Happy Buttons: Ways to ruin a toddler's bad mood
February 25, 2001

We all have those days we can't snap out of a funk, and little ones sure can get them too. Here are a few things that work for us.

~Monkey hugs!
A bear hug is nice, but a monkey hug is a guaranteed mood lifter. Pick up the child, hold on tight, and bend down quickly so they're hanging upside down and grinning. Shout out "monkey hug!" with every swoop down, stay a few seconds, and then swing them back up. As long as you hold their heads firmly too and do it very gently, even babies get a case of the giggles (OLDER babies of course!).

~Happy buttons
You have to look really hard for happy buttons. Kids have them somewhere but the tricky things are always moving around! If your little one is particularly sad or cranky, announce that you're going to have to find their happy button. With big smiles, hold out one finger and begin poking bellies, the backs of knees, even ears in search of that elusive happy button. Make sure to be very, very silly and not too rough if your child is particularly sensitive. Keep searching till you see a smile break and then announce that you've found it! You can also shriek and run in mock fear of your own happy button being pushed. Kids love to reciprocate!

~Turn into a loon
It doesn't matter how you do it, but acting like a complete idiot is the quickest way to cheer up a child. Pretend to suddenly be terrified of the oven mitt and plead for your little one to save you from it (make sure it's something they're not going to turn fearful of too-- so silly stuff). Announce something like "I think I have a chicken on my head" and wait for your child to argue. Call the cat a hippopotamus or ask your little one if her name is Humperdink. When he says no, ask if he's sure. Then guess it's Waddledip.... you get the idea.

~Pour on the mommy love
Sometimes kids just need to be absolutely babied and adored for a few minutes. If they seem particularly down, try telling them they seem awfully sad and asking if they'd like to come sit in your lap or get a hug. Some days you just need someone to feel bad for you and treat you gently. One night Victoria was a cranky terror until I had her lie down across me and I patted her back and just said "Poor Victoria, poor Victoria" over and over again. When I stopped, she told me to keep saying it! She fell right asleep like that, finally secure that somebody cared how unfair it was to have to share with a baby sister or whatever it was that upset her.

~Turn on the tunes
Most of us have songs that lift our spirits and kids are no different. Oldies music is often good for this, as are all different kid songs. It works for the grown-ups too. When I'm getting cranky with the kids I put on Tom Petty's "Pack up the Plantation" CD and pretty soon we're all jumping around singing "even the losers get lucky sometimes!".

~Offer magical happy treats
My husband, Daryl, gives Victoria invisible happy juice when she's down. I've been known to also offer happy berries (frozen blueberries). My only advice is don't make candy a happy treat and don't talk about happy pills, for health and safety reasons.

~Just ask
Strange as it sounds, sometimes it works to just get down on your child's level and ask if she can snap out of it. When Victoria (30 months) is crying and sad, I often just stoop down and first offer my condolences. Then I say I'd kinda like to do something (things she likes like reading books, taking a bubble bath or doing crafts) but I think she's too sad to enjoy it. I ask if she thinks she's ready to wipe her tears and be happy, and she almost always agrees. With great dramatics, she wipes her tears and breaks into a grin. She says "Now I'm happy!" and we go off to do our fun thing.

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