I recently received the following letter:
My daughter is often complaining about her day in school. She seems to do well academically and has friends. She just seems to take things to heart and does not seem to be able to cope with life. I vacillate between saying, “You shouldn’t worry, you are smart and a good friend” and “You complain about everything and need to stop. ”Nothing seems to work. Any ideas on what I can do to help her stop complaining and start coping?
Thanks for your question.
Most kids whine and complain about school and it can be frustrating for parents. For some reason, compliments, reassurance, or asking children to stop their behavior does not work. They can’t hear anything when they are upset.
The only thing that can sometimes break the cycle of complaining is empathy along with questions that guide her to come up with some solutions to her problems.
So the best thing to do when your daughter does this is to just empathize and gently ask her “What can you do?”
This shows your daughter that you feel for her. Asking her the question “What can you do?” not only guides her to think of ways to resolve her issues, it also gives her the message that she is capable of managing her own problems.
Here is what its sounds like:
Daughter: “School is the worst. It is so stupid.”
Mom: “School can be overwhelming sometimes. You sound frustrated. What can you do?”
Daughter: “Sara did not speak to me the whole time on a trip yesterday. She just ignored me! I am too upset to do my work!”
Mom: “You wish Sara was more sensitive to your feelings and would have spent more time with you. What can you do to let her know…”
There is another very similar technique we can use to help our kids cope with the difficulties they experience at school, Empathize and ask, “What will work for you?”
Here is what it sounds like:
Daughter: My partners are so much better than me. They don’t like it when I am in their group!
Mom:“ “Seems like you are feeling a bit down on your math skills. What do you think will work for you?”
Daughter: “I only get a 75 anyway! What is the point in trying?”
Mom: “You sound disappointed with your grade. Sounds like you would like to bring your grade up. What do you think would work for you?”
There is one more similar technique we can use to help our kids cope with the difficulties they experience at school. We can, Empathize and ask, “Is there a way I can help you?”
This is what it sounds like:
Student: “This is assignment is too hard!”
Empathetic response: “You sound frustrated. Is there a way I can help you?”
Student: “The kids in the class are smarter than me!”
Empathetic response: “Sounds like you are feeling overwhelmed. Is there a way I can help you?”
Helping kids cope with empathy and asking them the questions, “What can you do?” or ““What will work for you?” and “Is there a way I can help you?” is the best way to deal with your child’s complaints about school and any other problem they may have.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.