If you have a negative, complaining child

1. Empathise with your child’s negative thoughts.

Don’t criticise them for being negative because it will make them feel even more helpless and hopeless.
Instead, listen to them, and empathise with what they’re thinking – you could say:
It sounds like you’re really worried about the coach trip not knowing who you’ll sit next to. That’s hard.”

Your empathy will help your child feel you’re on their side and understand their frustrations, rather than against them.
Don’t try to come up with solutions or arguments against what they’re thinking. Just listen and empathise.

If your child gets angry and is rude to you – try to understand what they’re really saying.
If they say: “I hate you!” or “I wish I was dead!” Think about the meaning behind the words. Everything’s overwhelming for them, and they feel miserable, useless, and angry and can’t see a way out. At that point, they need you to stay calm and interpret for them what they’re really feeling: “You’re finding life really tough at the moment.”

2. Teach your child to think positive thoughts.

Your child thinks negatively to protect themselves – if they’re ready for everything negative that could happen, there won’t be any surprises. But that negativity is self-destructive and stops your child enjoying life and new experiences. They need help to think differently.

When your child is being negative help them recognise the negative voice. You could name it Moaning Myrtle or Critical Chris. And name their opposite optimistic, positive voice: Helpful Harriet or Cheerful Charlie or their favourite superhero. Or use puppets.

When they’re negative, say:
“Hey… that sounds like Moaning Myrtle! And that’s ok!
But what would Helpful Harriet say the good things or opportunities could be?
And tell me, which one makes you feel happier or less stressed?
If they were worried about an event, check did they have a good time?
Which voice was more accurate?
So which voice may be more helpful to listen to next time?”

3. Set up some new habits to develop your child’s positive thinking muscle.

  • Have a gratitude diary – and ask your child to write three things they’re grateful for every night.
  • Every dinnertime go round the table and ask everyone to name three good things that happened to them that day.
  • Or play ‘Gimme 5’. When your child says something negative you say ‘Gimme 5.’ Then make a fist and your child has to come up with 5 positive or optimistic thought or good things about that situation and you raise a finger or thumb for each one, till they have five.

So, 3 things you can do if your child is always negative and complaining are:

  1. Empathise with your child’s negative thoughts.
  2. Teach your child to think positive thoughts.
  3. And set up some new habits to develop your child’s positive thinking muscle.

If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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