Monday, March 12, 2012

5 Great Ways to Handle Your Child's Complaints

Adina Soclof
Children are often complaining, and it drives parents crazy. There are some things that children say that just pushes our buttons and we often have difficulty remaining calm, thus we respond in anger. This just makes the situation worse.
We shouldn't try to engage our children in conversation when we are both angry. If we do, anything we say seems to make kids madder, whinier, or more demanding. This in turn irritates us even further. When a cycle of frustration and antagonism is started, it usually does not end well.
Here are some ways that we can answer our children’s most annoying demands, phrases, or comments in a calm manner:
1. “This family is so stupid!”
Instead of saying:
“How dare you talk that way about this family! That is a terrible thing to say!”
“You sound really upset and angry. I (Daddy, sibling, or Uncle Bob) must have done something to really bother you or hurt your feelings. I am here if you need to talk.”
Later when you are both calm:
“You said before that our family is stupid. Is there something else you can say when you are mad at us? Hearing that we are stupid is kind of hard to take.”

2. “But all my friends have them!”
Instead of saying:
“Well, we can’t afford to get you everything your friends have! Besides, didn’t you just get a new iPod and some iTunes gift cards? How much more do you want?”
“It's hard to see your friends get things you don’t have. It can be tough to appreciate what you have when everyone around you seems to have so much more. I wish I had the money to help you out.”
Later on when you are both calm:
“You seemed pretty upset before about not being able to get those sneakers. I hope you can figure out a way to get them. I wish I could do something. The problem is I won’t be able to help you out this time.”

3. “You never do anything for me!”
Instead of:
“You are so selfish. What do you mean I never do anything for you? Who do you think pays the rent around here?”·
“You sound pretty upset. When kids feel that way it means they need some attention and extra TLC from their parents. When you calm down, let’s make time that we can do something, just the two of us.”
Later on when you are both calm, you can say:
“I know you didn’t mean what you said before, that I don’t do anything for you. The problem is that it is hard for me to hear that. I know next time you will remember a better way to ask for what you need.”

4. “I hate leftovers! Why do we always have to have leftovers?”
Instead of:
“Do you know how hard it is to make dinner? Once in a while we have leftovers so I can have a break! Don’t you think I deserve a break?”
“Yes, I know. Leftovers for dinner can be disappointing. This is not my favorite kind of dinner either. Tomorrow I will try to have something fresh.”
Later on when you are both calm:
“I know you don’t like leftovers. However, when you complain about it, I get frustrated. It is not easy making dinners every night. Once in a while I just need a break.”
5. "Nobody ever helps me. I have to do everything myself!”
Instead of:
“What are you talking about? We always help you. You need to start doing things yourself!”
“You sound overwhelmed. Even though Mom and I think you can load the dishwasher yourself, you feel like it is a big job. I wish I could help you. The problem is that I have to take care of the laundry. I know you can handle this. As soon as I am done with the wash, I will come help you if you are not done.”
Later on when you are both calm:
“Do you want to discuss your responsibilities in the house? If you are having trouble with your chores, we want to know. We can try to think of some solutions together.”

It is important to respond to our children’s complaints in a matter of fact way and with empathy. It helps us to avoid conflict and models for children appropriate ways to respond to anger.
Later on when both parties are calm, parents should talk about how they feel and the frustration they experience when they are spoken to in a disrespectful manner. This helps children learn to be sensitive to others and encourages them to be more respectful down the line. It is also good to invite children to think of better ways to communicate their needs in the future. This teaches them to take responsibility for their behavior and to turn negative communication patterns into more positive ones.

Adina Soclof is a certified speech pathologist and parent educator. Her website offers informative and inspirational parenting workshops designed to help parents create a calm, happy home.

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