Mood Numbers

What Mood Number Are You In?

Here’s how “mood-numbers” got started:

The plumber called earlier to say that he’d be here six hours ago, he hasn’t shown up, and the main bathroom and laundry facilities are still out of order.

I am annoyed and frustrated. (To put it mildly.)

My son brings chips into a carpeted room. (Disobeying one of the few rules we have.)

I snap and yell.

Now, I’m feeling bad that I took out all my frustrations on my innocent small soul.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie,” I say to my son. “Mommy is in a bad mood because the bathroom is broken.”

With youthful innocence, he asks me, “But why are you in a bad mood at ME?”

“I love you so much that you make me in a good mood, but I am upset that the plumber hasn’t come yet.”

“Hmmm, Mom, what mood number are you in?”

That was how it all began.

Sometimes I’ll answer “73” and my son will give me a hug and say, “NOW, what mood number are you in?”

We developed a simple system of 1 though 100, where mood number 1 is the absolutely worst one possible, and mood number 100 equals total ecstasy.

When children can define their feelings and the subtle differences in their emotions as feelings ebb and flow, they have a powerful tool to deal with all the ups and downs the life brings. By virtue of the fact that they are able to name their feelings, they become heads and shoulders above the general population in their ability to express themselves and develop meaningful relationships.

“I’m in mood 61,” my six-year-old recently stated. “I’m only a tiny bit happy because I have a headache.

“Mood number 100 is probably only for your wedding day, right, Mom?” asked my eight-year-old.

“I’m so angry that my soda spilled!” I’m in mood number eleven!”

Sometimes we add fractions, just for fun.

“I was in mood 73 and now that you have treated your brother nicely, I went up to mood number 83-and-a-half!”

It is also helpful to differentiate moods from physical well-being.

“My mood is 95, but my stomach is hurting, so my body is only at 30, so now I want to rest on the couch and hear you playing quietly.”

Both good and bad moods can be used as a great opportunity for labeling moods in a more detailed manner.

All children can relate to being happy versus sad.

It would also be valuable for children to utilize descriptions like livid, frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, regretful, melancholy, resentful, or furious.

Variations of happiness can be expressed as joy, excitement, appreciation, contentment, pleasure, or delight.

One of the greatest gifts you, as a parent, can give your child- is to teach your child the language of emotions. Your youngster will grow up to be a far better spouse, parent, and employee if he can understand and verbalize emotions.


  1. This is a very practical and simple way to get kids to open up about their feelings. The more they are able to express themselves, the healthier they will be.

    Thank you,

    Mom of Lily, 9, Samantha 8, and Iris, 4

  2. While I like the idea of using numbers and adjectives to describe mood, and also the idea of kids expressing themselves (YES!) I don’t believe that it is smart to teach kids that we are in a better mood BECAUSE of something they do. Kids should do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because it makes mommy or daddy in a good mood. This devalues their worth and feelings of “mommy won’t be as happy unless I am a good girl” begin to arise. The ultimate truth is that we CHOOSE our mood. No one can “make” us feel anything. It’s all about reaction and reaction is a choice. So do I love this idea overall? YES! Am I going to use it with my five year olds? RIGHT AWAY – THANK YOU!!!!!! Am I going to tweak it a little bit? Absolutely, but only so that I can use it to help them learn that they are in control of their reactions…. thank you for this, it’s a keeper!!

  3. Sandra Covington says:

    Love your response Krista. Sounds like you have a psychology background. At any rate, the system is good. Let us know how you “tweaked” it.


  4. “The ultimate truth is that we CHOOSE our mood.”

    This is very true. I have 21 and 25 year old daughters. We are currently dealing with a great deal of sadness and frustration over the sudden death of my husband, their father. Each day for us is as bad or as good as we make it. There are lots of bad days but even within those days there are bright moments. You have to look for those and embrace them just as much as the sorrow.

  5. As a mother who suffers from depression, I often am concerned about how my “moods” affect my daughter. I err on the side of caution when thinking about utilizing this system as it may put more emphasis than I would like on the fact that my “mood number” doesn’t get too high very often. That said, some of us truly aren’t equipped with the same ability to “choose” our moods. As I monitor my daughter for early signs of depression and anxiety (I suffered as a child and no one clued into it till much later) this could prove useful to me for her. Thank you for this post.

  6. First, Eileen I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your Husband. I also loss mine when my Daughter was only 15 so I can relate. Now Ellen, What a wonderful idea and something every child could relate to. I watch my Grand Babies daily and am almost 50 so some of of those skills once sharpened have dulled some. Thank You for your post. This is something I will use with them both. We must keep it simple when they are young so they will be able to understand.

  7. I love it. How can I get one?

  8. leelameher says:

    i loved the idea of mood numbers.iam sure it will deffinitely help me in handling my moods.thank you

  9. Kathryn says:

    I firmly believe that the actions of others can, indeed, affect our moods. Yes, we are responsible for our own happiness, but I think it is important to help our children realize that, through simple kindness, they can help lift another’s mood. We all know how much better we feel when someone else smiles at us rather than is grouchy towards us. I think it is absolutely possible to help children understand the power they have to help others without making them feel that they are responsible for someone else’s moods.

    There is no harm in letting your child know that their kindness helped make your day a little brighter.

  10. For younger kids, I think a one-to-ten rating system might be simpler. And I definitely agree with the idea of everyone “owning” their own feelings–do we really want our kids to feel that they are responsible for our happiness?

  11. Bobi C. DeLoach says:

    I agree with Krista. Other people are not responsible for my mood. They are not that powerful!! I and only I am responsible for myslef and my moods. Noone can make me feel anyyhing, it is only when I allow someone else to have my remote control, that I allow them to contol me. And again, I have allowed this to happen, so really I am still in control.
    I think this is too much responsibility to try to put on a child. I grew up believing that I controlled the world (so to speak), becuase if I did good, then everybody was happy and when I did things that weren’t good, then everybody was sad. That’s too much to put on a child, children should want to do good becuase it’s the right thing to do.
    Although I do believe it is a wonderful thing to teach children how to lable their emotions and the differnt levels of emotions. I just don’t think they should feel responsible for others emotions.

  12. I think the responses are equally valuable as the original comment by Ellen, so thank you ladies for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I like the 1 to 10 rating for younger children to keep it simpler but I so agree that we must teach them that they truly can have control over their own feelings. Certainly there are other issues such as depression and disorders which are not so easily dealt with and my heart goes out to those who suffer from these challenges.

    I was doing some housecleaning one day and a thought came to mind about a person who has hurt me repeatedly in the past. As I was gearing up in my mind to think badly about this person, which of course began to change my “mood”, I realized what I was doing so I stopped and said out loud, “I reject these thoughts.” and instead I asked God to bless her. I deliberately and consciously placed my thoughts on something else and the “feelings” left me. It requires a little effort but as I practice it more in my life, when negatives thoughts come into my mind, it gets easier to do. We really do “choose” our thoughts…and it’s always our thoughts that lead us to our feelings.

    “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

  13. Teaching our children and reminding ourselves that we all have a choice when it comes to our mood, emotion, thoughts, feelings and attitude will help in developing positive interactions and a healthy outlooks. My favourite quote is called Attitude by Charles Swindol. This is a small excerpt, “……life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with us, we are in charge of our Attitudes”.

  14. Thanks for this! But forget the kids. I think we as parents can use this valuable tool to help us communicate with our spouses. I can see this helping to keep a lot of arguments out of bay. When I often don’t know what the issue is I just come off as angry and don’t have the words. But if I can use this with my husband we may better be able to communicate effectively by waiting till we are in a better/calmer mood to discuss the issue. So I can see this owrking with both kids and adults. REally great advice, thanks Ellen!!!

  15. I really appreciate all these thought-provoking comments!

    Not making children ‘responsible’ for our mood is a very valid and crucial point.

    On the other side of the coin, we all know that being treated well will generally boost our mood, and being treated badly will usually lower our mood.

    There’s a balance here- and a useful lesson- how much of our mood ought to be determined by outside factors (our children’s behavior, our boss’s attitude towards our work, or the weather) and how much we can control on our own.

    We’d all love to be in a great mood 100% of the time, but life doesn’t quite work that way.

    What I do personally, is see moods as “waves”. When a low mood strikes me, I try to remember that I’m at the bottom of the wave, and my feelings will improve from this point, hopefully soon!

    It helps me not take the bad moods so seriously. As in, “Ok, I feel lousy and things aren’t going my way, but this, too shall pass, and perhaps I need to take a nap, get out of the house, talk to a friend, eat chocolate, or some other small treat, in order to prod myself out of this particular, temporary mood.”

    Thanks again, for participating, and making me THINK further about this important issue!

    Have a terrific weekend:)


  16. I was given this by a work associate that to relieve stress you need to understand which brain hemisphere is stressed. If you feel depressed or emotionally overwroughtr (in a mood) your stress ins inthe right hemisphere-the creative, emotional, holistic side. What to do:
    Switch to your matter-of-fact left hemisphere by doing math, writing a factual prose or organizing. The emotional right brain will calm down.

    If you feel time-stressed and overburdened, the left hemisphere is involved. What to do: Switch to your right brain by singing or playing a sport.

    Source: Jane Cole-Hamilton

    This might also help us with our moods.

  17. Good idea Megan.

  18. Vi,
    Yes I understand about your depression….sometimes there’s not so much a choice in our physiological makeup. Being raised in a family with a mother who was sometimes depressed, though, i have something to add about that. While her depression would often be hit and miss, it was very obvious when she blamed me for it. For instance, as a young teenager she didn’t like my boyfriend and didn’t want me to see him, but I still did. I remember lots of dark days with the windows shut, doors closed,walking down a darkened hallway because she was depressed because I had chosen to see this guy even though she didn’t want me to. I finally realize, now as an adult that her depression was NOT MY FAULT, which is exactly how I perceived it as an adolescent and of course I always felt guilty for that.

    So while your depression certainly isn’t something that you have complete control over, i’m sure you make it clear to your daughter that SHE DOESN’T HAVE CONTROL over it either and that her actions aren’t going to have an effect on it.

    I also agree with the person who said that it’s nice to do nice things for others and raise their spirits! I love that…. sometimes just a smile at a stranger can start a wonderful chain of events.

    Sandra, that right brain left brain thing was very interesting!! Thank you! I will use it for sure.

    And someone mentioned using 1 to 10 for smaller kids…. my twins are 5 and i think that is a good way to start.

    Someone asked how I will tweak the system. What we do currently (and I will utilize this in conjunction with this mood number system), is we discuss out loud what we choose to focus on. For instance, my daughter might be sad and crying because there are no more hot dogs left at her grandparents’ house. So I’ll say “you have two choices: you can choose to be sad that you don’t have a hot dog or you can choose to be happy because you’re going swimming at your grandparents’ house”. This helps put it in perspective for her. One day I was upset about something and one of my girls said “mom, are you going to choose to be happy or are you going to choose to be sad?” Sometimes even us grown ups need a reminder (I know I do!!!)

    Thanks ladies, good thread. I think I’ll check in on these more often!

  19. This is all new to me, I’m a mature mother of a 3 year old girl so Thank you for all the inputs……. on a different note, Vy, my mom was bi-polar and it was very difficult growing up. I never felt that I was #1 in her eyes, which for a child is very difficult to understand…. I wish you all the best, would love to chat, but don’t know how! Good Luck. Best to all, Nancy

  20. sorry to learn about your loss, ellen. but in the midst of your sorrow, you can come up with brilliant ideas. i think it can work wonders if we can make children understand that bad moods do come occasionally, and that it has nothing to do with them. conversely, they might be feeling low for reasons which are beyond a parent’s control. one has to accept all kinds of moods. if one is in a bad mood, it doesnt necessarily mean you have to work on it and make it better.

  21. Fascinating discussion on something that is obviously not black and white! So glad for Krista’s comment right at the beginning. Can I recommend the most wonderful parenting book “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn. I am sure it will strike a chord with some of the correspondents here, as it did with me.

    Maybe the most useful part of this suggested numbering system is helping the kids (and ourselves!) to recognise how our moods can affect our behaviour.

    Facing up to the fact that it’s because you are in a bad mood that you shouted at someone is the first step to treating them, next time ;), with the respect they deserve instead of taking out your mood on them (presuming that this is the behaviour you are aiming for!)

    Those we love (including our kids) can help us (if they choose) to improve our mood (and having skills in this area is useful!) but we can also show them that we can choose to behave properly towards them no matter what our mood.

  22. Pip Wheelwright says:


    We always use numbers 1 – 10 for how well we are feeling in the family or if in pain, for instance when Our eldest was ill last year, he was only complaining of a number 3, the day before for a tummy ache, but by the next day I knew things were not right, after he had been up being sick all night, his pain went to a 15! I had already rung the hospital and said I suspected appendix, as I had the same symptoms at the same age (8 yrs) they told me I was worrying for nothing ! and children of that age don’t have appendix problems ? I kept repeating, and eventually they said well you will have a wasted journey, but come in. My husband and Son waited 7 hrs to be seen, then they could not get a bed, by this time he was rolling about on bed – unknown to everyone his appendix has ruptured, they then had to transfer him 20 miles to a Childrens hospital where it was touch and go! He pulled through but I kept telling them his pain threshold was really high, and if he was saying number 15 its serious, they ignored my concerns. So number system I feel saved his life really, We will try this for moods too however as not thought of that!

    Mrs. Pip Wheelwright Kent UK.

  23. There is something to be learned from each & every comment here. Anything we do to further our own understanding and that of our children’s to learn, understand and communicate our feelings both good and bad is helpful.

    We all make mistakes, especially when parenting, & sometimes the individual psyche of a child will react in a life-long manner to something innocently done while another child won’t remember the same circumstances a second later. Painful memories of what happened to us as children are with most people, and when you hear some of the stories you certainly can see why, while others can be fairly minor, yet leave life long scars.

    The new pop religion out there is that we are responsible for our emotions and reactions and we CHOOSE our thoughts and we ATTRACT everything both good and bad into our lives. Well, that thinking works to a certain extent and we can certainly all ‘tweak’ ourselves into more positive thoughts, thereby attracting better vibrations or circumstances, or whatever, but I often think that the human condition is far more complicated than that and that random events do happen to innocent people.

    For example, I find it hard to believe that an innocent child engaged in skipping down the street and the utter joy of living in the moment, who is suddenly approached and assualted by a pedophile opportunist has attracted that into their life, and the subsequent feelings that such an experience would cause are by choice.

    Perhaps this is the far end of the spectrum, but we cannot all be Pollyanna’s all day long. We can certainly try, and it’s always good to be reminded that for the most part, we do have a choice and should help our children to understand that as well.

    A few weeks ago a beautiful robin flew into our picture window and broke it’s innocent little neck. My 11 year old comforted me as I wept at the small tragedy. This past weekend we discovered baby birds having hatched in a decorative bird house we had hung in one of our bushes. “It’s the circle of life mommy” my daughter solemnly told me while rubbing my back. “We don’t need to cry about that robin anymore.” Life lessons come from everywhere.

  24. Awesome thread all of you! This is the best blog I’ve seen… taking Ellen’s small pearls of wisdom and evolving them into wonderful learning conversations…with three children, I need all the help I can get!!
    Agree with the person who loves Charles Swindle quote…I asked the store I saw it in for a copy and shared it with my whole office. That is the bottom line–we must strive to overcome our moods and do the right thing. The effort is the key, not necessarily actually being happy all the time.
    Also being the mother of two sons, maybe I can get a better feel for what is going on with them using this method. My girl is 5 mo old, and she already makes her moods very clear! LOL