But it was so long, and we just had to run, like, a million laps, and it was so boring, the same things over and over…” my son complained all the way home from basketball conditioning. My temptation was to tell him this is just part of a new season and he’ll be fine. But those comments never work. In fact, they seem to frustrate him and make the complaining worse.
How can you make your child’s complaining stop in its tracks? There’s one easy way, but it might feel counterintuitive as a mom. Here’s what it is and why it works.
Verbalize your child’s wishes.
For example, in my son’s case, I said, “Yeah, I bet you wish you could just start playing games without having to condition or do drills and stuff like that. You could just play.”
He literally stopped talking and stared at me. “Yeah,” he finally said. “But,” he sighed, “I guess we wouldn’t be that good yet. I mean, to win games.”
“Oh,” I replied, trying not to smile or react. “Why? I mean you guys were so good last season.”
“Well, but it’s been like eight months since we’ve played together. We’re really out of shape too.”
Bingo. Why does this work? When you verbalize your child’s wishes…
1. Your child feels heard.
It’s similar to reflective listening, which is a well-proven characteristic of good listeners. When reflective listening, a mom simply repeats back to the child what she heard him saying. She doesn’t react or give advice. But verbalizing wishes takes it one step further—it allows the child to escape reality for a moment, with his mom in his corner, wishing right alongside him. In essence, she’s saying, “I get that, and I’m wishing it with you, buddy.”
2. Your child will be surprised you aren’t telling him to stop thinking that way.
Before trying this new tactic, I wouldn’t blatantly tell my child to “stop thinking that way,” but I was guilty of trying to talk him out of his feelings by offering adult wisdom. Now, I let him verbalize his wishes, and it catches him off guard, which makes him think. When we listen more than we speak, our kids let their defenses down.
When we listen more than we speak, our kids let their defenses down.
3. Your child will see (on his own) how his wish couldn’t work in real life.
After you validate his feelings and hypothetically grant his wish, he’ll be free to come to his senses on his own. This is where the magic happens. He’ll hear his wish out loud (sometimes our thoughts are rather silly when we actually hear them) and have the opportunity to be the wise one. Kids love to be the wise one. And guess what—they are surprisingly smart. You’ll love noticing your child grow in wisdom, and this tactic makes space for that.
Be careful, though. If you verbalize the wish as if it’s ridiculous, the deal’s off. Your child will feel frustrated and maybe embarrassed as well.
Want more ideas for dealing with a child
Who whines or complains? The iMOM Podcast team tackled this topic in the episode, “When Your Kid’s a Whiner.” Listen and catch new episodes every Monday.
In what creative ways do you stop your kids’ complaints?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
When you have a complaint, what helps you feel better?