Whiners Need to Become Problem Solvers

Scott Turansky

Dr. Scott Turansky

There are two kinds of people in the world, whiners and solvers. Whiners complain about life, feel like victims, and believe that others cause their problems. If others would just change then they’d be happy. Until then, they’ll just whine about life.

Solvers look for solutions, recognize that they can impact others, and feel empowered to change life. If they can’t solve the problem themselves, they know where to go to get solutions.

It Starts with the Words

Helping children move from whiners to solvers starts in the way they talk about problems or bring them to their parents. The very words that they use are important. When Johnny comes into the kitchen and says, “I’m hungry,” you might say, “Johnny, that’s focusing on the problem. Tell me the solution.” In this way you’re transferring the responsibility to the child.

Johnny’s response can be, “Mom could I please have a snack.” That’s using words to focus on the solution. Don’t wait for the whiny voice to indicate a complaining heart. Look for word cues and you’ll be able to bring about change more quickly and effectively.

When Mackenzie yells, “I can’t find my boots!” that’s focusing on the problem. It would be better for her to say, “Dad, would you please help me find my boots.”

Maybe you think this is only semantics. But the words children use to bring problems to their parents can mean all the difference in the way they view themselves and the world. Whining is often the sign of a victim mentality. Children who believe that they’re victims are often angry and resentful because everyone else is the cause of their problems. They don’t believe they can change anything so they may as well just complain about it.

Expressing misery to others might bring sympathy but it rarely brings change.  See Badgering, Whining, Arguing: Just Say No. Furthermore, if the whining works and others change, it further cements the wrong thinking in the mind of the child. “If I whine enough, other people will change the situation and then I’ll feel better.”

Don’t Get Rid of Whining By Solving The Child’s Problem

Be careful that you don’t solve a whining child’s problem too quickly. Rather, encourage the child to take initiative to solve it. The solution may involve you but it requires that the child take action toward the solution as well.

Elizabeth is twelve years old. She often complains that she doesn’t have the clothes that she wants to wear. Mom is in the habit of helping her find something but most of the time Elizabeth is still unhappy about the choice. Mom realized that her daughter had developed an attitude that the clothes problem was Mom’s to solve, so she decided to make some changes.

Mom took Elizabeth out clothes shopping and they bought a couple new outfits. Then she helped Elizabeth organize her closet and drawers, removing many of the clothes she’d outgrown or didn’t like. Next, Mom showed Elizabeth how to run the washing machine and helped her with the first few loads. Mom explained to Elizabeth that now she was twelve years old and could manage her own clothes by herself. Mom also took a stand against Elizabeth’s complaining.

With these steps Mom empowered her daughter to be a solver when it came to her clothes. Now Elizabeth couldn’t blame anyone else for a lack of clean clothes. See When kids don’t listen, stop talking and start acting. When she did, Mom told her that she couldn’t play on the computer or go out with her friends until she washed her clothes. It worked. Elizabeth was still unhappy sometimes with her options for clothes, but she knew that she was the one who could fix it.

Often the key to making a plan work is to transfer responsibility to the child. If you give a plan to a child, you’re likely to experience resistance. If you help the child develop the plan, ownership increases the likelihood of success. It’s true that some children don’t want to develop a plan, but this isn’t optional.

Your Child Needs a Plan

A child who is mean to his brother needs a plan for addressing the temptation to be unkind. Firmness requires working on the plan before the child goes back to playing. Parents will likely have the child look at the plan after each offense to add to it or adjust it. The combination of firmness, visioning, and teaching empowers children to change by clarifying the target, communicating why change is important, and providing a plan to get there.

Some parents have a low tolerance for frustration especially when they see that frustration in their children. Then the parent, in an attempt to ease the pain, steps in and rescues the child. Remember that frustration can be a great teacher and provides internal motivation to find a solution. When parents solve too many problems children come to rely on parental solutions because it’s the easy way out. See how to avoid Traffic Cop parenting. When parents require kids to do the hard work to solve their own problems then kids develop a greater confidence to handle the challenges of life.

Brian’s son Tim often wanted a drink of juice from the refrigerator. With Tim being only four years old, Brian didn’t feel like his son could solve that problem by himself. Unfortunately, Tim whined often for a drink. Brian got an idea. He bought a small pitcher with a lid that held a couple of cups of juice. He then taught Tim how to use the dishwasher door as a table and pour his own juice into his plastic cup. Any spills weren’t a problem because when Tim was done he just shut the dishwasher and put the pitcher back in the refrigerator. Brian had empowered his son to be a solver instead of a whiner.

The scriptures talk about having a good attitude with tasks when in Philippians 2:14 it says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” That’s great advice for the family. The fun thing about children who are problem solvers is that they look for ways to help others who have problems too. Rick at age nine used to do a lot of complaining, but after significant work in this area his parents saw major changes. The real reward for them was when he had a friend over who was whining. Rick looked at him and said, “Why are you whining so much. Why don’t you do something about it?”

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The Seven Parenting Tools

There are seven tools in the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program used to bring about major changes in children. Each parent needs to tweak the recipe and use different combinations of the seven tools in order to reach a child’s heart. Seasoned and trained coaches are standing by to help you develop that recipe and implement it with your unique child. The sixth tool is TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITY. The others are RELATIONSHIP, FIRMNESS, VISIONING, COACHING, PRAYER, and TEACHING. Learn more about the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program here. 

Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN teach live parenting seminars around the country. They have written 15 books on parenting and have created five video training programs for parents. You may learn more at http://www.biblicalparenting.org. or www.thrivingkidsconnection.com

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