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Our 6 year old daughter seems to complain a lot even when we ask her to do the littlest thing or even when it seems like something good is happening - like an unexpected ice cream treat - she might complain about the flavor. Should we just ignore her complaining and hope if we don't give it attention it will go away?

- Jeremy and Amy, Los Angeles, CA

Listen to Doctor Katherine's Answer...  

Thank you Jeremy and Amy for this great question. This is a great opportunity to help your daughter begin to master the Inspired Kids Success Secret I call Tame the Blame.™

"Tame the Blame" is about learning to stop blaming the rest of the world for our situation. In fact, "Tame the Blame" is shorthand for STOP blaming, stop complaining, stop shaming, and stop explaining or excusing.

Complaining is a behavior that is so irritating to parents so I can empathize.

I don't think you should ignore her complaining behavior. Begin now to teach your daughter that instead of complaining she needs to CHANGE the situation.

Also, complaining is not good because words are real and they have an impact on our bodies, psyche and energy system. Your daughter's negative words are creating stress on her body and psyche and disempowering her. You want her to learn this concept that words are powerful. They are actually THINGS that have real consequences. It's like shooting ourselves in the foot.

Second, you want your daughter to understand that words

and negative energy also have strong impacts on those around us -

in this case her parents or family and she probably complains around her friends.

Negative energy actually harms how well those around us function.

Researchers at a university in California just completed a study and found that it took only ONE negative person in a group to ruin the ability of the group to complete a task - they called it the "bad apple" study.

And third, you want your daughter to learn that she needs to TAME THE BLAME because she is responsible for her feelings

and if she doesn't like something then she needs to take the action to remedy or change the situation.

This concept of taking responsibility for her circumstance completely empowers her as a person - she will never fall into victim mentality and she will learn that she has the ability to make life great for herself.

A lot of times kids complain because they have a different vision of the situation or an image of something better.

So, when possible, if your daughter complains ask her how she could fix the situation to what she feels is better. Of course, assuming her solution is not to the detriment of others.

When my kids complain, if it fits the situation, I tell them, "don't complain fix it, I know you can!"

This orientation to change the experience or change our feelings about it is VERY empowering to kids. It is how we begin to teach them to stake a claim over their feelings, thoughts and actions.

If it's a situation that she cannot at the moment change, then she will have to simply practice sucking it up and dealing with it. At the moment, she may have create a habitual response. She probably actually created neural circuits that elicit complaint behavior, so...

She will need to build NEW neural pathways and circuits of NOT COMPLAINING. This takes time to build a new habit.

I tell my kids it is the RULE OF 99. They need to perform the new habit 99 times before it replaces the old habit.

In situations she cannot change, you can tell her in advance that you expect her to receive without complaint and you can compliment her for controlling her words even when she did not like her experience.

To get a positive habit going I am not adverse to using concrete rewards to encourage my children. Adults do it all the time - a new dress for losing 10 pounds. A round of golf for meeting an exercise goal. There's nothing wrong with these kinds of self -celebrations.

So, sometimes we've had success in jump starting a new habit when parents put pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters in a jar (depending upon the age of the child) and tell their child that they will be "fined" coins every time they engage in the undesired behavior. At the end of the week the jar of coins is theirs to keep. If you did this on complaining, obviously the fewer complaints the more coins are left in the jar.

And, lastly, make sure you observe your own behavior to see if you are inadvertently complaining yourself. It is really a good idea for parents to self-observe because frequently and surprisingly we don't realize we are modeling the very behavior that is infuriating us. On a number of occasions I've asked my children to observe me and support me by pointing out a behavior I was on the lookout for but couldn't see. So, you might want to ask your daughter to help you and let you know if she hears YOU express a complaint. This will also raise her awareness of this behavior and it might even tell you something you were unaware of.
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