Teaching Through the Grumbles: How to Parent the Child Who Complains

October 16, 2020

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Teaching Through the Grumbles: How to Parent the Child Who Complains


The following post comes from an interview between host Stephanie and her guest Tricia Goyer. Watch the video embedded below or read the full transcript to learn how to parent the child who complains. 


Stephanie (00:00):  We are going to talk today about how to teach through the grumbles. Her newest book is How to … Can you hold it up?

Tricia (00:11): I got it. The Grumble-Free Year.

Stephanie (00:13): The Grumble-Free Year. Thank you. I was like, “That’s not right. That’s the title of this.” Sorry. The Grumble-Free-

Tricia (00:20): Hey, that is a good title. That is a good title, though.

Stephanie (00:21): It is. It is. The Grumble-Free Year. And I thought what better to talk about than all of this. I know that there are tons of parents, both homeschooling and non-homeschooling parents who are experiencing this right now, so let’s dive in. The first question that we have is, how are you staying motivated right now? It’s kind of a weird time in our world. How are you staying motivated to teach? How are you keeping our children motivated? What are you doing?

Keeping Kids Motivated to Do their Homeschool Work

Tricia (00:49): It is very weird because the neighbor kids are all home. They’re usually in public school. Of course my kids can’t play with them, but they see them running around and stuff. So I think right now, what I’ve found is, really, we’ve kind of adjusted our schedule. I know we’re going to talk about schedule here, but we could just jump into that now. Before, we were homeschool in the morning. My kids had therapy appointments in the afternoon. Three of them have dyslexia. We had some OT appointments. So, the afternoons we were doing that. Well now, we don’t have that in the afternoons. We’re not going anywhere, and so we’ve kind of even slowed down and adjusted our homeschool schedule.

Tricia (01:27): Before, when I would make sure they were up by 8:00 or 8:30, now it’s more like 9:30 they’re getting up. We’re getting breakfast going. Then, I really have that time in the morning where I’m reading my Bible. I’m kind of getting peace in my heart, even though all the other stuff is happening right now. Then, we’re starting more slowly. So, we’re getting up together. We’re having breakfast together. We’ll start doing our Bible reading together. Then, we’ll jump into some of the read-out-louds that we’re doing, and just really …

Tricia (01:58): Again, I always do when I do read-alouds, I do … They can play with their LEGOs, or they can color, or they could have their play dough out. The table’s just filled with all these things. So, that part of the routine has been the same. We’ve always done it that way where we start with the Bible and then the read-out-loud, but just doing it slower in the morning where everyone just has time because we don’t have to rush anywhere. We can just enjoy the day. Or we could take a break. We could bake something or do something else. So, we’ve really just been trying to be motivated where we’re still trying to continue on with our schoolwork. But because we’re doing it at a slower pace, it almost feels like it’s part vacation, too. We’re not having to rush through things to get through the day.

How Can a Parent Calm the Grumbles?

Stephanie (02:42): Very good. What ideas do you have to calm grumbles? I’m sure we are not the only … I’m sure there are parents everywhere experiencing these. What ideas can you give us to sort of calm the grumbles and complaints?

Tricia (03:01): Well, first of all, there’s so much going on in the world. I know that a lot of parents are anxious, and kids can pick up on that. They could pick up when we’re tense. Or sometimes I’ll be sharing with my husband like, “Oh my goodness. There’s a hundred new cases in our state of coronavirus.” They could kind of hear that. They could sense that. So I think the first thing when it comes to kind of controlling the grumbles is controlling myself. And like when I said having time in the morning where I can read God’s word, I can pray, I could realize God has us under control. This is not a surprise to Him.

Tricia (03:35): We’re doing all that we can to stay safe. And once I get myself settled down … Because if I’m anxious, if I’m complaining, if I’m worried about things, then my kids definitely pick up. They talk about the mom is often the mood of the home or the parent, whoever parent is there the majority of the day is kind of the mood of the home. So when I can control myself, that really makes a big difference.

Anxiety and Stress Can Result in Grumbles and Complaining

Tricia (03:56): Then, just letting the kids know that, oh, I could see your stress about this. Let’s talk about that. I think so many times instead of ignoring it or saying, “You don’t need to worry about that,” just letting kids talk about it and share their concerns. My little guy, he just started baseball. He’s not able to go to baseball practice. That’s a big bummer. But say, “I could see how that is really bothering you, but mom … This afternoon, we’ll go out and I’ll play catch with you.” And I did for like 45 minutes in the afternoon.

Tricia (04:25): So, kind of see the things that are stressing them out and trying to acknowledge those things, like, “You don’t need to worry about that,” or, “Don’t think about that.” Let them actually think and talk about those things. Usually grumbles come if we’re stressed. Sometimes we’re tired. Some kids get hungry. They don’t have their favorite snacks or whatever. Just trying to acknowledge those things and meet those things ahead of time.

Tricia (04:48): But then, also, I think even better than trying to say don’t grumble is to catch when they have a good attitude. When they say, “Hey, you want to play with me?” “What a great job. I love how you’re including your sister,” or your brother.” Or when they do something, if you say, “Hey, can you pick this up?” if they pick it up, say, “Thank you so much. I appreciate you doing it.” The more we start catching them doing the right thing, praising them really makes a huge difference.

The Value of Praising Our Kids

Tricia (05:17): I remember when we were doing the grumble-free year, one of our kids, she was 12 at the time. She really complained about having to do her chores. We rotate through the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom. Especially the kitchen, she would just crumble and complain of having to do her chores. Well, I was praying about it, and I realized every time she’s doing it, I go in there and like, “You didn’t clean this good,” or, “You need a scrub this,” or, “You need to do this better.” I was just picking on her. I realized I don’t appreciate it when I’m trying to do something and people are in there and getting on my case.

Tricia (05:49): So instead, I just would catch her, like even at the beginning, when she was doing something right. So she’d be wiping down the counter, and I’m like, “Wow. That’s really sparkling. That one part of the counter’s really great.” And it kind of perks them up. So I think the more during the day when we can praise kids, like, “Great job. What a creative idea you came up to use all these empty toilet paper rolls,” or whatever, just catch them and praise them. And that works a lot better than catching the grumbles.

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Grumbling that Doesn’t Use Words

Tricia (06:17): But another thing that we did so they can kind of catch themselves grumbling is we figured out each person’s grumbling style. We sat down, because I talked about, okay, how do we grumble. It isn’t just our words. Some people it’s definitely the muttering, and the grumbling, and complaining, but some people, especially teen girls in my home, would be like, “Ugh,” or like, “Whatever,” or slamming the doors. And I’m like, “Those are grumbles, too.” So, they’re like, “Oh, I do this. And I do this.”

Tricia (06:45): My littlest one, she’s like, “I whine,” and everyone’s like, “Yeah, you whine.” So, we just got a whiteboard, and we just put our name, the name. And they’re like, “Mom, you gripe,” and I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I get on the griping thing about everyone needs to pick up their shoes or whatever.” So, we just mom, gripe. Ally whines. We just went down the list., Then say, “Okay, we’re not going to try to catch each other, but you’re going to try to catch ourselves,” and just being aware that this is something that they’re doing.

Gratitude as the Antidote to Grumbling

Tricia (07:12): And then just letting them know that when we grumble and complain, we’re not being thankful. So really, even though there’s a lot of stuff going on in this world, we could be thankful. God is taking care of us. So far, our family’s healthy. We have food in the fridge. We have electricity and internet. Think of the things that to be thankful for. And when we grumble, we’re saying, “God, you’re not doing enough.” Instead, He is doing a lot.

Tricia (07:37): So, the last thing would just be to get a gratitude journal out. I have little journals that I created. You can even do it with a plain notebook and every day write something that you’re grateful for. I think all those things, whether it’s catching them and praising them, or helping them understand their own grumble styles, or turning to gratitude, or even noticing if they’re hungry or something else, all these things can really help us just change the attitude in our home, and it really makes a big difference.

Stephanie (08:06): Those are great pieces of advice. Something that I noticed we’re doing more is actually having dinner together. Because so many things were happening in the evening that we didn’t have time to have dinner. It’s just been a nice regroup to sit together and share a meal again.

Tricia (08:23): Yeah. I love that.

Operation Love Your Neighbor

Stephanie (08:25): So tell me, you were talking about operation love your neighbor. That is what you’re doing with your kids right now. Tell me a little bit more about it.

Tricia (08:34): Once we figured out we’re going to have to self-quarantine … Basically, we’re [inaudible 00:08:40] the social distancing. My 90-year-old grandma also lives with us. So it’s me and my husband. We have six kids at home, and my grandma who’s 90. It would be really dangerous if she ended up getting sick right now. So even playing with the neighbor, even if it doesn’t look they’re sick, we just don’t know. We just need to be really super careful with grandma around. But, we also want to show our kids we can still love our neighbors during this time. So, I just came up with operation love your neighbor.

Tricia (09:08): One day, actually, I said, “We’re not going to be even be doing our bookwork. We’ll do some little read-out-louds, but you don’t have to do independent work today. We are just going to be loving on our neighbors.” So, we baked cookies. Some of our kids, we did two different kinds of cookies. They were in the kitchen baking cookies. Then, the other three kids went and cleaned out our game closet, which this is also … It helped organize the game closet.

Stephanie (09:32): Yeah, right?

Tricia (09:33): So, it was like a win-win here. But, we ended up going through our game closet, and we made a list of all the board games that we have. There’s a couple of ones I’m like, “You don’t have to share those.” But all the board games that we have that we would be willing to share and lend to our neighbors … Because everyone’s home. They’re trying to figure out stuff to do, too. I think we have like 30 games on that list. I printed up, and we started with the neighbors that we know that maybe have their cell phone, that I could text them, and like, “Hey, my kids are bringing cookies,” and a couple of neighbors that they know like, “Oh, so-and-so has a dog, and we always pet the dog.” So I’m like, “Okay, you take them cookies, too.”

Tricia (10:08): But, we just said, “Hey, we’re going to be … ” I texted the ones I had their numbers. “We’re going to be dropping off cookies. We’re just going to ring the doorbell and leave them on your porch. Know that it’s from us.” Then, we taped just the printout of the board games we have available and said, “If you want to borrow a board game,” and so a couple of our neighbors did. They said, “Hey, we’d love to borrow this.” It’s fun later because they were able to show us pictures of them playing that game.

Stephanie (10:31): Oh, I love it.

Tricia (10:32): So really, it was just our way to say like, “We can’t go out. We can’t go over to the neighbor’s house or go pet their dog, or do all the thing that they’re used to doing, but we still want to show our neighbors that we care for them.” That just kind of lifted my kids’ moods when they found out baseball was canceled and they wouldn’t be able to do different activities that they were looking forward to. It was just a way to kind of boost their spirits. Because when we give to other people, it gives them a purpose, and it shares joy with others. So, we did that.


Kids Reading to Kids

Tricia (11:02): Then, another thing I just started, which I could send you the link to that, is online, we just started a private Facebook group called Kids Reading to Kids. Then, I just started inviting some of my friends. I want it to be a safe place, so all the videos are going to be approved. But, my kids just got on there and read storybooks. I videotaped them, and we uploaded them. I’m encouraging some of my friends do the same. So, it’s just these kids. Even though we’re in different parts of the country, we’re not able to go to sports or activities, they can just upload videos of themselves reading. One daughter read, If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

Stephanie (11:39): Oh, I love that one.

Tricia (11:39): Then, she read Caps for Sale, all these little books that they can just read and post a video. One of my friends posted a picture of her kids watching my kids read. So, they just love that.

Stephanie (11:50): Oh, I love it.

Tricia (11:51):It’s really a way to just think of how can we continue to connect with people, and encourage people, and use our talents, whether it’s baking cookies or reading a book, to just encourage other people during this time, because it can be so isolating. Because even though we’re homeschooling and we’re used to being home and doing school at home, most homeschoolers are used to being part of co-ops and sports teams, different activities, so this is even a big change for us, too. So, just really finding ways.

Tricia (12:20):I think a lot of people said … One of my friends on Facebook said her and her neighbors are recording songs and posting them on their private neighborhood group and of them just singing different songs. So, think of something that you think you can connect either with a neighbor down the street or even a friend across the country that you can just encourage them during this time.

Books that Teach About Grumbling and Complaining

Stephanie (12:42): That’s great. I love that. I love that idea. I will put the link below so you guys can find Tricia’s private group. Speaking of books, what books do you like to hand your kids to help them learn not to grumble or complain? What books help with that?

Tricia (13:00): Well, so we’ve read so many great Sonlight books this year. I have a blog, and I think you’ll include the link to that, that has all of them. I think pretty much Sonlight does such a great job of picking good books that really just have character development where kids learn even through trials they can show kindness. So, those are really great.

A Lion to Guard UsTricia (13:20): A couple that we really loved this year that was part of our reading is A Lion to Guard Us. It was about kids that ended up leaving Great Britain to go find their father. He was in Virginia at the time. But just the hardships that they’re going through. I think sometimes if you read these type of books in history and say, “Wow, kids were really going through really hard stuff,” maybe the things we’re going through, it’s not unique to us. So, books like this.

Tricia (13:48): I had some other historical fiction books on that list, but another fun one that was part of our read-out-louds was Ramona and Her Mother. Ramona is really whiny, and she’s really complain-y. She kind of has spits. It’s just fun for kids can say like, “Oh, yeah. I do that sometimes.” So, we can talk about that, like, “How could she have handle that in a different way?” Usually, she learns her lesson in each chapter. So, this is a super fun one to read.

Tricia (14:18): Then, we love the YWAM books that have been part of the curriculum packages for the older kids. I just read that in my aloud to everybody. So, we love these books from YWAM that are really good. It’s just missionaries that just go through so many hardships. And again, when we start to grumble, we could just see that there’s people in history that have really … God has really used them do very hard situations.

Tricia (14:48): But, some other books that, actually, because my kids, my adopted kids, have gone to therapy that the therapist has encouraged us to get, this one is called Today I Feel Silly. It’s about different mood. It talks about being silly, or being anxious, or being angry. And at the end, they can share their mood. There’s a little turny thing they could have share their … if they’re smile or angry-

Stephanie (15:13): Oh, yeah.

Tricia (15:13): … and just talk about their feelings. I think it’s important for kids to share kind of how they’re feeling and know that everyone feels silly sometimes. Everyone feels anxious. Everyone feels sad. So, everyone feels like grumbling, not that we need to grumble. So, that one. Then, there’s another one. And this is actually by … his one is by Jamie Lee Curtis the actress.

Stephanie (15:36): Oh, yeah.

Tricia (15:36): Yeah. This is interesting. But, this is another one that’s similar to The Way I Feel. And again, it just is another way to talk about feelings. This is a want someone that’s feeling really grumpy. It’s a good way to just talk about your moods.

Tricia (15:53): Then, this is a great one called How Full is Your Bucket? It’s talking about everyone has a bucket and we can either fill it up with people or we could drain their bucket. And when you give them encouragement, you’re actually adding to their buckets. And when you’re saying mean things, you’re draining their buckets. So, we’ll read this every couple of months. Then, they’re reminded like, “Are you filling up a bucket or are you draining a bucket right now?” And it helps me to remember, too, like, “Okay, as a mom, I need to be filling up my kids’ buckets and encouraging them. And when we fill them up, then they’re able to pour out to other people.” So, those are just some great books.

Breaks Are Key to Erasing the Grumbles

Stephanie (16:34): Great. What advice do you have for parents for taking breaks, like schooling breaks, spring break, now that we’re all stuck at home. What advice do you have?

Tricia (16:50): I think so many times we think like, “Okay, we need to push through this.” We need to get this stuff done. But if there is times when the kids are just feeling unsettled or different things are happening or there is … Yeah, there’s spring break, but we were planning to be at a homeschool conference. We’re not going to be at the homeschool conference. So again, find fun things that we can do.

Tricia (17:10): So even though spring break was last week, we’re doing a lighter workload this week, and we’ll probably do kind of a lighter workload next week, but just include fun activities. One day, we did a little bit of read-out-louds, and then we just had a movie day. We watched The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We just sat there. It’s the middle of day, which we never usually do that. Have popcorn. We’re all in our blankets on the couch watching a movie together. So, that was a fun thing.

Tricia (17:38): We also, again, are doing more baking together. My ten-year-old, she just turned 10. She made French bread. We actually found a recipe, and it turned out … I so impressed that she made French bread. We did that.

Stephanie (17:52): That’s awesome.

Tricia (17:52): Walks around the neighborhood are great. We’re not going to stop and visit with neighbors, but just getting out and getting fresh air. My husband and I talking about maybe doing a bike ride around the neighborhood with our kids next week just to get out and enjoy spring. We also talked about ordering seeds. We already have some pots. We have some mulch and good soil so we could plant some things in the backyard next week. So again, it’s just thinking of things that may be … We’re not going away, we’re not doing a trip, but what are things that we’ve always wanted to do? We’ve always wanted to grow a flower garden in the backyard, which we’ve never done.

Tricia (18:30): Another thing that I did, I’ve always wanted to learn how to water paint and do water … paint watercolor painting. So, I ordered paint brushes and the paints and paper, and so we’re going to do that next week. So, really think about different things that you’re doing that… or that you have wanted to do that you haven’t taken the time to do it if you’ve been so busy before. This is a great opportunity to try those things, to try new recipes, to try new art or … We’ve gotten lots of craft kits that we’ve bought that we’ve never used. We’re pulling those out. We’re also using Rosetta Stone, and we’re all learning German as a family.

Stephanie (19:11): Oh, yeah.

Tricia (19:11): So, we’re super excited. We’ve been sitting around like an hour a day, and we take turns on the computer speaking the words and clicking on the pictures. So, that’s been super fun. In fact, yesterday, we forgot to do it, and my son that night was going to bed was like, “We didn’t do German today. And of course, I’ve always wanted to do a foreign language with my kids, but now it’s like we have more time. Even from nine years old to 17-year-old, we’re all sitting around the computer and learning German. So, it’s super fun. So, just think of those things that maybe you thought like this would be fun to do someday. Well, guess what? Today’s the day you could actually start those things.

Stephanie (19:50): I was pointing. My son and I are doing … This is our actual Hands-on History.

Tricia (19:54): Oh, yes.

Stephanie (19:55):… kit on the shelf right there. So everyday I pull one out, we read a little. Well, not every day. Every few days I’ll pull one out, read a little bit about it, and then … You might end up seeing that out in the world somewhere. I thought I would record a few of them to share.

Tricia (20:07): Sure. Yes. We have some, too, that we haven’t finished. We did some other projects, but also we have a lock book kit that I’m going to be pulling out next week. So, see, all these things that you get and you have wonderful intentions, and you never get around to, now we have more time. And the kids love it. They just think it’s so much.

Adjusting Your Homeschool Schedule to Remove Grumbles

Stephanie (20:25): Absolutely. I know we talked a little bit about your schedule and how it’s adjusted. A homeschool schedule that works for you, what does that look like in a typical day?

Tricia (20:37): Yes. And I think we’re pretty much still sticking to our typical schedule. Like I said, I’m letting them sleep in a little more because we can start later. We don’t have to do things later. But, we’ve had the same basic typical schedule since, I mean, probably the last three years. And that is we get up, and we have our Bible time. So, we always start with our Bible time. With our curriculum, there’s usually a devotional book that we’ll read. I’ll read the older kids’ books, the younger kids, the younger kids’ older book, other older kids. Then, missionary story books are in there. So, we read those together as a family, and then whatever read-alouds that we’re doing.

12 Missionary Biographies to Grow Your Children's Faith


12 Missionary Biographies to Grow Your Children’s Faith

Tricia (21:17): When we read A Lion to Guard Us, which I just have right here, this is in the younger kids’ packet, but I ended up reading it to all the kids. So, I’ll read books out loud to everybody, and I think they really enjoy that. I have it so both sets of kids, the younger kids and the older kids, are both early learning early American history right now. So again, I figure out what they can do so we’re studying the same time period together, which is really fun.

Tricia (21:47): Then, after we do read-alouds, that’s when we’ll do the independent work. So, we’ll work on the math together. I have three little kids that are kind of the same level, so I’ll do that while the older kids do their independent work and their independent reading. Because that’s just the natural rhythm that we do during the day, even though things … Or maybe we’ll stop and take a break and bake something in the middle, they know this is what we do, and this is the schedule, and this is what we accomplish.

Tricia (22:15): Also, Audible has a lot of books that people can listen to for free right now. It’s under Audible stories, if you search for Audible stories. Some of our read-out-louds are on Audible, so they could also listen to them. So, that’s been great, too. Sometimes I’ll go ahead and buy those books if we’re gone on a trip that we can just listen to, but a lot of them are free right now. So I’ll say, “Hey, while we’re baking, instead of me sitting at the table reading while you guys are doing crafts, we could listen to this audio book.”

Tricia (22:45): But, that same schedule of always starting with the Bible first and making sure we get our heart right with God really helps our homeschool day. Then reading out loud and then moving to independent work has just really worked well for our family, and the kids are used to it. Then the afternoons, when the older kids have longer chapter books, that’s when they will sit outside and read their book or be lounging on their bed reading their books. So we have our together time, and then kind of the time where we kind of all filter out into our different places.

Stephanie (23:17): Great. That’s great advice. I think that something that I’ve learned from talking to so many people is everybody’s different. You find what works for you, and then …. And everyone kind of agrees on it, right?

Sticking to a Schedule without Complaining

Tricia (23:31): Yeah.

Stephanie (23:32): So, how do you get your family to stick to the schedule without grumbles and complaints?

Tricia (23:37): And I think the more it’s just how things work, they just get used to that. I think before, when we would just change up the schedule all the time, when we were kind of starting this curriculum, when we would do this other curriculum, it would get more chaotic. But once we we like, “Okay, this is our curriculum. These are our books we’re doing for the year, this is [inaudible 00:23:57] doing,” the more that’s the expectation, then the kids will just this is what we’re doing. And it gets easier to stick to that. in

Tricia (24:04): I think there are some days, like the day we had the movie day, I’m like, “You know what? We’re reading these books? We done our read-out-louds. We’re not going to worry about the workbook or the independent work today. Let’s just all get together and do a movie.” So, we do want to stick to it, but there also can be flexibility in it. There can be time when you realize like, “Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of stuff going on in our world right now. Let’s just watch a movie together.”

Tricia (24:27): So really, it’s trying to stick to it, trying to have a good attitude, but also realizing it’s okay if we just want to stop and watch a movie for the afternoon or go bake something and take it to the neighbor, that that is part of schooling, too. It’s not just the educational work, which that’s super important, but it also is working on that time together as a family, the time to encourage each other and support each other when there are challenging things going on.

How to Handle Anger: Yours and Your Child’s

Stephanie (24:56): Great advice. Great advice. I have one of your books, Calming Angry Children, in my office at Sonlight, not in my home office, where I’m sitting now. Kind of I am dealing with it right now with my daughter. She sort of takes stress out in angry outbursts. She might get it from her mother. I’m not sure exactly. And before, we would just separate. I would be like, “I’m going to go to the grocery store,” or, “Why don’t you … I’m going to go for a walk,” or whatever. And now that we’re kind of stuck at home … Here in Colorado it’s snowy, although it will be warm again soon. Do you have any advice on how to navigate that now that we can’t use external outlets to escape from one another?

Tricia (25:46): Yeah. And I do have the book here, so I can show everyone what it looks like.

Stephanie (25:47): Yay! There it is.

Tricia (25:49): Yes, Calming Angry Kids. Yeah, I do have some really good things. So first of all, I think it’s a good thing that when everyone’s together all the time … Even homeschool families, we were kind of separated, but now we’re all together. So whether it’s grumbling or whether it’s anger, we have time to work on these things. So really, I would start and just talking about in a non-confrontational moment, talk about like, “What do you think some of the deeper issues are that are bringing up the anger?”

Tricia (26:20): And in some of my, especially with teen girls, it’s hormones. I could tell certain times of the month or certain things are going on, and those hormones are going, and so so we’ll even … We’ll talk to them like, “If you feel like you know it’s because it’s a certain time of the month or your hormones are feeling out of whack, just say like, ‘Can I go chill, and just eat a piece of chocolate in my room?’” And that’s like the cue. My husband will even say, “I’ll slide a Hershey bar under the door.” We keep backup chocolate.

Tricia (26:49): Just let them know that hormones and all those emotions are very typical. And it’s not even sometimes teenagers, sometimes even preteens, when kids are changing. I mean, there’s so much going on. So, talk about like, “This is issues that’s going on. And sometimes I feel this way, too.” So, let them understand that there are reasons for difficulties.

Tricia (27:10): Or like with my little guy, he’s not getting the outlet of going to baseball practice. So, he may be feeling frustrated and not getting outlet, and so I’ll go play with him. So, kind of taking time first to figure out what is causing the anger, and is it something that we can work on together? Is it this kid just needs energy out? He’s not getting … Or is it a hormonal time of the month Or is there … Maybe they’re missing time with spending time with their friends. Or just figure out what is kind of the root issue of it is … Again, in a non-confrontational moment while you’re baking cookies.

When You Stay Calm, You Win

Tricia (27:45): Sometimes I’ll even say, “Man, I’ve just found it myself getting really frustrated lately, and I realize it’s because I’ve missed going to Bible study and seeing my friends there.” Just sharing what’s going on with me first let’s them know like, “Oh, okay. My parent’s dealing with this, too.”

Tricia (28:01): But then, when the anger comes, because there’s still times when we’re going to have an angry kid, first of all, I’ve realized for me to stay calm and to not escalate in a moment. Which I never thought I was an angry person until I had teen girls in my face telling me I’m a horrible mother or whatever they say in the moment. I was just feel like I’m escalating. I remember talking to one of my kids’ therapist about that.

She said, “You know what they’re doing, right? And I’m like, “I have no idea.” She’s like, “If she can get you angry, it takes the pressure off of her. Because all of a sudden, if she’s angry and escalated, and then you start yelling back, then she’s like ‘You’re yelling at me. You’re a mean mom,’ and suddenly it’s not about what she’s doing or her problem or her attitude.” And of course, I’d apologize for raising my voice or whatever. “And all of a sudden, it takes it off of her and her problem and her anger, and it puts it on you.” So she’s like, “So when you stay calm, you win.”

Tricia (29:05): There’s kid stomping upstairs and yelling at me, I stand bottom like, “If I stay calm, I win. If I stay calm, I win.” And before, I would usually follow them. You can’t talk to me that way. And just realize it’s okay. This is not the situation to try to change it. Later you could have the conversation.

Tricia (29:28): So first, staying calm. And then second, if they’re emotions are turned on, they’re … If their emotional brain is turned on, their thinking brain is turned off. So if they’re angry or upset for any reason, justified or unjustified, it’s not the time for me to say, “You should not talk to me like that. God says you need to respect your …” Any time we’re lecturing, that’s not kidding through at all. So, later, at a different time, when they calm down, then you could talk about those things. But if their emotional brain is peaked, their thinking brain is turned off. Even my husband, he’ll get into the big lecture mode, and I’m poking him like, “This is not helping the situation right now, the lecturing. We have this talk later.”

Calming Skills and Calming Tools

Tricia (30:13): So just know, first, stay calm and realize it’s not a good time to have the lecture. But then also, teach calming skills, which something, again, one of the kids’ therapists really showed us. When they start feeling like they’re getting angry and they want to explode, they want to yell, they want to slam a door, give them ahead of time in a non-angry moment things they can do instead.

Tricia (30:38): So, she actually, our therapist, actually did this with one of our kids. She made a calming bag in their office, but we’ve done this before. We just get like the huge gallons Ziploc bags, and you could put Play-Doh, even homemade Play-Doh. If there’s those little things, the bubbles are good because the bubbles you’re breathing, breathing in, breathing out. We’ll do fidget spinners, sometimes a little notebook with colored pencils. Scripture verse cards are really good to have in there. All the kids have calming bags.

Tricia (31:12): Even before we’ve gone on vacation, it’s like, “We’re going to be in the car with each other for like 12 hours. So before we go, everyone … I’ll put all the stuff on the table, stress balls. Everyone make your calming bag.”

Tricia (31:23): Gum is another good thing. Because when they’re actually working their jaw, that helps kind of with the anger. So, they know ahead of time, when you start getting frustrated or angry, just say, “I’m going to go get my calm bag now,” and that’s the cue to everyone that you’re going to need a chance to calm down. And giving them that space to go and play with Play-Doh, to go blow bubbles, to go draw a little picture, it’s teaching them healthy ways to calm down. Sometimes we think like, “Well, we’re just letting them go off,” and, well, it’s okay. It’s okay if they’re choosing to go off and calm down instead of exploding in the moment. So, just teaching kids ahead of time how to do that and have those resource.

Tricia (32:03): Now teenagers, it might not be they want to play with Play-Doh, although some of my teenagers do. It might be if they play an instrument, go strum their guitar or go put their earbuds in and listen to a song that they like. And that’s okay. They’ll say, “Can I go listen to my music to calm down?” I’m like, “Yes. You can go listen to your music. We’ll talk about this later,” whatever happened. But, give them that chance to calm down.

Tricia (32:26): I know for me, when I start getting angry, I just want to go to my room, shut the door. Sometimes I’ll just sit there and pray or get out of a Bible verse. I have my things that I need to calm down, so we needed to let kids know that they can have those things, too.

Break the Angry Tone with Praise

Tricia (32:39): Then again, I talked about this earlier with chores, but just praising them when they get it right. So even if they start to explode and they go away to calm down, you did a great job. I saw how you really controlled yourself. You didn’t let yourself get upset. Or even if they come back later and apologize, thank you so much for apologizing. That really means a lot. So, just praising them, praising them, praising them when they get things right, or when they’re working to get things right, when they’re doing better than they did before.

Tricia (33:07): Even with my little guy, he would … When we first got him, adopted him, he was two and a half, and he would just throw things and stuff when he was mad. The therapist is like, “If he even throws it in the direction of the toy box, start praising him for doing a good job putting his toys away.” So, he’d be mad, hurling stuff. I’m like, “Great job. You almost made it in the toy box.” And all of a sudden he would stop, and he’d be like, “Oh, I’m going to go throw stuff in the toy box.” So, that praise can kind of break them out of the angry mode to like, “Oh, wow. I really like when my mom’s not mad at me, when she’s praising me,” and they will switch often, especially the little kids, especially. It’s easier to get them to switch and just move into a different mode.

Stephanie (33:48): I love it. Thank you so much for that advice. I was thinking of … I’m like, “I need to write down everything. I need to go grab that book from my office so I could make notes.” Thank you so much for joining me, Tricia. You can find Tricia over at triciagoyer.com. She, like I said, has 75 books. She’s authored tons of knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing it with us today.

Tricia (34:14): Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s always great chatting with you.

Stephanie (34:16): Yes. You, too. See you next time.

Tricia (34:18): Okay.

Teaching Through the Grumbles: How to Parent the Child Who Complains




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