Why It Works

Let’s Face It.
Everyone Gets The Crabbies!
Or Better Said, The Crabbies Get Everyone!

The essence of CrabbieMasters is to get rid of the Crabbies in a fun way that children relate to and find exciting.

We often hear the words, “You are so Crabby!” How does that usually go over? What reaction do you get? Does this make things better or worse?

The CrabbieMasters approach evolved from scenarios just like this. We discovered that it's incredibly valuable and effective to make a subtle shift in how we think about “crabbiness”.

We can completely change the game. Instead of getting upset with someone, especially a young child, and saying, “Boy, you sure are crabby today,” we can imagine that these irksome, fun characters known as the Crabbies have gotten into our day. When we see the Crabbies trying to ruin a perfectly good time we can say, “Watch out, the Crabbies are trying to get us!” Then we can work together to get rid of the Crabbies!

The value in this powerful shift in thinking and communication is that it empowers children to make healthy choices. Other benefits include:

  • Puts parents and children on the same team to reduce power struggles.

  • Reduces defensiveness, shame, and blame.

  • Encourages cooperation, empathy, and trust.

  • Focuses children and adults on effective problem-solving.

  • Transforms common mishaps into opportunities to improve the situation.

The outcomes of beating the Crabbies include:

  • Kids realize they can have more energy and fun by taking charge of getting sleep, eating healthy foods, and getting exercise.

  • Kids become more willing to make choices that help them build strong minds and bodies.

  • With biological needs better taken care of, they have more stable moods, positive attitudes, and increased confidence.

  • Children with positive attitudes are more apt to cooperate with adults, and be more caring and considerate in relationships with peers.

  • They are better at listening and following through with what they're asked to do.

  • Frankly, everyone will end up seeing fewer bedtime, dining table, and grocery store meltdowns on the part of both children and adults!

Before long you will know all about the Crabbies, how to beat them, how to become a CrabbieMaster, and how to teach children to become CrabbieMasters themselves!

CrabbieMasters is based on a variety of well-grounded psychological concepts such as emotion management, positive parent-child interactions, and self-esteem. For interested readers, an in-depth review of these and related concepts is covered in our brief videos below.

Videos About The Psychology

Related Topics



Emotion regulation refers to the ability to respond to emotions in a healthy manner. Frequently, this involves using coping skills to manage the intensity of a distressing emotion. In order to regulate, or effectively manage emotions, a person needs skills to decrease unpleasant emotions (e.g., frustration, anxiety) and increase pleasant emotions (e.g., happiness, joy). Emotion regulation can pertain to an immediate moment when an emotion arises and needs to be managed. For example, a person might need to reign in their frustration from a stressful morning commute in order to calmly conduct a meeting when they arrive at work. It can also pertain to a more general state of our ongoing life. For instance, a person might decide that they are distressed much of the time and thus they need to plan for more relaxing activities in order to help them feel more at ease on a regular basis. 

The ability to identify, accept, and experience a range of emotions begins to develop in early childhood. Emotion regulation skills are an important component of healthy living for children and adults of all ages. Throughout the lifespan, we have different circumstances that demand the ability to regulate our emotions and our behaviors. Adults need to monitor their anxiety about mortgages, parenting practices, juggling schedules, etc. Children need to monitor their anxiety about going to a new place or learning to tie their shoes. Although the tasks may look very different in terms of what the individual does to take care of their needs in a given situation, adults and children alike need to learn to assert their needs skillfully even when they're upset. This is one of the tasks of regulation that starts at birth and continues our entire life.

Emotion regulation is a complex topic, and it's a theme in a significant body of research in human development and psychology. Much can be said about this topic and how it relates to the CrabbieMasters Program.

For interested readers, we suggest finding good scholarly resources on emotion regulation. You will see that much of the content in our program fits squarely with the goals of helping children understand and manage their emotions so that they can be well-adjusted, get along with others, and have a sense of self-mastery. 



Many people in the United States do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation can lead to changes in mood, immune system response, and cognitive sharpness.

In 1999, researchers conducted a review of 143 studies on sleep deprivation and concluded that "sleep deprivation strongly impairs human functioning." Researchers use the term "partial sleep deprivation" for a disrupted night of sleep, or sleeping less than an average amount needed in a 24-hour period (this is the most common type of sleep deprivation). Partial sleep deprivation was shown to have the strongest effect on functioning when compared to short-term or long-term sleep deprivation in some studies.

After reviewing over a hundred studies, researchers concluded that the most pronounced effect of sleep shortage was mood problems. So, this tells us we really need to attend to how much sleep we are getting if we want to keep the Crabbies in their place. Remember, Too-Tired is "The Worst Crabbie in the Universe!"

Other problems that arise from not getting enough sleep include motor-coordination difficulties and cognitive performance declines. Sleep deficits are associated with attention deficits in children, lower performance on standardized measures of academic achievement, poor emotion regulation, behavior problems, and increased risk for psychological disorders (for further details and additional references see Sadeh, Gruber, & Raviv (2002). Sleep, neurobehavioral functioning, and behavioral problems in school-age children. Child Development, 73, 405-417.).  

Other studies have found that sleep deprivation as little as one hour a night for only 3 nights is sufficient to drop academic performance nearly a grade level. Sleep is an important factor in memory, concentration, motivation, and thinking ability. We underscore the importance of good sleep for children and adults alike.  



Exercise and physical activity through play are a great way to keep the Crabbies away. A little bit of exercise or physical play can improve a child's mood in the moment. Developing a life-long pattern of physical activity can promote good mental health throughout adolescence and adulthood. 

Did you know that the most effective treatment for mild to moderate depression is EXERCISE? People who exercise for at least 20 minutes a day (20 min of vigorous exercise or 40 min of moderate intensity exercise) experience less depression and anxiety symptoms. Exercise promotes healthy brain chemical balance, which leads to a sense of well-being shortly after the activity and sustained benefits over time when exercise is consistent. Exercise helps reset the body's stress response system, which is very important in today's world where we experience many constant stressors. 

The connection between physical activity and mental well-being in adults has been well-documented. Newer research shows that even short bouts of exercise leads to psychological benefits for children. One study demonstrated that just 15 minutes of physical activity increased positive moods and decreased anxiety in elementary school children. 

Here is a great local news article that discusses how some schools are improving academic performance by getting kids moving.

In 2010, the Center for Disease Control issued a paper that summarizes the research on physical activity and academic behaviors.  The findings general show that increasing physical activity throughout the school day improves academic performance and classroom behaviors. 



Eating healthy is a key to CrabbieMaster success. Good nutrition is a foundation for positive, stable moods and steady energy levels. Taking care of your body through nutrition is a great way to keep many of the Crabbies at bay. Poor nutrition is a biological factor that leads to emotional vulnerability. One of the most important things to watch is sugar content of foods. 

Foods high in sugar cause a chemical rush and then a chemical crash, putting the body on a roller coaster. Because our energy levels and moods are linked to the chemicals in our bodies and brains, our emotional wellbeing is linked to the foods we eat. 

Here is a scientific explanation of why it's important to limit sugar intake:

  • The body's response to high-sugar foods is to produce insulin, a hormone for regulating blood sugar. Insulin production and digestion of the high-sugar food sets off a chemical reaction that leads to an increase of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
  • High levels of serotonin are associated with feeling happy and satisfied. This feeling, when brought on by foods, is often called a "sugar high." A person feels pretty good until the "sugar crash" hits. The "sugar crash" is a result of the blood sugar dropping to below a healthy baseline. Blood sugar drops below a healthy level when we eat high levels of sugar because of over-production of insulin.
  • You can basically think of the body's response to high doses of sugar as a panic response. The body takes quick and decisive action to regulate the sugar in our blood stream so that we don't have a dangerous chemical reaction in our cells. In this bit of a panic state from too much sugar, the body over-reacts and produces excess insulin. Then, with blood sugar too low, we feel lethargic and are prone to moodiness.

Children have less developed brains and are less able to use their sense of reasoning to help them regulate their mood and behavior. An adult may be capable of recognizing that they're having a sugar crash and that they need to get a healthy snack to feel better. A child is at a biological disadvantage in being able to manage the mood effects of being on a sugar roller coaster! It's important for children to eat frequently in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable. 

By monitoring and limiting the sugar in your family's diet and eating healthy foods, you can avoid these ups and downs. Some people tell us that after making changes in their eating habits, they notice a substantial difference in how they feel and how well the day goes for their children. 

We believe good nutrition can help you beat ALL of the Crabbies! 


(coming soon: behavior change, social adjustment, esteem, and externalization/narrative therapy theory)