Kids will whine and complain for silly reasons.
My granddaughters happily produce all sorts of artwork, but when asked to clean up and put away their supplies, their joy can instantly melt into grumbling and complaining. Suddenly they have no skills at all and instead find a myriad of excuses for why they can’t, and shouldn’t have to, clean up.
To be honest, sometimes it’s tempting to give in rather than face the commotion.
“Just 10 more minutes…I just have to finish this game,” your son whines after you remind him again that his time on the iPad is up. You silently rationalize, “What’s ten more minutes? At least I will be able to fix dinner in peace.”
It’s appealing to put a temporary end to our kid’s whining and complaining by giving in, isn’t it!
Why do kids whine and complain?
Because it works!
They know it is annoying enough to actually cause parents to expect less or back down. In addition, some kids see it as a means to control their parents, because it is a surefire way to get them to react emotionally – which only reinforces and even fuels the misbehavior.
What can you do instead?
You can begin to consistently enforce a simple standard that sounds like this: when you whine about work, you get more work; when you whine about a privilege (playing with the iPad, getting more dessert, etc.) you lose the privilege.
Set the standard and then, when your child begins to whine or complain, regardless of what it’s about, simply ask the question, “Are you whining/complaining?” They will soon learn that the consequence for continuing to do so will result in more work or removal of the privilege. Complaining about cleaning up the art supplies may mean helping mom clean up the kitchen as well. Whining about TV limits may result in no TV at all.
If you are consistent with this standard, your children will quickly learn that to whine or complain is not worthwhile because doing so results in negative outcomes for them.
However, sometimes children whine and complain because it’s the only way they know how to advocate for themselves.
They may actually have a valid point or a legitimate need, but lack the skills to express it any other way. While whining and complaining frustrate me, I have a hard time turning down my grandchildren when they approach me with a thoughtfully-worded appeal.
“I just love your chocolate cake so can I have a bit more when I am finished with this small piece?” works much better than “Why did you give me the smallest piece?”
“May I play with my friends for ten more minutes if I meet you right here afterward?” is much more likely to get a positive response than “It’s not fair – I never get to play after school.”
Next time your children whine about a legitimate issue pause and show them how to advocate respectfully for themselves.
Not only will your home be more pleasant for everyone, but also learning to wisely express one’s thoughts and needs, even at a young age, is a great way to establish essential communication skills. Plus, it grows their confidence in relating to others who will find them much more fun to be around.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…