Monday, June 11, 2007

Childrearing Advice

One of the topics discussed on the backpacking trip was how much the boys used to whine and complain while we did this hike when they were little. This was especially galling, because The Dad carried most of the stuff in those days. Ben was especially noted for grousing in those days.

The boys had an excellent reply: Ben complained about everything, and was, paradoxically, enjoying himself complaining. When I could just leave him alone, without trying to cheer him up, encourage him, or (eventually) complaining back at him, he would do fine. He plodded along, but eventually made it.

Some kids just complain, and you really shouldn't feel obligated to intervene about it. When I left him alone to grouse, he was in his element.


Erin said...

After teaching middle school for 2 1/2 years I'm beginning to think griping is their way of saying thank you (or at least the strange alien language they communicate with to each other).

Ben Wyman said...

There's a clear difference between complaining about the hand you've been dealt and actively trying to change it. Someone who complains that he's carrying too much weight in his pack, or that it's too hard, or that he has too much homework, is someone who is not content, but dealing with the situation in their way. As a constant grumbler, I promise you - listen without responding or getting annoyed. It's the best thing you can do, and actually what they want. I think Erin might be right... in some strange way, sometimes it might actually be saying thank you.

A person who is actively trying to change the situation is different - he's trying to hand off parts of his pack to other people, or going forward and saying to the teacher "I can't do this, you need to give me less." This is a situation that actually needs dealing with.