It can be incredibly difficult to hear your child complain when you do so much for her. And then you think back to the little you may have had as a child and then feel this immense surge of resentment when your child complains about what you’ve fixed for dinner. Or it may be why he can’t have an iPhone, what one of her friends has that she wants, having to pick up her toys, or hundreds of other things they object to.
One reason some children may do this is because it works; there may have been times in the past when he or she complained and because you were feeling stressed and annoyed, you may have just caved in and completed the task for her or let him have something else for dinner. Remember, children learn from experience on what works and what doesn’t, at getting their way.
It doesn’t mean they are awful children or ungrateful. They just do things to get what they want, including getting out of having to follow through on things. And even though you may have experienced a hard childhood, your children just don’t care. You can lecture them all you want about what life was like for you, but if they haven’t experienced it, then they don’t get it.
Two powerful words I encourage you to add to your vocabulary and to practice often when a child complains or whines is “I KNOW.” Silly sounding I’m sure, but I challenge you to try it out. And when you say these two words, say them with a calm, relaxed and almost sympathetic tone. Don’t snap the words and don’t shout them, just a calm and lazy, “I know.”
No matter how ridiculous your child’s complaint sounds, avoid the urge to argue with them, convince them, or come across as demanding. When you hear, “We always have to eat broccoli,” avoid the urge to tell him how healthy broccoli is or how there are starving children in foreign countries; there’s a good chance they aren’t going to listen to you at that moment. If your teen says, “I think it’s stupid that I have to come in by 9:00 PM on a weekend,” you’re going to say, “I know.”
Finally, something interesting may occur when saying these two words. After you’ve grown accustomed to using them frequently, some children and teens will actually resist your calm and sympathetic demeanor. Most of my kids and my step kids eventually responded by saying, “Stop saying that, I hate hearing those words!” I would then calmly say, “I know,” and they would run screaming from the room, covering their ears! It became a new “parent power” I never realized I possessed! I was able to stop the whining with very few words or energy.
I’m not recommending that you annoy your children, I’m simply asking you to consider being consistent. You may then find that the whining stops because they don’t want to hear you say, “I know.”