Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stop complaining! Um, I mean... say thank you?

"Stop complaining! Appreciate what you have!" Pretty frequent outburst in our house.

The little one is going through a bit of a ... well, "nothing's good enough / I want more" phase. Either he should've picked a different toy than the one he got, or the one piece of cheese I surprised him with at breakfast should've been two, or he didn't get to play enough of the video game he was playing.

And of course, when we get frustrated with the stream of complaints and demand that he "Stop complaining!", he then argues that he wasn't complaining, and we argue that yes he was, and he argues that no he wasn't, and we ask him if he's saying we're wrong, and well, this is just boiling up to be a conversation in which no one can come out of it happy.

So, serendipity kicked in.

The book we were asked to read for my class at the School of Metaphysics was called A Complaint Free World. Now, here's a fun story. I didn't have the funds on hand to buy it from class that night, so my plan was to check the local library. They had it! On the wrong end of town. But I could request it to be moved nearby! Except there was a lock on my account due to lack of recent use. So I updated it and requested it! And selected the wrong location. Then when I got home from work, having realized on the drive home that I'd selected the wrong location and needed to correct it, I saw a package from Amazon sitting on the coffee table. It was the book!

My husband asked if I'd accidentally ordered it, and I assured him that, no, I did not accidentally click through several different confirmation steps on Amazon. I had, however, mentioned it to one very good friend, who had also read it, and was excited that I was going to, as well. I emailed her asking if she would happen to know anything about the book I'd mysteriously received in the mail with no note, and she said it must be magic. :)

So, I read it. No, that's putting it mildly; I mentally devoured it and wanted to point at it and say "YES, THIS" about a thousand times. I'm not sure how many pages are dog-eared, but I can tell you there's quite a few. It basically condenses the Law of Attraction into something very easy to understand -- wherever your thoughts are focused, that's what you get more of -- along with a How To guide to make it work for you -- stop complaining, and find a more solution-oriented way to say what you're trying to say. The book challenges you to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, gossiping, or criticizing; most people, it says, take an average of 4-8 months to make it those 21 days. Anytime you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, do something physical (move a bracelet to the other wrist, a ring to the other hand, a paperweight to the other side of your desk) to remind yourself, and start your count over.

Also? And here's where I circle back to the beginning part about my kid. It also says that if you catch someone else complaining and call them on it, you have to start over, too, because you're complaining about their complaining.

So um, how likely is it that the way I was addressing my 4 year old's regular complaints was, in itself, complaining or criticizing? "You're complaining again!" Yeah, I'd say that counts.

It also dawned on me... where do you think he's picked up this trait in the first place?

So, my current challenge? Find a way to correct my son's behavior in a way that encourages him to be more positive rather than punishing him for being negative.

For example, he's complaining about brushing his teeth at bedtime. Instead of "Quit griping and just do it" (which leads to him rolling his eyes at me, and me saying "Did you seriously just roll your eyes at me?", and both of us getting generally grumpy with each other) I remind him how awesome it is that he gets to use the apple banana toothpaste that I know he thinks is really yummy, because he could be using the mint toothpaste he doesn't like, but he has his own. special. yummy. toothpaste. just for him. And, okay, he doesn't totally buy it, but *I* feel like a better mom for handling it that way instead of "Quit griping and just do it."

Or if he's grumping about bedtime, instead of telling him to "Stop grumping, you're going to bed regardless," I tell him that bedtime is one of my favorite times because we get to read a story together and sing a song and snuggle and I really like when it's a happy time, don't you? So can you please do your best to keep it a happy time?

It's a totally different energy. Now, when I catch him griping about something (which is still often; I don't expect miracles overnight), I ask him to think of something really good about whatever he's griping about. Or if it's something like, "Only one piece of cheese?" I give him The Eyebrow and prompt him, "Thank you for the cheese, Mommy," which he dutifully repeats.

As for me, I'll admit it, getting him ready in the mornings or ready for bed at night are probably my two most difficult times of day for remaining complaint-free. But I have found that it's making me a lot more aware of where my words, thoughts and energy are going. If something's making me grumpy or snarky or angry, I have the ability to pause and think of a more productive way of phrasing it, something more solution-oriented than problem-oriented.

How cool is that, to be in a place where you can tell yourself, "I could complain right now if I wanted to, but I choose not to"? Or, "I could yell at him about this, or I can ask him to keep things happier with me"? Pretty cool, that's how cool.

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