6 Ways to Deal with a Complaining Child

Chronic complainers (kids and adults!) are no fun to be around. Mighty Mommy shares six easy-to-implement strategies to help deal with your complaining child.


Cheryl Butler,
May 1, 2017
Episode #426

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Parents tend to be resilient when it comes to their kids are going through a difficult time. However, there is a common scenario we all face: listening to our kids complain.

Sure, there are situations that warrant a child’s nagging and complaining—not feeling well, being overscheduled and run down, getting treated unfairly by a friend—but there are plenty of scenarios that a child uses as the perfect excuse to simply whine and complain—for absolutely no reason at all.

When children whine and complain, it’s frequently because they want something different than what they’re getting.  They may not know how to communicate their needs effectively, therefore, they use the best tool they know—droning on with endless complaints until their parent finally caves and gives in.

Chronic complainers (kids and adults!) are no fun to be around. With 8 kids, Mighty Mommy has endured her share of little complainers and knows how draining this behavior can be.  Here are six easy-to-implement strategies that will curb your kid’s complaining once and for all.

#1: Announce That Change is Coming

When you’re trying to change a situation or behavior that is unacceptable, one of the first things you need to address is clearly explaining to your child that his chronic complaining is no longer going to be tolerated.  Simply stated, you need to announce that change is coming.

In an article from The Child’s Mind Institute, Managing Problem Behavior at Home, the article states that kids need to know what the expectations are when it comes to an unacceptable behavior: “Assuming expectations are understood: Don’t assume kids know what is expected of them: spell it out! Demands change from situation to situation and when children are unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, they’re more likely to misbehave.”

In the case of a kid who loves to complain about nearly anything he is not happy about, have a one-to-one meeting with him and calmly announce that you will no longer be tolerating unnecessary complaints. Keep it simple.  “Jack, we apologize that in the past, Dad and I have responded to your whining and complaining.  That’s going to change.  Going forward, if you are unhappy about a situation we’d be happy to listen to a reasonable discussion, but from here on out, this household is a no whining zone.”   Then—be consistent!

#2: Train Them Up, Not Down

As the busy parent of 8 kids, I regularly read articles, books and listen to parenting podcasts to learn new techniques and stay abreast of all things parenting.  One of my favorite authors is Dr. Kevin Leman, Psychologist and a New York Times Bestselling Author.  Dr. Leman’s parenting philosophy is that parents should train their kids up, not down -- in other words expect more from your kids, and they will rise to the occasion.

“Complaining only continues because it pays off” says Dr. Leman.  He has a phrase that he loves to use when kids come to a parent with complaints and that is “I’m sure you can handle this.”  He advises that parents deflect the complaint right back on the child to find the solution.  He then says to say it once, turn your back and walk away.  “This disengages the complainer right in his tracks and takes his complaining power away.”   See Also:  How To Effectively Impose Consequences for Bad Behavior

#3: Interchange Complaints with Gratitude  

I’ve long been a believer in focusing on what we can be grateful for, rather than what we don’t have or might be lacking in our life.  A recent article, Stop Complaining With This 1 Simple Tip, not only validated this belief but also pointed out how practicing gratitude can help keep complaining at bay.  The article shares some great advice by Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project.  (One of my favorite books!).  Rubin says “We have a natural tendency to drift downward and focus on negative interactions, or petty grudges, or inconveniences, because they come to our attention more than positive things,” she said, “which is why we need to intervene and redirect our attention.”

One crucial tip? “Try using gratitude to drive out your frustration," Rubin said. "If you find yourself complaining about someone, try to find reasons to feel grateful to that person.”


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