Downbeat disposition

Sometimes moodiness is normal, sometimes it needs a closer look

Q: My eight-year-old son has become negative about almost everything. Whether we’re discussing what’s for supper or plans for the weekend, he says no, whines and complains — although he often comes round in the end. This is a big change from his previous sunny self. Any ideas?

A: It’s common for eight-year-olds to begin to assert themselves by becoming argumentative, particularly when they don’t agree with those around them. Encourage your son to express his point of view by explaining his wishes rather than whining and complaining; let him know you care about what he has to say and you hear him.

Parents should be careful not to dismiss a sudden change in disposition, or expect that the child will simply grow out of it. Has something happened to result in his newfound negativity? Try to cover all the bases with him (home, school, extended family) to figure out if he’s recently felt rejected, ignored or hurt in his interactions with others. Talk to him about this recent change in demeanour, but avoid criticizing him. You might be able to help him work through whatever it is that’s bothering him. If nothing untoward has happened and he’s still being negative despite your best efforts, consider consulting a qualified children’s mental health practitioner.