Cranky Is Contagious. (So Is Everything Else.)
This is a concept I’ve been trying to explain to my children (who are 11, 8, 7 and 6 years old) for some time. There I will be, innocently making a smoothie or something, when a child will appear, fuming, eyes blazing, loaded for bear.
She or he will shriek out a question, a demand or a complaint, arms akimbo, feet stomping. And if I am feeling particularly zen, perhaps I will take a deep breath before I respond.
But it’s rare that I’m feeling zen. Add the smallest dollop of external stress to that scene, and the most likely outcome is that I will respond in kind. My volume will outdo that of the child; my eyes will blaze; and my response is nearly guaranteed not to be at all what the child in question was hoping for.
That’s true of nearly every exchange. Whether you’re buying a coffee or trying to get your brakes fixed, you’re likely to come out of it with a double dose of whatever mood you brought into it, and spread your mood besides — unless you run into a particularly cheery or cranky barista, in which case you might leave with a mood change to go your coffee. In emotional contagion, the more powerful mood wins the day. It’s common sense, backed up by research: images of strong emotions were significantly, specifically and repeatedly evoked in the viewer, and in the broader sense, both happiness and sadness have been shown to circulate through social networks in a manner similar to disease.
For children, asking a teacher (or a parent) for help or a favor is so much more likely to meet with success if it’s done “nicely.” And it’s far, far more pleasant to be the adult on the other end of a calmly delivered request. Yet even though it would certainly be to their benefit to learn this, my children still storm down the stairs in the morning and angrily shout out their demands for oatmeal and tea.
My mom always told me that “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Constant repetition of that phrase hasn’t had much impact in our house, so I illustrated the principle on a looping video (viewable above, or here if the technology fails). Change, if it comes, will be gradual, but my spectacular imagery did give us a way to talk about those contagious emotions. “Stop filling my head with your red stuff!” I told a whining child minutes after she watched it.
She laughed — which we all know is contagious, too.
Sources: MOTHERLODE BLOG
When Kidsfreesouls followed the Motherlode Blog, it had been an everlasting journey reading the notes of Dell’Antonia, the lead Blogger for Motherlode Blog on NYT. She covers homework, sex, child care, eating habits, sports, technology, the work family balance and much more.
Subscribed to the Widget, above is a piece that gives a thought on being Cranky!
Happiness and Sadness spread like a disease. How will you help the child stop a Cranky mood and scatter sunshine? Follow Kidsfreesouls Facebook Page and comment please.