How to Complain

Lately, it seems like I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of a lot of complaining! And let me just tell you, I’ve learned that some of those complaints are much more effective than others. Which ones fail? Which ones succeed? Here’s what I’ve noticed:

1 – Although a complaint by its very definition is negative, those that begin with some sort of positive comment are so much more effective. I’ve noticed that if a conversation is only focused on the negative, then the person who is “receiving” the criticism automatically becomes defensive — they are no longer interested in improving the situation but instead, they begin arguing the points that are being thrown at them. However, if a conversation begins with a highlight of the good stuff (because there is always something good to say, even if it’s small), then it’s as if you are all on the same team and whatever needs to be done to make the situation better seems much more reasonable!

Let me use an example that speaks to every mama’s heart: parent-teacher conferences. Imagine if you walk in and all the teacher can talk about is your little Sally and how she just can’t get anything right. You instantly think: Wow, I don’t think this teacher gets my Sally at all! Sally’s not that bad; I know she does some things right! I mean, what kind of parent does this teacher think I am? And suddenly, nothing that teacher says seems “quite right” and all of her suggestions seem way unnecessary…Whereas, if you go in and the teacher comments about how great Sally is at raising her hand and sharing with others and memorizing her multiplication tables (you are probably smiling proudly at this point), then you are already on board when she comments that Sally is sure doing great but could use some extra help with reading and spelling. You’ll definitely get that extra help because you can tell this teacher has Sally’s best interests at heart — and you want to partner with her to do whatever is best for Sally!

The two different attitudes towards giving criticism have a huge effect on how the complaints are received and on the final outcome.

2 – Choose your battles carefully. I think this should be one of the main laws of motherhood. There are so many things that we could complain about if we chose to — literally, I’m sure we could nag all day long. (How did this dirty sock get here? Whose dirty dish is this? Who has been playing with my phone?) However, I believe that if we are constantly griping about this or that, our children (and our husband!) will just start to tune us out. Today, I’m going to try and let some of the little things go. Gentle reminders are likely still going to be needed, but I’m going to do my best to layer those with love!

3 – Replace complaining with gratitude. Have you ever noticed that sometimes an “attitude of complaining” can take over your home? All of a sudden, the lady at the grocery store was too rude or the neighbor down the street was too loud or the pizza was not cooked to our liking. The grumbling seems to spread like a disease and suddenly, everything has a negative tint to it. As parents, it’s our job to recognize when this sickness has infected our family — and to start spreading an attitude of gratitude by way of example! When we start looking for the good instead of the bad, everything seems a little better 🙂

Can’t complain about this…thankful to be a part of our little family…

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