National Grouch Day: What kids can learn from grumpy characters

National Grouch Day: Sesame Street declared October 15 National Grouch Day. While grouchiness may not be a personality trait that parents hope to instill in their children, there is much to be learned from the curmudgeons of the world.

Chris Pizzello/AP
National Grouch Day: Oscar the Grouch (l.) and Telly Monster, of the children's television show Sesame Street, perform at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday Aug. 30, 2009.

Pull out your best pout, scowl, and frown, and get ready to celebrate Sesame Street's National Grouch Day.

According to the Muppet Wiki, "A Grouch's mission in life is to be as miserable and grouchy as possible, and pass that feeling on to everyone else."

Whether on the playground or in the office, kids and adults learn to give cranky people their space – there may be a method to their grumpiness. In fiction, however, everybody loves a good crabby character. Kids adore Eeyore, Oscar, and Viola Swamp. Adults love Archie Bunker, Groucho Marx, and Grampa Simpson.

While grouchiness may not be a personality trait that you hope to instill in your children, there is something to be said for acknowledging the Oscar the Grouches of the world. Their pessimism, while disheartening at times, can offer a much needed reality check. 

For kids, these crotchety characters can help children to process a slew of negative emotions that can be overwhelming. They illustrate how one person’s bad mood can permeate a room and begin to spread. What’s more they can model language that kids can use to express their own feelings.

Parents can take advantage of these tales to start discussions with kids about feelings. For young children, happy and sad can be very black and white concepts. More complex negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and frustration can quickly become overwhelming. When kids don’t understand these emotions, they can retreat inward or lash out. Offering kids the chance to explore these emotions through discussion and pretend play can arm them with the necessary vocabulary and coping skills to better deal with them later.

In addition, grumpy character story lines frequently include other characters that offer to help them to feel better with kind words, actions, and just offering to spend time with them. That’s a lesson every parent can embrace.

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