Question- I have a seven year old and a three year old who both complain about EVERYTHING! I don't know how to get them to stop. Before they even ask me to help them or get them something they start in complaining that they want or 'need' something. It is very frustrating and I don't know how to get them to stop. Any suggestions?
Answer- There are a few things for us to address. First, as always, take this matter to prayer. Ask the Lord to show you the root behind the sin. Yes, complaining is a sin! It's important to ask Him to expose any areas in your own life where you may be showing the children an example of a complaining spirit. Most often, I have found that when there is a sin in my home many times it is something I am struggling with myself. With that said, here are a few thoughts and practical teaching moments you can pray about using in your own home.
In our home, when children are very young, we begin teaching them not to complain. Here are some things you might want to consider:
Developmental Stage- Keep in mind that when children are growing they can often become frustrated trying to communicate. They haven't yet figured out how to put words together or explain what they are wanting. If we don't carefully attend to them in this normal developmental stage it can turn into a habit of complaining.
Take time to help them find the right word for what they are wanting to say, spend some time saying it with them. Listen carefully to the 'sound' they may be using to repeat you. For example: If they want up, teach them to say, "up" instead of crying or whining for their way. You might notice that they can't yet make the 'p' sound so their version of saying "up" would sound more like, "u". That's okay! Reward them for that and make a mental note that "u" means up. When you hear them say, "u" quickly reward them by picking them up and repeat the word, "up" to them correctly so they can learn to communicate with you. Do this with all words that you are teaching. Give them words for what they are whining about and make mental notes of their 'baby language.' During this time, you often hear everyone in the house saying to the little one, "use your words" and then giving them the word for what they child is reaching for or whining for. We have found that when we have done this diligently this stage is quickly and painlessly passed through!
Emotional and Physical Needs- Having worked with many neglected children, we have learned that children who have not had their needs met in a timely and positive manner learn they must demand or complain to get what they want. They learn to be very self centered and just have a countenance of "get out of my way and give me what I want". When these children learn that they can trust you to provide their needs they become less demanding. I am not saying your child has been neglected however, I am saying that everyone has the emotional need to be cared for in a timely and positive manner. Some children have more of an emotional need than others. Take time to make sure you are meeting their needs in a very personal way. Schedules can help reinforce that you are meeting their needs and might be something you want to consider. If you have a child that complains to eat or for snacks make sure you write out when the meals and snacks are. You might even want to post your menu up on the refrigerator. Post times and use pictures for non readers to understand what time to expect a snack or meal. Go over it with them before posting it and then each time they ask for a snack or meal, take them to the chart, show them the clock and teach them to expect that need to be met. This is a great opportunity to teach them some life and academic skills in the process. Older children could even help you make the menu.
Sin- There comes a time where the complaining is simply a sin and the child must be corrected. It is the sin of being self seeking and discontent. The Lord tells us to do all things without murmering or complaining (Philippians 2:14). It is a blessing to not have complaining in our homes (Psalm 144: 14). Take time to train your children to do all things without complaining. We will often use songs while we work. There is a variety of Christian music for children that teach them character traits. When we have a child that is complaining about obeying, we will sing, "O-B-E-Y- Obey your mom and dad.O-B-E-Y- makes them very glad. Listen to the words they say, obey your parents every day. O-B-E-Y.. obey your mom and dad.. ya, ya!" It is a fun song we heard years ago, when my oldest boy was only a toddler, and has been sang in our home many, many times. Another important reminder is to teach your children to consider others instead of themselves and show them fun ways to do so! Continually remind them to use their words, calm down, and talk to them about how they could think of what someone else would like instead of just what they would like. Any time you see them considering others needs or desires, praise them! Let them know how much it means to you. When you see them talk calmly about something instead of complaining like they typically would do, praise them! Praise goes a long way when we are raising our children. I am afraid most families don't praise their children near as much as they should!
Finally, be patient! Don't lose your peace! Speak calmly, redirect their attention, encourage proper behavior, and let them know you want to help them if they will ask nicely. Remember, God created you perfectly to be your child's mother to teach them and train them in godliness. You can do it!
With much love,
Mrs. Joseph Wood