When children reach a certain age, they will, if we’ve encouraged them to do so, voice their opinions. That’s very healthy and should be encouraged. But sometimes this opinion-sharing turns into a constant barrage of complaints. That can pollute family life. So tell the truth, do your kids complain a lot?
Some folks look at protestors as “complainers.” I disagree. The goal of well-intentioned protestors is to work for more equality, justice, safety, and sanity in the world. All good things, right? That’s why we need our protestors and should join them whenever we feel the urge to support a cause. Complainers, on the other hand, are typically motivated by ego and jealousy. We don’t need more of that.
The following is an excerpt from my book Teaching Kids To Be Good People. If you’d like less complaining from your kids this year, read on…
There is an important concept at the foundation of Jewish tradition known as tikkun olam (repairing the world). It refers to going out of one’s way to make things better for others. Good people are doers, repairers of the world. Complainers have a lot of negative things to say, but they are rarely people of positive action. Making our children more aware of complaining vs. helping encourages them to do good.
Fuel for Thought—When you personally feel something isn’t OK, how do you usually respond? Are you more likely to take direct action or complain? Remember that you are modeling for your children the behavior you want to see in them. Think about the people you know who are (or were) “complainers”? What is it like to be with those people? How is your mood and attitude affected by being around a complainer vs. someone who addresses problems with a positive attitude?
Conversations That Count—Talk with your child about the amount of complaining in the family. (No need to single out any individual, because we all do it at times.) Some complaints point to things can be changed. but most complaints aren’t helpful because they refer to situations that can’t be changed. (“This math assignment is too long!” “Why did I get her for a sister?”) Ask your child to “play back” complaints s/he regularly hears from you. Then you play back complaints you regularly hear from your child. (It’s fine to get silly. Humor is a great way to make it easier to speak the truth.) How much of the grumbling and whining amongst family members has become a bad habit with no real intention toward making things better? What might the family do about that?
Teach—Assuming everyone wants less complaining/nagging, challenge each member of the family to catch himself/ herself (not anyone else) in the act of complaining. Instead of complaining about someone or something:
- Communicate directly about what needs to be done.
- Skip the complaining, and do some or all of whatneeds to be done (on your own).
- Change what you can change, and change yourattitude about the rest.
Have a family meeting next week to discuss the progress the whole family has made in creating a more positive atmosphere.
As always, your comments are warmly welcomed on this blog. Happy New Year!