I noticed a problem recently: there is a lot of complaining going on here at Earnest Parenting. Chief complainer: Me.
The rest of the family isn’t far behind me. We all seem to have gotten sucked into a pattern of blaming others for situations and complaining (vociferously) if anything goes wrong. For example, the Captain has actually thrown himself on the floor and cried simply because I announce that we have to leave the house for any reason. Tantrums at the age of 7? Not cool.
I myself have been feeling negative about, ohhhh, lots of things. The fact that the older boys just will not clean their room and then keep it clean? Drives me up a wall. Or the way they leave food wrappers everywhere, refuse to put their clean clothes away (and don’t get me STARTED on discovering still-folded clothes in the dirty laundry), and just generally leave chaos in their wake. Ugh. Hate it.
What it’s turned into is me getting annoyed/frustrated/naggy every time they do anything I dislike. And that happens multiple times a day, which means that I’ve been a rather unpleasant Mama of late.
The worst thing is the way the boys have picked up all of this and joined me.
My mother-in-law sent some devotionals a few weeks ago, and one of them had complaining as the topic. That continued on to the next day, and then 2 more. Four days in a row of complaint studies? Okay, you’ve got my attention.
Day 1 of the study ended by urging me to “detect, reject, and eject” complaining from my life. I read this to the boys the other night, and explained that complaining is a problem for all of us. I made sure they understood that I realize that my own complaining is a problem, and that we’re going to work on this together. We read the verse Philippians 2:14, which says “Do all things without complaining or disputing;”. Then we discussed what complaining is, and also defined ‘disputing’.
Since then I’ve done 2 things. First, I’m remaining calm and not complaining when they do something I dislike. Second, I’m stopping them mid-stream and calling out complaining when I hear it. It’s been important to repeat often that I’m not angry with them, but that we’re on the “detect” part of the mission.
I’m a huge fan of the Love and Logic techniques, but my frustration with issues has often kept me from using them because I’m too busy being upset to think of a way to use the technique on a day to day basis. In the L & L books they make an important point: Anger interrupts learning. So if I’m angry and scolding then the boys aren’t learning anything. At least not anything good.
So the big focus is to calmly point out complaining. The older boys seem to be taking this to heart and there’s been improvement. We’ve got a long way to go, don’t get me wrong. 2 days of effort won’t reverse weeks or months of decline.
But it’s a start.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to stop complaining.