Motherhood

How to Turn a Bad Day Around

Over the past eight years, our kids have had their share of bad days — stomachaches, grumpy friends, surprise puddles! There’s not much you can do, right? Well, last week, my friends Tim and Abbey had a magical idea of how to turn things around…

Their nine-year-old son was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. As he and Abbey headed home that evening, she texted her husband a quick head’s up: “We’re coming in hot! Alex had a rough day.” She steeled herself for a long evening.

But then.

As the elevator doors opened to their floor, they saw a sign. “We were both surprised,” my friend Abbey said. “Alex was like, whaaaaaat? And we have some neighbors who are sticklers for the rules of the building, so we never put anything in the hallway.”

As they walked in the apartment door, Tim announced that he was going to cast a spell to turn the day around.

“I made the spell up on the fly,” Tim told me. “I made Alex run around and get a glass of water, a pen and two pieces of paper. I asked him to draw the moon (with as much realistic detail as possible) on one piece of paper and tape it on the wall. On the other piece, I made him write as many bad words (including swears!) as he could while I timed him, then crumple it up and put it in the glass of water. While the paper disintegrated, he had to tell me what had gone wrong that day. He told me about a misunderstanding with his teacher, and then I made him spin around five times while listening to Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Ocean.'”

How sweet and funny is that? And it worked. “By the end, Alex was in hysterics, giggling,” says Abbey. “The signs and spells were hilarious, and really what Tim was giving Alex was his attention.”

Whenever our kids have had wobbly times in school or life, I’ve tried to heed this advice from food writer Jenny Rosenstrach: “You just make sure that when those [kids] walk in that door every day… they never doubt that home is the most comforting place for them to be. That is what you can do.”

I think these signs got it just right. :)

P.S. Home as a haven, and happiness vs. wholeness. And Abbey’s beauty uniform!

  1. t says...

    Tears. And I am so, so scared I can’t offer this to my children. I get so knee-jerk reactiony to things. I don’t offer peace and support. I will try harder.

  2. Melissa says...

    Just pinned this because, adult, child or somewhere in the middle, we all need this some days.

    • Amy H says...

      I pinned this too! I keep a pinterest board of pancakes shaped like animals, childrens books about inclusion and acceptance, now THIS! As my baby becomes a kiddo, I have a little toolbox to dig into when I need it :)

  3. Jen says...

    Having the bad words and emotions dissolve in water is genius. So important to acknowledge our feelings and then to physically see them destroyed is very empowering. I’m going to have to steal this. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Katie A says...

    Brought tears to my eyes. I’m always inspired by the ways parents find to love their kiddos.

  5. Kika says...

    This is so sweet

  6. Lauren E. says...

    This is the sweetest thing, and that last quote brought me to tears. I’m a total homebody (hello, Cancer here) and I’ve always had a love affair with my home. Can’t wait to see my family on Thursday :)

  7. Kimberly Baldwin says...

    This is so beautiful!

  8. S says...

    A little friend of my daughter (8) has just switched schools this year and has been having a rough go of it, 3rd grade girls! She came home after a particularly sad week, her mom said, “You know what, let’s throw a party!”, within a day they had invited 20 or so little girls from old and new school for a last minute Halloween Party. As a serious planner, I was so inspired, what a great idea!

  9. Megan says...

    This would work for adults as well. “Spin around five times while listening to Led Zeppelin, “The Ocean.” Perfect!

  10. Christine says...

    I have a 2-year-old so the grumpies don’t last long, but they show up often. I’ve started inventing MadLibs-style silly phrases to disctract her. Does daddy lick an alligator?? Do the kitties eat airplanes?! Then she tries to make up her own, and we’re both laughing in under a minute.

  11. Karissa says...

    This is the CUTEST THING EVER! ❤️

  12. Stella Sison says...

    Aww, this just made my day :-D

  13. What good (and magical) parenting. Bravo, Abbey + Tim!

  14. Martita says...

    This is so sweet and so important. That child will not forget it. LOVE.

  15. This made me cry!!! So sweet.

    • lllll says...

      Same! So sweet

  16. Neen says...

    This is undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever read…and it applies to kids AND adults! I could use one of those spells some days ;)

  17. M says...

    Love the spell idea. I was a nanny to 2 little girls & this reminds me of what I did when they were grumpy. I’d tell them to turn around and let me check their “grumpy meter” located on the back of their necks right under their hair. I’d make a big production by saying “no wonder you’re grumpy, someone turned your meter all the way up! Who did that?” Then I’d “buzz” it back down which made them laugh and then they’d tell me who turned it up (me, sister, friend, or whatever upset them) it was a great distraction and they’d tell me what was going on! I can’t wait to try it (or a spell!) on my own daughter when she’s old enough.

    • Caitlyn says...

      I love this! When someone is extra needy in our family – we joke that their snuggle meter is on empty. I’ll be using this one too!

  18. Caitlin says...

    CABOODLE! Genius!! I literally just texted my sister my excitement about now getting these for my nieces. This was our favorite thing when we were kids, I totally coveted my sisters. THANK YOU!

    • Dee says...

      We don’t have these in the UK (I don’t think) but just looking at that picture… I TOTALLY GET IT!

  19. I love it! My kids go to school with Alex and I just love Abbey and Tim!

  20. susan says...

    Wow! This is so great. What a wonderful and clever dad!

  21. MJ says...

    How sweet!

  22. Jilla says...

    I love this. xo

  23. Courtney says...

    This is amazing! If someone is having a bad day, we ask, “Do you need a refresh?” A refresh is a start-over button on the day. We find whatever we have laying around like a blanket, napkin, sweatshirt, whatever! We put it on the said child’s head and countdown “3-2-1!” Then yell, “REFRESH! WOOOOO!” and rip the blanket off. It helps a lot specifically on vacation when kids can get especially crabby. It’s been so successful that when we were on a family vacation last summer, my niece, who was having a tough morning, looked at us right after she said something grumpy and sighed, “I know, I know. I need a refresh.”

    • Ashley K says...

      We do something similar in our house! I originally called it “starting fresh”, but now my son calls it “turning it over.” Just last night after he yelled bad words at his dad, he immediately calmed and said, “I need to turn it over with Dad.” Something that works (for us, for the moment…)!

  24. Connie says...

    i looooove this. would be a great idea for welcoming my partner after his bad days too haha.

  25. Breanne says...

    My girls love a good living room dance party, so we “dance the grumps out” in our house. We can be right smack dab in the middle of a meltdown, but as soon as the music starts, it’s dance time. After all the grumps are danced out(some days it can take 1 song and other days it can take 4), we finish with a cuddle and chat about the day. It has been the best stress reliever for everyone!

    • SarahN says...

      I taught my ex this ’30 sec dance party, inspired by grey’s anatomy. It’s great int eh car when you’ve fought but you have an event to walk into!

  26. Margaret says...

    Reminds me how much kids love signs and hunts…..

  27. fgb says...

    I love this. When my son was little and had a bad day he would tell me all about it and I would say “Wow! Today was nacho {not your} day!” and we’d make nachos for dinner. It always made him giggle. More than anything, I think it gave him that comfort that home was always a safe place, no matter what happened in the world. Now that he is nearly 13 he’ll ask how my day was, and if it ever is a mess, he always recommends nachos for dinner.

    • Han Merkley says...

      This is genius! Thanks!

    • Han Merkley says...

      Love this idea! Thank you! Totally stealing this – another good excuse to have nachos supplies on hand. :)

    • Kara says...

      Love love love this!

    • Abbey says...

      What a nice, and easy, tradition!

    • freya says...

      so cute

  28. Ashley says...

    I love this! Both my kids are going through rough patches and this is beautiful.

  29. Sophia F. says...

    We do a version of this with our kids! Last year was ROUGH, especially for our then four-year-old daughter. We had moved to a new city, her school was a terrible fit, and she was bored and acting out, plus her then two-year-old sister was in a really difficult and attention-sucking phase. So we made up a ‘Harry Potter spell’ (we’d been reading the books), and would waggle our fingers in the air like a wand and cast “Restarticus Bonus!” It’s a highly effective spell that can be used once per day to restart your day on a good note and let go of what’s been grumping you, and it works for parents who want to let go of why-can’t-you-get-out-the-door frustration too :)

  30. adrienne trunnell says...

    LoVE LOVE LOVE this post. What a great dad! Thank you for sharing <3

  31. Heather Bauer says...

    I couldn’t love this more! Thanks for the reminder that we can help reframe challenges for our kids, and for ourselves, with an open mind and creativity.

  32. Caitlin says...

    When I’m the one driving and start to experience road rage, my husband takes on a deep, throaty voice and says things like “embrace the rage! step into the darkness”. I can’t help but giggle and get a fresh perspective…someone driving like they are the only person in the road is not reason for me to be in a bad mood. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff!

  33. Mimi says...

    I’m in love with this -thank you for yet another amazing tip!

    My mom always baked us chocolate chip cookies – which I loved, obvs! But I can’t wait to do something like this for my little guy. So fun and sweet.

  34. Lisa says...

    I love this and will totally steal for deployment in my house.

    A recently went to a women’s conference and Shawn Achor came and spoke about his happiness researcher. When I saw this on the agenda, I rolled my eyes. BUT he was amazing and his research about achieving/recognizing happiness as a conduit to success was so interesting. Since then, we’ve been rolling out “gratitudes” with our kids (5 and 7). Each night, we each say three things we are grateful for and why (no repeats, though this is hardest for my 5 yr old) and we end with one good thing that happened that day. Sometimes the things we are grateful for are really small and the good things are tiny. I have to say, spending the 5 minutes a day as a family doing this has been an amazing way to connect and dispel some of our normal grumpiness.

    • I LOVE Shawn Achor’s work! Addictive positivity, for sure.

  35. Gill F. says...

    I’ve been having a really tough time health wise and this year I’m missing Thanksgiving with my girlfriend and her family. It’s had me really down and last night it hit pretty hard. My girlfriend tucked me into bed with a bag of gummy worms, ridiculous British tv, and a shoulder to lean on. It made it a lot better :)

  36. Sarah says...

    I absolutely love the term “wobble”. It must be a British thing (I noticed it last night while watching Great British Bake Off, and you just used it too!) I tend towards catastrophizing things when I’ve had a bad day, but just reframing it as a wobble I think will help tremendously. I just think of those weeble wobble toys– you can push them, but they always spring back. Thanks for the gentle reminder :)

  37. Tara says...

    This is so wonderful!

  38. Lauren says...

    “We’re coming in hot!” is also what I text my husband on the way home from daycare on a bad day. Such a sweet idea for how to turn things around.

  39. Megan says...

    Oh! The greatest thing is to show someone how much you care. Thanks for sharing! *sniff!*

  40. Claudia says...

    “…and just when Abbey didn’t think she could fall any more in love with her husband, she did. And so did everyone reading the story. The end.”

    • Annie says...

      Hahah, yes! <3 Go Abbey and Tim!

    • Abbey says...

      Hahahahahah and so true!!!

    • Right? What a guy!

  41. C says...

    Thank you for this! I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and this post made me feel much better. Keep them coming!

    • Stephanie says...

      Hey C. I am right there with you. Having coffee and a cry and hoping the two will help. Maybe they could help you too?

    • Neen says...

      Ditto. This post was just what I needed to see tonight. Hugs to you C.

  42. Sarah says...

    Sometimes we need this as adults too :)

    Two weeks ago, I had a rough day at work. I missed a meeting (put it in my calendar incorrectly) that, at the time, felt devastating. I was so nervous my boss would think I was totally incompetent or, worse, fire me. When I walked back into the office from said missed meeting, I was near tears. BUT–I have amazing co-workers who took one look at me and not only reassured me everything was fine, but also played an ’emergency performance game’ with me. (Did I mention I work at a performance-based nonprofit?) It was hard to be upset when we were all meowing at one-another. Did it fix my mistake? No, of course not. And I still want to whack myself when I think about it. But did it make me take a step back and realize that this is only one moment and, while it feels really terrible, it too shall pass? Sure did.

    • Kate says...

      Every time I’ve made a mistake at work that does not, in fact, culminate in the world ending (despite being positive that it will) I end up being super grateful that I had the experience because I know I’ll sure as s**t never make that mistake ever again!!

    • j says...

      @ Kate I’ve said that sooo many times over my career as a nurse. Whenever a new nurse makes a mistake I always tell them “you’ll never make the same mistake again in your entire career! you’ll make a lot of other mistakes, but never that one.” We are all human, after all :)

  43. Erika says...

    This is everything that rocks about being a human being. What a great way to love someone and let them know their day matters.

  44. Lindsey says...

    Was literally just having a conversation with my husband about some very upsetting news I just discovered, that’s leaving me feeling hopeless and angry. And then I click here next! Made me smile. :) And now I’m going to listen to happy music. As Ariana Grande says, “just keep breathin’…”

    • Claire says...

      Sorry you’re having such a difficult time! I hope things turn out ok. Sending you a hug. xoxo

  45. Kaitlin Jenkins says...

    This is so utterly sweet and endearing! <3

  46. Katy S. says...

    Very much needed this post this morning, heading into the start of our second “bad day”… going to turn this train around! Thanks.

  47. Katherine says...

    This right here is what love is all about. ❤️♥️❤️

  48. Andrea says...

    When said person is my husband, a dance party in the kitchen works.

    • jade lees says...

      I love a good kitchen disco. If ever I magically become a recording artist that would be the name of my debut album ‘ Kitchen Disco’.

  49. Alexan B. says...

    Sometimes I think I need a “bad day spell” like this. What a sweet and funny idea!

  50. Lizzie says...

    This is lovely :) what a thoughtful, caring effort to make for a child. Or anyone!