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Just a Guy Struggling with Whining Kids

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There are things to hate in this world, like terrorists, rapists, serial murderers, taxes, Britney Spears, and Renée Zellweger, but an item of food, a less-than-terrific teacher?

A Little Boy Looking Unhappy in Front of a Plate of Vegetables

Bruce Sallan: "I HATE it," or "I HATE my teacher," or "I HATE that restaurant." Sound familiar? When my younger son uses that word or complains and whines as much as he and his older brother do, I find myself going nuts on them. "You HATE" such and such? There are things to hate in this world, like terrorists, rapists, serial murderers, taxes, Britney Spears, and Renée Zellweger, but an item of food, a less-than-terrific teacher?

This falls under the category of spoiled rotten. I must've done something to encourage this behavior, and my new wife always gives me "the look" when they act that way; the look that says, "Well, where do you think they got it from?" I then give her the look that says, "Bug off," and we go on to a fight from there. Okay, just kidding. Sort of.

But, the general condition of our kids complaining and whining is out of control, given how terrific they have it, how many things they have, places they go, and the ease of their life in spite of the few chores they have and the homework they get in school. Let's save "HATE" for something and someone that truly deserves it.

I'm pretty confident about what to do in most situations, but I must admit that I'm somewhat at a loss when it comes to the amount of complaining. It's not grounds for punishment, but how should I instill in them more gratitude in general, and maybe just a little appreciation for all we have vs. what we might not have at a given moment? I guess I don't have a clue, 'cause I'm just a guy.

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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
David July 18, 2009, 3:36 PM

I’d probably take R.Z. off the list, but as far as I’m concerned, B. Spears can stay on it. As far as hating taxes and terrorists: what an irony … tax dollars go toward protecting us from terrorists (air marshals, U.S. Marine Corps, etc.), so you can probably get away with hating one or the other, but not both. Naaah, I’m just busting Bruce’s chops here … I think he is making an excellent point, which is to enable youngsters to be stingy with their use of the word “hate.” For a technique for doing that, I guess you could invite them to re-state but use a less extreme word, such as “dislike” — I dislike that restaurant that qualifies for only two Michelin stars; I dislike my tenth-grade biology teacher who hangs dead rhesus monkeys from the classroom ceiling; I dislike how tax dollars get used up creating another “Czar” position (I think there are currently more than a dozen) in the U.S. government. More chop-busting, can’t help it … but yes, Bruce’s central point is on the money.

Anonymous July 18, 2009, 5:21 PM

Like David suggested, try to get them to use a less strong word, such as “dislike.” And make sure that you’re leading by example. Do you or your wife (or any other adults and friends they’re around) complain about things a lot in front of the kids? That could be part of the problem. Even if you don’t do it much, maybe try to make an effort to praise things more and keep all the complaining to a minimum. Be happy even about the little things, and hopefully the kids will follow your lead.

Suze July 18, 2009, 9:30 PM

My sugestion is to make it fun, like, having them paying you money back, maybe a quarter or even a dollar, every time they say that word… Good luck!

Beverly July 19, 2009, 9:54 AM

We were just discussing this with friends. Todays youth and young adult are a product of their parents wanting their children to have more than they did. In the end, we have created a generation of “instant” gratification.

The answer to this is, take your children to a third-world country and spend enough time there for them to see how truly fortunate they are!


Anonymous July 19, 2009, 11:29 PM

I have to wonder if anyone has ever tried understanding their children. Children aren’t wired to express feelings, it’s taught. Ask them why they feel a certain way, and remember kids have strong feelings sometimes. Ok so they “hate” something, the world will continue to spin. I keep reading and hearing how parents are tired of their kids saying or doing something, yet it doesn’t really seem as though the parents are taking the opportunity to teach their kids coping habits and give them the support that a child needs. Maybe they feel they won’t be taken seriously if they downgrade their distaste for something or someone?

LLW July 20, 2009, 3:20 PM

To Beverly: I wholeheartedly agree with your advice, but one needn’t go as far as a third world country to teach kids to be more grateful. There are plenty of opportunities in our own backyards. Regular toy/clothes clearing for donations, food drives, and working at the local shelter have given my kids a big dose of “thankful”. Also, “more gratitude, less attitude!” is a great model for the whole family. :-)

Loren July 20, 2009, 8:52 PM

Kids are a product of their environment. If you want them to stop complaining so much, then “YOU” have to stop complaining so much. I agree with the traveling idea. Fortunately my parents were travelers and started us kids early. The more exposure I got to the rest of the world, the more I appreciated even the little things at home and the more grateful I got. I also came to this conclusion on my own without my parents telling me to be grateful a million times.

Anonymous July 24, 2009, 11:13 AM

when did kids become so ungrateful….

Bruce Sallan July 24, 2009, 1:01 PM

I think we’re the product of our parent’s generation which worked so hard to make our lives better, and largely succeeded. Now, we worry that our kids will be able to even come close to our levels of success and job satisfaction and/or security. Or, for that matter, leave home before they’re 40. I was out of the home at 16 and fully supporting myself in my early 20’s, buying my first home (with a friend) at 23. Hard to imagine any “kid” being able to do that now. It is much more difficult nowadays for a host of reasons. But, no doubt, we contribute by trying to protect our children from every trauma or stress.

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