The wrong side of the bed

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Nathan Rice

The origin of the phrase “Waking up on the wrong side of the bed” is believed to go back to the Roman Empire. Many ancient Romans were careful to exit the bed only on one particular side, believing that leaving the bed from the wrong side would anger evil spirits or bring bad luck throughout the day.

The Roman Empire has long since fallen, and most people no longer believe that getting out of bed on the wrong side will bring about bad luck or anger evil spirits. This phrase, however, is still widely known and commonly used. Today, it is used to mean that someone woke up grumpy or in a bad mood.

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Sometimes children, just like adults, wake up on the wrong side of the bed. This can create some challenges for those in charge of them, and some days we struggle to know how to deal with a young one who is grumpy.

The first step to working with a child who has woken up on the wrong side of the bed requires a lot of patience and understanding. Adults seem to be more understanding of other adults who are grumpy or having a bad day than they are of children experiencing the same thing. We must be patient when a little one is grumpy or has clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and we should try to understand what they are going through.

We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed before, and we know that there are times when it’s hard to pull ourselves out of a bad mood. This is even harder for children who are still learning how to process life and handle their emotions. A mention of the good things about the day may help them refocus on positive things, or a reminder of how much they are loved may help them start thinking differently. Remaining positive while someone is grumpy will require patience, love and understanding, but it is exactly what we would want from others if we happened to be the one who woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

This doesn’t mean that children should be allowed to act however they want when they’re having a grumpy day. I recently worked with a student who had been grumpy since the start of the day but had started picking on her brother and disrespecting another adult. I was patient and understanding, but that behavior was not acceptable.

Instead of merely yelling at her for her misbehavior, I started the conversation by letting her know that I understood she was having a bad day. “I know you’re having a bad day.” I said, “We all have bad days sometimes, and that’s OK.” This acknowledged her current troubled feelings and emotions before I addressed the misbehavior. I continued by saying, “What’s not OK is picking on your brother, and you are not allowed to disrespect an adult even if you’re having a bad day.” This reminder let her know the rules still applied and that proper behavior was still expected.

It is possible to recognize that a child has woken up on the wrong side of the bed and to be patient and understanding while still holding them to the standards that you have set. You can allow a child to be grumpy for a day while still not allowing improper behavior. Everyone has bad days, children included. It’s up to us to learn how to best deal with the little ones who wake up on the wrong side of the bed and to ensure we are giving them what is needed.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at