(from 1 Minute Parenting Insights published on Decoding Your Child Facebook Page on 21 Sep 2016)
Think back of a time your child complained to you about his day, or friends, or teachers. What did you do after you heard his complaint?
Did you tell him he was over-reacting? Or tell him to suck it up? Did you cast doubt on his interpretation of the incident? Or did you offer a solution or strategy on how to solve the problem or prevent the problem from occurring again?
Now think back of a time YOU complained about something or someone. How did you feel when someone told you you were over-reacting? What if they had told you to suck it up. Or if they doubted your interpretation of the incident? Or if they offered you a solution or strategy?
Did you feel good? Did you feel heard? Did you feel understood? Say the solution they had offered made absolute sense. How motivated were you to adopt it?
Many times, our children complain to vent, just as adults do. They are not interested in solutions. Nor are they interested in hearing whether they interpreted the situation correctly or not. They just need to vent. Period.
And like an over-inflated balloon, we need to let them deflate, otherwise they will explode.
It is only when we allow the hot air to be let out and the children are no longer bristling that they become more receptive to thinking about solutions.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that we raise a generation of whiners. Instead, what I am suggesting is that we be interested, truly interested, in what our children have to say about why they feel the way they do. It is when they see we are interested in them that they be willing to open their hearts to us, that they will be more open to embrace our guidance.
Complaints are a pain. Absolutely. Listening to them is a drudgery. But they are also wonderful opportunities for us to connect with our children, to tell them we feel them, to acknowledge their feelings. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for us to gently show them how they can take responsibility for whatever that happened instead of laying the blame on others and playing the victim role.
Of course this teaching need to be handled extremely sensitively for there’s no surer way to turn someone against us as telling them they were at fault when they are in the “complain” mode.
In any case, when our children feel heard, we would have succeeded in establishing a connection with them. Our relationship will deepen because they will trust us more. And together, parents and children will be able to work together to achieve greater success.
Be willing to listen and slow to judge or offer help.