“It’s not fair!” “You never let me do anything!” “I’m bored…” “This is stupid!” “I don’t have any toys!” It’s not unusual to hear children whining. In fact, we adults do our fair share of complaining too. But even though there may be plenty of good reasons for a kid to voice their displeasure, having a constant complainer is emotionally exhausting for even the most patient of parents.
We’ve all been through it –wielding their whining like a secret weapon, normally sweet children stop at nothing to wear down whatever’s standing in their way. And for already drained out parents, there’s only so much incessant whining they can take before caving to their demands or lashing out in frustration. Not to mention the detrimental effects your child faces by constantly focusing on the negative.
So what can parents do to curb their child’s negative attitude, and instil a more positive mindset? We share some strategies to help you deal with a constant complainer.
#1 Identify and acknowledge your child’s emotions
As children, our parents might have told us things such as “You’ll get it if you don’t stop crying now!” or “Stop complaining! Back when I was a kid…” These may be effective for some children but know that minimising or invalidating their feelings will not be helpful in the long run. Instead, teach your child to express themselves in healthier manners. Start by identifying what your child is feeling (“I know you are feeling uncomfortable because the weather is too hot”), and teach them to convey their words carefully, even when feeling frustrated (“But you need to speak calmly and respectfully, even if you’re feeling tired or upset”).
If your child’s behaviour requires discipline, make it clear that you are dealing with their behaviour. “Your late bedtime privilege will be taken away for today because you were rude to everyone. It is okay to express how you feel, but not by being hurtful.” Make it clear in a calm but firm manner that you will not tolerate negative attempts to get their own way.
#2 Introduce problem-solving
The next time your child comes to you with complains about something trivial, encourage him or her to solve the problem. For example, if your child whines about being bored with their toys, ask “How do you think you can make your toys more interesting?” If your child needs help thinking of options, you could suggest that they could invent a new game involving old toys.
The main point is to help your child understand that coming to you with complaints will not fix the situation. Equip your child with not just problem-solving skills, but also the inclination to figure out a solution and take action to improve their situation. This will be more applicable for older kids, but you can also start encouraging problem-solving in little ones by getting them to choose between viable solutions and show them how you take action.
#3 Point out your child’s choices
Helping your child recognise the power of choice will go a long way in curbing constant complaining. Complaints like “Why does it always rain when I want to go outside to play?” or “I never get to have any fun!” can lead to your child forming a victim mentality that hampers their desire to fix the situation. Instead, help your child focus on what they can control, and to take responsibility for their feelings. For example, you could talk about fun things to do indoors, or remind your child of the fun activities they participated in recently.