Are the kids complaining too much? Before you brush it off as petty, see why their complaints are actually more important than we think.
I was a member of the student council and helped assemble our homecoming dance. One of my responsibilities was to gather the votes for homecoming king and queen.
Normally an organized person, I didn’t have my act together that evening. At the last minute, I scribbled the winners on a piece of paper. Let’s call them Peter and Janet, a couple that everyone expected to win. Except I hadn’t written down Peter and Janet; I wrote Peter and Cathy, the next in line for homecoming queen.
So when I heard the emcee announce that Cathy was homecoming queen, my jaw dropped and my heart raced. I knew I had messed up big time. I ran to a teacher who saw my distress and asked, “Is everything okay? What’s the matter?”
Why you shouldn’t brush off kids complaining
“I messed up!” I replied. “The winners are Peter and Janet, not Peter and Cathy!” I expected him to understand this devastation. How I botched someone’s homecoming night. How everyone would think it strange that Janet didn’t win. And how they’ll somehow learn this was all my fault.
Instead, the teacher’s face relaxed, first with relief, then with laughter. “It’ll be fine,” and he walked away.
I couldn’t believe he brushed it off like that.
Days later I was over it, but I still remembered the teacher’s reaction even until this day. I don’t hold it against him, but even then I learned that not everything is important to every person.
He was glad nothing serious happened. He knew that down the line, this is going to be but a petty memory that won’t make a difference in our lives.
But at that moment, for my high school self, it was very real, and it wasn’t petty.
I’m reminded of that event now into adulthood especially as I parent my three-year-old.
The other day, he insisted he play with a measuring cup—the one with the rubber handle and nothing less. To me, any other cup would have worked, but for my kiddo, he wanted that special cup.
Another time, he cried when he realized his lovey was in the laundry. Even though we explained why, he cried the entire time they were apart.
It’s so easy for me to justify and think, It’s just a lovey. He’ll get it back soon. But to him, his emotions are just as real as the ones you and I feel.
So what can we do to support our kids no matter how petty their requests, gripes and emotions may seem to us?
How to respond
Let’s say your child feels upset because her crayon broke. Don’t just brush it off and show her other crayons she can use, or say “it’s just a crayon.”
Instead, acknowledge how much she liked that that crayon and felt sad when it broke. Keep in mind she may not know how it broke and might even feel like she had done something wrong.
To us, a crayon is just a crayon, but to your child, it may as well have been a prized item.
Honor the impulse
We can also realize that kids don’t always act out to make us mad. My son refuses to pee on his convenient floor potty and instead insists on using the regular toilet. I learned he’s not out to make life more inconvenient but wants to feel more like a big boy.
When you know so little of the world, so much of it remains fascinating and overwhelming. Only through time and experience do we gloss over measuring cups and potties.
Maybe my son was trying to assert himself or enjoyed playing with a measuring cup, I’m not sure. But brushing it off would upset him as much as hearing the wrong name announced at homecoming had been for me.
Get more tips:
- How to Be Awesome at Playing with Your Kids (Even if You Don’t Like It)
- How to Stop Nagging Your Child to Get Stuff Done
- The Difference between Distraction and Redirection (and Why I Prefer One Over the Other)
- How to Stop Your Toddler from Hitting
- Why Boredom is Good for Your Child
How do you let your kids know that you understand their issues are important to them? Which of your kids’ complaints turned into a learning moment for you?
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