As children go towards the teenage years, they strive to develop separate identities from their parents, so it's common for them to complain and protest. They may make it clear that your cooking is bad, your jokes aren't funny and life just isn't fair. Sometimes complaining is a result of mood swings and hormonal shifts, while other times it stems from an attempt to get their way. The way you respond to your children's complaints will make a big difference in how much complaining you'll have to endure.Here are 7 things you can do as a parent when your child is being negative and it's pushing all of your buttons.
1. Don't try to turn your child into something she's not:- As a parent, you might feel you're responsible for how your child feels and behaves. If so, the choices he/she makes will feel very personal to you. You'll find yourself trying to turn her into a positive person. The result? She/he will work all the harder to resist you. This will cause you to push harder, creating more and more reactivity and negativity between the two of you. Remember, you're not responsible for the choices your child makes about his/her attitudes or behaviours. Instead, you're responsible for how you respond to these attitudes and behaviours.
2. Try to be non-judgmental:- As hard as it is, try not to be judgmental, critical, or defensive. So if your child says, "This food is gross", don't react by saying, "Why are you always so negative about everything? The least you could do is say "thank you!" Instead, say something like, "Hmmm I'm sorry you don't like it", or "Too bad you find it so unappealing", or simply, "Oh"
3. Don't personalize it:- Try as hard as you can not to personalize your child's negative attitude and constant complaining. Try repeating the following to yourself: "It's nothing personal and nothing to worry about. These are just feelings."
4. Be direct:- If your child launches into a venting session when you're stressed out or in the middle of something, be clear and direct. That way, if your child really needs a sounding board and isn't simply complaining for the sake of complaining, you'll be able to give him/her your full attention and listen to what's on his/him mind.
5. Reflect but don't react:- If your child always has something negative to say, you can go with it without agreeing with him/her. Instead of trying to negate a child's negativity, listen to it and let it go. When your child is critical of something and then you're critical of him/her being critical, it just adds to the cycle. Often we don't hear ourselves complaining about our kids and we just pile it on. So try to be non-judgmental about it.
6. Put a time limit on complaints:- If your child is really a chronic complainer, you might consider putting a time limit on him/her. When your child launches into a complaining session, listen to what she/he wants to say and then let him/her know she/he only has a few more minutes. Set aside a time each day, like after dinner, when your child has 10 minutes to complain about everything that's bothering him. Limit it to that time of day and that amount of time. If he/she forgets and starts being critical about something, just remind him/her that he/she can tell you all about it at complaint time that night. You can also give him/her a journal in which he/she can write everything down. Another idea is to give your child five "complaint tickets" per day that he/she can use at any time. Each one is good for one complaint, but after the five are used up, no more. (This works well for younger kids.)
7. Give honest feedback: Your ultimate goal is to let your child be who he/she is, but also to let him/her know that his/her attitude does have an impact. Giving him/her honest feedback is one of the best ways to set your own boundaries while respecting him/her.