How do I Stop the Kids Complaining?
I wrote this post last year but never published it. This week I needed to be reminded of how well this worked and put it back into action!
Yuck, I hate that sauce!
Why have you cooked pasta again?!
I don't want to go out to the shops!
I'm not doing that! No way!
Why doesn't he have to wash up too?
It's not fair!
Our lives were becoming flooded with complaints, groaning, moans and dissatisfaction from the boys (8, 6 and 4). What I hated most was that I felt powerless. I would start calmly trying to give them logical reasons why they needed to do what I had requested of them, but eventually we would end up raising out voices:
Just be grateful!
Go upstairs if you can't say anything positive!
Just be obedient!
Stop complaining or your will lose your computer time!
Our words felt powerless, angry and seemed only to create a heated angry environment; not one that stopped complaining.
It was getting really bad and I had no idea what to do. Nearly every mealtime, homeschool lesson - anything I required some cooperation from them - I found myself exasperated with the boys and myself.
Mark and I began to pray about what we could do. We needed a positive strategy which didn't involve threats but which enforced boundaries and gave us a plan when we faced the moans.
Here is the plan God gave us:
We sat the boys down and told them that every time we heard a complaint or moan that we would ask them three things they were thankful for, right then and there. If they failed to cooperate and give us three things then they would lose their computer time.
Suddenly we had a positive strategy!
Son: I hate handwriting! Why do I have to do it everyday?
Me: What three things are you thankful for about homeschool?
Son: I like it when we do fun stuff: creative time and reading fun books and watching videos.
Son: Why do I have to clear up?
Me: What three things are you thankful about our house?
Son: I like the kitchen and the computer and the iphone.
Son: Do we have to have pasta again? We already had it this week!
Me: What three things are you thankful that Mummy does for you?
Son: That she cooks and gives me hugs and reads to me.
Son: Why does that person have to come over again?!
Me: What three things are you thankful for about that person?
Son: Uh...that they are funny sometimes and let me use their phone to play games and I like their baby (!?!)
Suddenly there are not so many complaints.
When I pulled out the History of Peru book, I was always met with 'NOOOOOOO!!!' because it is in Spanish and they have to listen hard. After two days of thankfulness practice, I was shocked by the complete silence when I pulled out the book. Today they asked to do it first (well, so they could get it over and done with, but even so!)
When I asked Daniel why he had not complained during a particularly challenging piece of writing he said: 'I was going to complain, but then I knew I would have to come up with three things I was thankful for so I stopped.'
And suddenly, they don't find it so difficult to find things to be thankful about. They are beginning to see things more positively and I am getting more insights into what things they love about different aspects of life.
I recommend 'Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making A Heart-To-Heart Connection' by Danny Silk for a great look at grace and boundary based parenting. Some great stories and tips!