When Our Kids Complain

My oldest complains about everything.  Seriously, we could tell him that we’re going to a park or going out for ice cream and he would find something to complain about.  It’s really frustrating.

Of course, I want my son to be able to express his opinions about how he feels.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to have thoughts and feelings that are different than everyone else.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to not want to do something or go somewhere.

But complaining about everything was getting exhausting.

When kids are babies, they “complain” by crying or throwing a fit when they have a need or don’t get their way, and it’s our job to teach them to use their words instead of melting down.

We guide them by giving them their “lines.”

“Mommy, could I please have more juice?” 

Not that they will get more juice, but we are at least giving them the right words to say to be kind and respectful when they make their request.

When kids can use their words as they get older, then what?  Do we still give them their lines?

Absolutely, we do!  Not only do we give them the words, we give the tone at which to say those words too, right?

The tone we use means just as much, if not more, than the words we say.  

So when my son does complain about going to get ice cream (as crazy as it is), instead of getting angry and frustrated at him like I used to, I calmly and respectfully say:

  • “Can you try to say it again in a respectful way?”  This gives him an opportunity to think about how he is sharing his opinion if he didn’t share it respectfully with his words and tone the first time.   I will happily give him his lines if he can’t think of what to say or how to say it.
  • “I understand that getting ice cream may not be your favorite thing to do right now.”  This validates his feelings.
  • “And you don’t have to want to come.”  This respects his opinion and lets him know that I’m not out to change it.
  • “But you are a member of our family and we love you, so you will be joining us but you don’t have to eat ice cream or have fun if you don’t want to.”  (Can you believe that I actually have said these words???)  This again respects his opinion not to eat ice cream.  This also reinforces our unconditional love for him and our desire to spend time with him no matter what!

We may not always understand why our kids complain about things that don’t need to complain about or why they have the opinions that they have.  And we sure can’t make our kids want to do something.

In fact, it’s not our job to change our kids’ opinions at all. It’s our job to respect their opinions and to teach them how to share their opinions in a way that respects us.

And more importantly, it’s our job to show them that we love them unconditionally and want to be with them…even if they complain and don’t want to eat ice cream with us.

Lord, thank you for the gift of our words and our ability to express them in a way that honors You.  May we always model gracious words to our children.  May they be like a honeycomb–sweet to their souls.  May they bring health to their bodies (Proverbs 16:24).  Remind us that we say matters.  Guide us in teaching our kids about the power of their own words and expressing their own opinions without complaining but with respect and with love.  

**And by the way, when I’ve learned to respect my son’s opinion and not try to change it, my son has eaten ice cream with us every single time.  🙂

Here’s to building better families–
Christine

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