Are You A Complainer Or A Solver?
Friday, 10 February 2012

Our family uses the discipline method set forth by Turansky and Miller; their seminal book, Parenting Is Heart Work, is the book that set us off on our original path as Brian and I tried to figure out how to raise these girls. My two hands-on favorites, though, are Good and Angry and Home Improvement, two nuts-and-bolts, Biblically-based books that have given us concrete ideas for helping to shape Maddie and Cora’s hearts for the long run.

Recently a friend of mine gave me one of their newest books, Parenting Shifts: 50 Heart- Based Strategies to Keep You Growing In Your Parenting and I have to tell you, it’s a handy little book to have around. It’s a slim volume with fifty (FIFTY!) different chapters. Each chapter is self-contained, only a few pages long, and targets one specific area of parenting. So you get chapters about complaining, or resisting discipline, or ignoring you, and so on. I love that I can pick this book up when we hit a new (and painful) growth spurt in one of the girls and I can study up really quickly in my Cliffs Notes version of how to be a good parent in whatever area we’re currently experiencing difficulty.

For the past couple of weeks, complaining has come to a head with both girls. This is slightly different from whining: whining can be a tone, or body language, or attitude, and complaining is verbally finding fault with whatever is going on. The girls were feeding off each other, and a quick read through Parenting Shifts and I was ready with my catch phrase.

Just a few minutes later, Cora walked into the kitchen and tested me. (Thank you, honey.) “Mommy,” she announced, “I’m hungry.”

Now, I could have addressed what she was really saying – Feed Me – or gotten mad at her disrespectfulness. But I stayed calm and said, “Cora, I hear you stating the problem. Can you think of a solution?”

Bewildered, Cora said, “Um, to feed me?”

“That’s a good idea, honey, now can you think of a way to bring that up respectfully?”

Pause. Then the lightbulb.

“Mommy, may I have a snack? I’m hungry.”


Ever since then we’ve put this philosophy into full force. “Girls, you can either be a complainer or a solver; let’s make sure we are solvers, ok? Complainers look at what’s wrong with the world and expect the world to fix it and make their lives better for them. Solvers look at what’s wrong with the world and come up with a way to fix it, to make it better for themselves and others. Can we work on that?”

I have to say, it’s working pretty darn well. They still need some prompting – “I hear the problem; what’s the solution?” – but can now recite that along with me. And more and more, instead of complaining, they are coming in with a suggestion or a request. Small change, I know, but an important one to head off whining and a horrible sense of entitlement.

Just a couple days ago Cora said, “Mommy, this family, we’re solvers. We’re not complainers. Right? That’s the kind of family we are.” And I nodded happily and agreed with my big girl.

Then yesterday afternoon we were driving home from ballet when Maddie whined, “Mommy, I’m tired. I’m hungry.” And Cora lovingly said, “Now, Maddie, this family is a family of solvers. Not complainers! So let’s just figure out that solution, shall we?”

That’s my girl.

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