Like poison in a well: of kids and bad moods

Just when you think that we’re autonomous and able to determine our own emotional response to situations, you realize that we can be affected – and sometimes profoundly affected – by the moods of those around us.
You know what I mean, where you’re in a good mood and happy until you bump into a friend who is down in the dumps, moody or angry. Then your bubble bursts and the bad mood infects you.
This doesn’t always happen, to be fair, but it’s more common than I’d wish. Fortunately, I’ve found that the more I can be conscious of this mood transference effect, the less it actually affects me.
But children, well, that’s something entirely different…


I noticed this very same situation happening this morning. A- had woken up early and was buried in a book when the other children awoke and started to bug her to try and engage her in their play.
Her mood went south fast as she prefers everyone leave her alone when she’s immersed in a book, and, perhaps predictably, this just spurred the other kids to interact with her more, trying to convince her to play.
I could hear from the other room that things were not going well between them all so I went to see what was going on and was rather unsurprised to find a tense situation.
The two younger kids were relatively easily pulled out of the situation, but the poison had already been poured in the well at that point, and the other two, who had earlier been in a great mood, were both rather cranky and upset too.
Trying to motivate A- to get dressed and out of the house also gave me a chance to be touched by the bad mood, with her glaring at me, rolling her eyes and otherwise being disrespectful. But I knew what to expect and didn’t react in kind, though there was a moment…
Anyway, a bit more effort and getting out of the house settled things down, but I was just so interested to see how the bad mood spread throughout the family like a dark cloud.

2 comments on “Like poison in a well: of kids and bad moods

  1. I’ve often noticed as well that our daughter Alleke, even at sixteen months old, knows when my wife and I are having a bad day or a stressful week. She’s like a mood barometer.

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