. So, recognizing the signs of hunger in your child may help you both.
Then there’s my third go-to — sunshine
Are the kids acting out because they’re bored and cooped up inside? If they haven’t been outside lately, a change in environment can do wonders for their mood and behavior. Don’t let the weather stop you. If it’s cold, bundle them up. If it is hot, send them to the shade with an ice pop and some water.
I have mandatory outside time established for my oldest son every day, where he has to be outside for 30 minutes and find things to do. Often he protests at the beginning, but soon he figures out ways to play.
My boys act out the most in the evenings, usually between 5 and 7, before bed. Taking a walk together at this point in the day is a way to get them — and all of us — moving, focused on a helpful activity rather than bouncing off the walls.
Holy Family, pray for us!