All kids complain. Truly, all adults complain too! Sometimes you just need to let out a little negative energy, right? Whether you’re looking for validation or solidarity or just wanting to release some pent up frustration, a little complaining isn’t a big deal. However, persistent and pervasive complaining is not good for anyone – particularly teens.
Teens are in a unique position. They are growing independently enough to make their own choices, evaluate their own life, and even notice and compare the lives of others. You could even say “comparison” is their forte, because they it’s a significant part of most of their arguments. Have you noticed?
As a dad I’ve heard “Well SHE gets to…” or “It sucks that everyone else…” and “Why am I the only one who…” and of course the ever-popular “It’s not fair!!!” Some complaining is normal, but when it grows constant it can become a real problem.
Complaints are obnoxious to us as parents, but you may start to grow concerned that their worldview will be enduringly negative as well. We all want our teens to develop healthy ways to deal with disappointment and negativity, so how do we get the complaining to stop?
5 Ways to Help Stop Complaints in Your Home
- Don’t Let Them off the Hook Too Easily.
- Help Them Learn to Problem Solve.
- Be Honest.
- Teach Coping Mechanisms.
The most annoying, but effective way to address complaints is to just stop and listen. We often want to solve their problems or change their minds, but it can lead to more complaining and bad feelings. Instead, use all your best listening techniques to listen to their complaints and try your best to understand their feelings the best way you can, because sometimes all they really need is to vent.
Victim mentality is incredibly dangerous, especially for teens, because they start to believe the rules shouldn’t apply to them.
“This teacher hates me and is gonna fail me anyway! No use doing my homework!”
It can help to acknowledge that yes, sometimes life is unfair or people aren’t perfect, but you STILL have to do what you have to do. Having a parental backbone is key.
Instead of telling them to stop complaining or fixing the problem for them, ask them what they plan to do about it.
“Yeah, that sounds tough. What are you going to do about it?”
This helps them realize they are in control of their life. Proper problem solving is a large part of helping your teen learn self-esteem.
This one is tricky, because you need to have careful timing and come from a place of love. Share with your teen that you feel drained when they’ve complained a lot, or that you start to kind of tune out or ignore complaining when it happens all the time. Be sure to communicate that you love them and you’re happy to listen, but that’s a natural consequence of too much complaining – for you and their friends!
For some, complaining is a defense mechanism for depression. If you feel your teen is overly negative, or cannot see things positively, they may need some more serious help.
It may seem counter-intuitive to listen to complaining rather than trying to turn them into a positive ray of sunshine, but it’s more effective to help them tackle their own problems and complaints – that’s the mark of a great a parent.