Somehow, your attempts at making him happy and eliminating the escalating tensions in the house went unnoticed by your child. And he keeps on complaining about everything.
At the same time, while you do wish that he listened to you more and that you wouldn’t need to work so hard for every little victory, you’re aware of how important it is that your son or daughter have their own opinions and not be afraid to argue their case.
After all, these are skills that will mean a lot in their lives. But at home you do wish some peace and quiet and maybe a little less bargaining. So here’s what you can do when your kid is always complaining and you’re definitely not one happy parent because of that.
Your kid is unhappy? Take a step back
You’re tired, you’ve had enough complaints to deal with at work, maybe your parents and friends have been calling and complaining as well, it’s as if you were permanently surrounded by dissatisfied, negativistic people. So, when your kid also starts doing that, you’ve just about run out of energy to deal with him as well. So your first impulse is to just solve his problem: make something else for dinner, maybe you negotiate a little, but give in easily, perhaps even by breaking one of the house rules.
At least there’s peace at home, right?
This approach seems quicker, but in the long run it’s not doing you any favors. Because once you’ve broken even one of the house rules yourself, what you’ve really communicated is that rules are made to be broken and that all is required for that to happen is some whining and a firm approach to negotiation. By giving in, all you’ve done is open the door for all sorts of complaints, as the child begins to feel that every one of his demands will eventually be met.
The message here is not to ignore your child’s needs, or what he’s trying to say to you! Just that, no matter how tempting it may seem to do otherwise, you must respect those house rules that you’ve agreed upon with your child.
Keep your eye on the emotions, instead of obsessing over finding a solution or solid arguments that could strengthen your position.
For example, if he complaints that he’s not getting along with his best friend, instead of trying to come up with a solution for him, or criticizing him, by saying that maybe his friend is upset because your child wasn’t very friendly, or because he did something wrong, you should try another approach. Ask him: „I’ve noticed you’re upset with something. Do you just want to get it off your chest, or you’re trying to find a solution?”
Sometimes, just offering him the perfect setting for expressing his feelings, emotions and frustrations will prove helpful in all the other aspects of his life where this internal tension can manifest itself. At the same time, you’re showing your child how to think constructively, how to be directly involved in looking for solutions, all the while distracting him from the everyday small things that he’s so far used to manifest his emotions.
Establish a time when it’s ok to complain
Sometimes even us, the adults, need a moment to express ourselves, to let all our emotions loose. But we can’t do that without having someone to listen to us. For example, after a stressful day at work, our instinct will make us behave exactly like the people who have eaten up all our energy during the day.
We feel like „getting revenge”, in order to share that exact feeling of power over other people that they had over us. Children go through the same thing: when another child or adult manifests his power over him, or does not respect his needs and desires, he will act on this frustration by complaining and feeling the need to fight you.
The point is that his emotions are the ones forcing him to keep his guard up all the time, to always be ready for a fight.
Don’t ignore those emotions, but instead offer your child a time when he can express them. For example, after dinner, when things are calm, everyone has eaten, and nobody is in a hurry anymore, try to be there for your child and allow him to tell you all about what’s making him unhappy. But keep that time the only time of day when he can do that. And when he forgets about it and he starts whining in the car about how you’re always unfair to him, remind him that you can talk about that in the evening, after dinner.
For younger kids, you can make 3-4 complaint tickets. Every time he’s unhappy about something, he can use one of the tickets. And if he’s used up all of them by the end of the day, he will need to wait for the next day.
The whole point is that it doesn’t matter if your child’s point of view is right or not. He needs to be listened, the same way you do. And you don’t have to give into every demand in order to show him that he’s loved and listened to and that you’re there and ready to help him find a solution.
And while you don’t need to challenge or fight every one of his complaints, you do need to find out what’s really causing them. Because behind every occasion when your child is acting in a way that you’d otherwise call „rude”, „spoiled” or „unruly” you will always find an unaccomplished emotional need.
Therefore, just establish a time of day when it’s ok for him to express all his unhappiness, respect the house rules and don’t give in just because you’re tired, acknowledge his feelings and offer him a safe environment to express them, without criticizing him, judging him or scolding him.