What To Do When Your Kids Complain & How To Stay ConnectedSep 15, 2022
Do you find that when your kids complain about something or share something that didn’t go well your first instinct is to help them find a solution or at least a positive perspective? I’ve had a lot of those moments myself lately, so I’ve been able to see how my responses affect whether I’m able to stay connected to my kids or if they end up more frustrated and then distance themselves. I find that when I start suggesting possible solutions or a positive perspective, my kids end up more frustrated — but when I meet my kids where they are first, our conversations go much better and I’m able to stay connected to them.
The problem is that meeting them where they are goes against all of my natural instincts. I don’t know about you, but when my kids complain I immediately start thinking about whether there is a solution or how they can do things differently next time. If there isn’t a solution or it’s something out of their control, then I start looking for all of the reasons how it might be a good thing and how it could turn out in their favor.
In my defense, I’ve worked really hard to train my own brain to think this way and it serves me very well in my life. However, when I share these thoughts with my kids in the midst of their complaining, they end up significantly more frustrated. I’m trying to help them feel better, but they end up feeling worse because now they feel as if I don’t understand what they’re going through on top of their original feelings.
This happened most recently with my daughter’s school schedule. She ended up with morning classes, afternoon breaks, and then evening classes a couple of days a week. It wasn’t what she wanted and she was frustrated. Given how my brain operates, my first instinct was to help her find a solution — so I recommended that she talk to her advisor. She was one step ahead of me and had already done that and was told there was nothing that could be done.
So my next instinct was to come up with reasons as to why that schedule could work out well for her and tell her that it wasn’t so bad and how she might like having her afternoons free to get work done. Let’s just say that didn’t go over so well, and she walked away very frustrated. When reflecting back on the conversation I could see very clearly where I had gone wrong — I didn’t meet her where she was first.
By not acknowledging her feelings of frustration first, she felt like I was against her instead of supporting her. Even if I did have a solution she hadn’t thought of, or thoughts about how it could turn out to be a great schedule — if I had acknowledged her frustration and met her where she was first, she would have been more likely to stay connected and open to listening to me.
The best way to stay connected to your kids is to meet them where they are first, and then see if they are open to a new perspective. When you meet your kids where they are, they feel heard and understood, and sometimes (maybe even most of the time) that’s all they really want.
Now I get that this type of communication may go against your natural instincts, as it obviously does for me! But when you intentionally work to meet your kids where they are — and acknowledge that you understand why they may be feeling that way instead of trying to talk them out of their feelings — you are likely to find that things typically go more smoothly.
In my own experience, as well as the feedback that I get from my clients as they change how they communicate with their kids — by simply acknowledging our kid’s feelings and meeting them where they are first, we can help diminish their feelings of frustration. Even if they are still frustrated, they feel supported and understood and are more open to continuing to talk to you.
I encourage you to give this a try and see what a difference it can make for you!
If you struggle with how to meet your kids where they are, and what exactly you might say — check out my Parent’s Back to School Survival Guide. Going back to school can be exciting, but it also brings up a number of challenges for kids (and anxiety for parents) including new bedtime and morning routines, nervousness about new teachers and different classmates — and don’t even mention the homework!
All of these challenges can frustrate even the most organized parents, and getting kids to listen and cooperate as we work through them can be a major problem — which is why I’ve created a Parent’s Back To School Survival Guide. The guide covers how to avoid miserable mornings and homework headaches in three easy steps, and shares specifics on how to meet your kids where they are. Grab your copy here to help make this year easier for you and your kids!
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