I started an experiment a couple weeks ago: whenever one of my kids starts randomly complaining to me, I am randomly making gratitude statements. Just spewing them out. I’m grateful this! I’m grateful that! I become like a gratitude sprinkler.
So yesterday my daughter was complaining about an errand being boring. She got to hear me talk about how much I love the clouds this time of year, how beautiful the wild flowers are, and how sweet it was when her brother shared with her.
What will this do!? I don’t know what the effect will be in the long run, but it’s an interesting exercise – I have seen enough positive results that I am continuing to use the Gratitude Sprinkler as a tool.
What I’ve noticed when it comes to Gratitude, Respect, Anger and Complaining
Sometimes kids who have a hard time processing change or handling frustrating emotions use complaining as a coping mechanism. And it is exhausting and anger sparking to those of us hearing all the complaints. I begin to feel completely disrespected, and unappreciated when all I hear are complaints.
I also get to the point of feeling completely at a loss as to what to do next when I have over and over again responded respectfully myself, asking for a change in tone. I feel stuck hearing the unending complaints. Now if I’m getting to this point, I try being a gratitude sprinkler. Here’s what I’ve noticed with this experiment:
- This gives me something else to do besides get more and more annoyed and eventually snapping.
- Saying a bunch of things I’m grateful for shifts the feeling of the other people in the room. Even if the complainer doesn’t change their attitude, we are less likely to get swept down with them.
- Saying what I’m grateful for stops me from trying to placate or rescue. This is a serious benefit. If I’m not careful, I have a frustrating habit of trying to fix things just to make someone stop complaining or whining. This is an unhealthy dynamic that happens when I get more and more stressed by their complaints and wind up taking responsibility for things that I in no way am responsible for.
- Meeting seemingly unending rants with a barrage of random gratitude not only keeps me from yelling, it models something I’d like to see more of in my family. Kids imitate us, so why not give them examples of gratitude to copy?
- Being a Gratitude Sprinkler gives me a tool to handle inflexible rantings. Sometimes one of my kids gets a bit “stuck”, do you know what I mean? If you have an inflexible child (or if you have a hard time with flexibility yourself) you may be familiar with this scenario. Something happens such as being woken too early by the dog, or having a friend cancel a playdate at the last minute. And they can’t. let. go.Yes, I’ve heard their feelings – they’ve been listened to, but they just can’t let it go, and in fact, they’re working themselves up more and more about an unchangeable fact. Returning their angry comments with comments about gratitude feels much better than snapping about how they just need to deal with it.
- And finally – it’s training me to complain less and be more grateful! I’m noticing when I’m about to fill a conversation with a complaining story, and I’ve begun to look for something to express gratitude about instead.
Naturally it’s not always appropriate to ignore complaints, but if you have a child who’s gotten in a habit of always looking to the negative, this may be a worthwhile experiment to try. If you try it, let me know what you think! You can scroll down to leave a comment.
Need more ideas for gratitude? You can find 52 Gratitude Prompts here.