20 answers

How Do I Get My Six Year Old to Stop Complaining?

My youngest son complains about everything! The poor kid will have an ulcer before he turns 7 if he keeps this up. Both my boys are in the care of a wonderful sitter and they have a great time with their friends. If I ask my oldest how his day was, he will typically tell me truthfully but if you ask the little one how his day was, he will tell you it was awful even though everyone knows he had fun. If we are going to a restaurant he does not like, he complains. If we are going grocery shopping, he complains. He complains when we go to church or to the mall. He would rather spend his time playing video games and I'm sorry but that is not going to happen! We take him places he likes and do things he wants to do but he still finds something wrong with it. Any ideas on how to get him to relax and go with the flow???

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So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone who responded! So many great ideas on how to get him to loosen up so thank you. I am really trying to watch what I say when I am talking around him, to make sure he is not picking up this complainer habit from me but I am happy go lucky to the point of annoying so that wasn't it! Now that I am finished with grad school, I can spend more time with him which seems to be helping. Actually, since I have stopped school, he has made quite the turn around so it is possible that me being in school was the reason for his sourpuss attitude. He still does not like going to church or grocery shopping but that does not bother me as much as him having fun, seeing him have fun and then hearing him say he did not have a good time. So we are getting somewhere! Thank you everyone!!

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I would read the book "the Optimistic Child" by seligman. He clearly has learnt a pessimistic explanatory style and this can predispose a child to depression. This book can teach you some tools within cognitive behavioral therapy to help him develop a more positive explanatory style. This will serve him well in the long run. Oak Park library has the book. Good Luck.

2 moms found this helpful

It's just a phase. My 7 yr old is the same way, except he's now incorportated crying about everything into the mix. I talked to some other moms of boys his age and they all said their son's were doing the same thing. Just ignore it and it shall pass.

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take the toy away,a.s.a.p. It's already done enough damage to your child. GOD gave us too much to be joyful about; the sun, water, sky, picnics, swing sets, chalk, bubbles, bicycles, roller skates, etc. Tell him that until he learns the beauty of church, giving, sharing etc, the toy never comes back. Be firm, you don't want the little guy turning into a braindead machine of a man that never learned how to really care about the important things in life.

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It is a phase. He could just be seeking your attention - the conversation has to be longer if he had a "really bad time!" To a point - I would just ignore it - and there's a point that I turn to my kids and say "You need to be done!" I learned to change how I asked the question, and if they REALLY had a bad day, I do listen. When the kids go someplace, I generally ask "what were the three best things that happened today?" Typically when I have both my kids in a store, I give them tasks so that the store shopping isn't so boring for them - while still instilling in them that it is necessary to do for the family. Do you or your husband complain a lot? Take a look at that too. I never realized it but, both mom and mother-in-law had a tendency to ask questions in a negative way (like..."Did that mean girl come to the party?"...."That must have been so boring going to a party where you only know a few people!"..."So, I guess your not coming over today, right") and I fight my attitude so I don't do that - I don't want to be that person for my kids. Good luck to you and hopefully his attitude is short-lived!

2 moms found this helpful

I would read the book "the Optimistic Child" by seligman. He clearly has learnt a pessimistic explanatory style and this can predispose a child to depression. This book can teach you some tools within cognitive behavioral therapy to help him develop a more positive explanatory style. This will serve him well in the long run. Oak Park library has the book. Good Luck.

2 moms found this helpful

It's just a phase. My 7 yr old is the same way, except he's now incorportated crying about everything into the mix. I talked to some other moms of boys his age and they all said their son's were doing the same thing. Just ignore it and it shall pass.

1 mom found this helpful

Find the proverb in the Bible about complaining and read it to him. He may not understand now, but it won't hurt. Try doing the same yourself and notice if he reacts to you or does he chime in. "I hate this restaurant too, it's so boring!" If he reacts, that's a pretty good sign that he is using his complaining to manipulate you and to prove the point "All I want to do is play video games". If he doesn't, then he truly has a meloncholy temperament. Do some reading on temperament. Today's baby culture does not talk it up that much, but ancient wisdom knew that there were different personality types or temperaments and anybody who has cared for more than one child knows that babies are born with a temperament. Either way, in a calm, non-judgmental adult manner respond to his complaints by saying, "Yes, to some this restaurant is boring, but others notice the bright colors, or soft seats, or pictures." Don't compare him to his brother. Expose him to many things like in the library until you find one in which he shows interest and then take him to a place like that where he can see it in person, or get more books about it , or sign him up for a class in it, all depending upon what it is. Is he discouraged about being a younger brother? Does his older brother pick on him? Boys love to fantasize about being big and strong and here is this older brother in his face the proof that he's not big and strong. Whatever you do, do something different than you have been, because that is not working.

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I'm so glad that you asked this question and to hear that I am not alone. My 5-year old has been doing this for a long time now and I have tried everything...that is, except to ask my Mamasource friends. Go you!

I will be waiting to see the responses.

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My dear, welcome to the world of "it's all about me"! Video games rob our children of the social skills needed to cope with everyday life! It's like being in another world, where you only focus on the excitement of the moment. There is nothing else like it, in the everchanging world of real life! IN real life, we have to talk, communicate, learn, love, and respond with our hearts. None of this is required from the "game world". This is where parental advisory comes in. As the parents, there needs to be a limit, no it's not too late,but it will be difficult b/c he has already developed the anti-social attitude. If both parents stand together, you can help your child go back to being a normal person. Ask God, and others in your church to pray for what you about to encounter. It will be ugly, at first, b/c he sounds like a strong-willed kid! This is a good character trait, if directed in a positive way. You will literally,be saving your son's life from a world of selfishness, self centeredness, and ultimately loneliness, with no real-life deep friendships! God has equipped parents(with His help) to instruct our children in the best way (Biblical way), for living a life to it's fullest capacity. He has prepared us us for angle, life throws at us. I've raised 4 kids,2 without God's direction(young age), and 2 with God's direction(mature age), and there was a distinct difference in their struggles with life's encounters, as 2 were equipped and 2 were not equipped!(makes for a hard life) I know you want the best for your children, so the writing is on the wall, it's time to fight for your son's life, he is worth it!
God bless you as you mature with him! Your'e in my prayers....J. F.
P.S. By the way, the complaining comes from having a negative spirit and being ungrateful.Pray with him, and let him hear you being thankful for him and others!

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It must be something about that age. We have a lot of "this is the worst day ever" from my six year old. We are working on helping her focus on her blessings. Usually I will bring up a few fun things she got to do that day. It's taken a while, but she does seem to be catching on.

We have family prayer in the evening and recently I've noticed her thanking God for a few more of the things she got to do.

It's not a complete recovery, she still complains, but it's better and we're still working on it.

1 mom found this helpful

I belong to a woman's group at church and we had a speaker talk on this subject, Dr Todd Cartmell. He was great. His theme was on how to teach kids "flexible thinking". I'll throw you a few phrases he recommended we start using with our kids. I use them on my three year old when he starts complaining. I tell ya, they are working!

I should just do it.
It's really no big deal.
It won't take that long.
The sooner I start, the sooner I finish.
That's ok, maybe next time.

The idea is to discuss these more flexible thoughts when they are appropriate. For example when I ask my 3 year old to make his bed, and he whines and complains like crazy, I say "is it really that big of a deal?". If you just did it, go right now and do it, then what will you be able to do? He will answer with "play outside" or" watch my show". Then he runs off to get it done. Or if we need to go somewhere he doesn't want to go I tell him "we are going, you have no choice in the matter. you can sit here and complain about it, or we can go and get it over with". He has really gotten the idea that most things really won't ruin his life and the more flexible he thinks about things the better off he'll be.

I bought Dr Cartmell's book, but haven't read it yet. I'd imagine it's pretty helpful as well.

Good luck:)

1 mom found this helpful

S., I use to be a psychotherapist and learned an important lesson in one of my trainings (outside of school where I really learned the most important strategies).

Change your question and you change the response. How about:
"What is the one thing that you enjoyed doing today?"

(the word "what" is a trans question and gets the person to automatically find an answer that is sitting inside of them)

It seems like your son has formed a habit of getting attention from focusing and talking about what he does not like. So it will take him time to turn that habit around. He may say "I don't know" or "nothing". So here comes that next question that you do in a sing-song pattern... no matter what response he had to your question. (unless of course he had a positive response :-) )

"I know you don't but if you did know, what would you know?"
OR: "I know nothing but if you knew something what would you know?"

He may still say, "nothing".

Your response: "That's OK. Make it up like a story. What story can you make up about enjoying one thing in your day?"

The most important thing is that you don't care what the outcome is, that you ... in your heart ...look at your son with loving eyes and smile.

AND one other thought... ask him first before you ask his brother. He may feel that he cannot compete with the answer that his brother gave.


1 mom found this helpful

Have you heard of the "No Complaint" purple bracelets? There is an organization you can Google that was started by a guy (a minister, I believe) who wanted to help his congregation complain less, and focus on the positive. These bracelets have gotten a lot of press, been touted by Oprah, etc. You can order something like five bracelets from the organization's website for the cost of shipping, though donations are encouraged. A few months back, I ordered a set. I've taken on the challenge to try not to complain, and have passed bracelets out to family and friends. I did not give one to my six year-old daughter, but maybe I will since she can be a sourpuss. It might be fun for your whole family to take the challenge, so your son does not feel he's being singled out. It's also an eye-opener for those who believe they rarely or never complain; the bracelet makes everyone more conscious of their thoughts and words, and hopefully helps change habits.

1 mom found this helpful

Cheese and crackers with that "Whine"? I "had" a whiner/complainer for several years (from the time my son was about 5 years old) - something that was unfamiliar to me as I am a very optimitstic person. We mirrored back his complaint as a restatement of his complaint. We did start talking about his complaints and how he would have had liked things better. Good news was... it was a phase - a very long phase, but he did eventually grow out of it. Today, at 14, I rarely hear him complain. In some cases giving him the option of trying to figure out a change, gave him some resolution. The world is all about change, so giving him an opportunity to make positive changes has taught him to be more resilient.

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I had a whiner too. Now at the end of each activity, I ask him the best part of that activity. When he points out the negative(I fell down at Great America) I reply, Hmmmm maybe we shouldn't go there anymore. Next time he wanted to go, I said "I thought you didn't like it there?" He then answers with the positive things to do there.
It took a few months, but now he is able to seperate the fact that just because one factor may be bad, it was not a bad day.
Make sure you are not a complainer too...they overhear you on the phone, and think that is how it is supposed to be!

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Sounds to me like he is wanting attention from someone. Also if he is getting to do so many things he likes to do and is still complaining, I would be think about maybe limiting him on a few things, it's all about him and no one else. Better get a handle on this soon. I think he is testing you and you need to put your foot down NOW~

Make him earn his video game time. My girl friend has a son that did not like to read. He complained when he had to read so that ment he complained at any homework. Here is what she did.

Her son loves video games, just like your son. She told her son that if he would do his school work with out complaining he would get an hour of video gaming. And to earn extra video game time he would have to read books, other than school books. It worked wonders for him. I remember him coming into class and tell me, "Mom is now making me earn my video game time." I asked him how, "By reading books and not just school books but regular books." By the end of the year the little boy was no longer having problems with reading and got in lots of gaming time in. ((My friends son was also my student)).

Hope this helps...

It almost sounds like a mild depression. I'd try to keep family life as upbeat as possible, not punishing him for complaining or making him feel ashamed for not appreciating what he has (that never works; just makes the kid angry and resentful). Taking away video games does not seem like a good idea to me because it is punishing behavior that may have a legitimate cause, such as his own mental state, and if it's a plea for attention, maybe he actually needs more. Keep an eye on it and see how long it lasts because, as others have said, it could well be a phase and you might be surprised at how quickly it changes.

I really don't know that I have an answer for you except that it seems some kids are just this way. Sex does not seem to matter as I have 2 girls and a boy. I had 2 kids (my son and one daughter) who were kind of pessimistic no matter what and one who always had fun no matter what. It may help to gently point out his complaints to him and ask what would have made it better? Perhaps he is just looking to see if you really are listening and do you care. Some kids seem to need more reassurance of this. If nothing else this little story of my still complaining 14 year old son will make you feel better. When he was in kindergarden I worked 2 days a week and he went to day care in the morning and they took him to school in the afternoon. He had gone with me to look at several day care centers before we decided on this one but he still complained he hated it there, it was awful, etc every day. After a few weeks I finally told him OK we can switch you to one of the other day care centers we looked at and he could pick which one but once he picked we would not be switching again. After a few minutes he decided it was really not that bad and he would just stay at the same one. I remember telling this story to one of the girls I worked with who had only boy children and she just looked at me and said, Yep, typical male, doesn't really want to fix the situation, just wants to complain about it! It made me laugh at the time and I realized then that he really was just that kind of kid. Hope this helps at least lighten your day!

while it could be a phase, as some of the others pointed out, and i agree that video games make interacting with others difficult, and i totally agree with the other mom who said to rephrase -- what was one thing you LIKED today? -- i also think that it might be that your younger son is more sensitive emotionally, as well as more introverted in how he recharges his batteries. mary sheedy kurcinka has a great book "how to raise the spirited child" that talks a lot about this. super easy read. anyway, that your son likes to play video games, and finds problems with things even when you've watched him having fun makes me think both of those. so, while he might very well have had fun, he also very much noticed all of the problems. rephrasing questions will help him refocus his sensitivities and help you with the endless complaining!


Asides from the fact that he just might have fallen into the habit and is being accidentally rewarded...that is, he gets attention from his complaints, one solution might be to
1. simply repeat back to him what he seems to be feeling...such as "wow that sounds awful"
2. or simply acknowledge his complaints with a sound. maintain full attention and eye contact and say, "uh huh" or something similar
3. grant his desires with a wish, "I know it sure would be wonderful if you had a new bike...and then you could go and ride to wherever you wanted to go!"


I have an 8 year old that is a constant complainer also. We just got back froma week long trip that the whole family traveled out of state for his athletic competiion. He complained everyday about something. Even though I kept emphasizing how the whole family was there because of him how could he not be satisfied - no change. Finally the last day of the trip I told him that he was not allowed to ask me for anything for the rest of the summer. Anything he needed/wanted he could go through daddy only. ( I am the only parent he does all the complaining to). He would also have to convince daddy to drive him to practice, friends house, etc for the rest of the summer. I was hoping for an immediate apology but got nothing. So far 2 days of daddy saying no or he didnt feel like it is starting to get the best of him but I am going to try my hardest to last the summer out and nip the complaining in the but once and for all!

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