Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Complaint Department

Parenting goes hand in hand with wearing many hats. We’re the teachers, drivers, counselors, chief cook and bottle washer to our wonderful children, day in and day out. We also frequently become the maitre de to the whine and cheese department. Here’s how I’ve reigned in my kids excessive whining.

While reading a wonderful book by Linda Greenlaw, I zoomed in on a description of her mother dealing with multiple kids and their various daily complaints. As we all know, this can be the most annoying and disrupting part of a parents day. Her mom had a daily time set aside for the “complaint department.” Yep, the complaint department. What a concept!! Greenlaw’s mom would allow open season in her home for a set amount of time each day. She’d hear whines, fix boo boos, and generally perform all the magic that is expected of a mom. I latched onto this idea as the perfect way to save myself from mass hysteria in the evenings. I fully expected peace and serenity in my home every evening. And I must say, we are almost there. Almost!

My complaint department only opens from 3-4 p.m. every day. I hear complaints about school, homework, lunch box contents, bad hair days, and just plain whining on a daily basis. Children need to vent and Mom has the perfect ear for it. Children need our guidance and advice. It’s heartwarming to know that every day between 3-4 p.m., I’m gonna hear just about everything that matters to my kids. On their terms.

The biggest added benefit to this whole complaint department concept is that I’m teaching my children that Mom’s sanity matters too. I need my space and cannot be the top problem solver all day long. They need to work things out for themselves. My kids need to have their own space to figure out why they feel whiny. It’s a good lesson in self reliance. Of course, they know I’m there in a second for a major crisis. However, the evening whining has pretty much ceased in our home.

The really tough part of establishing a complaint department involves sticking to your guns. I found that I couldn’t be at all wishy-washy and allow whining at other times. I remind my kids that the complaint department is closed except for emergencies. I remind myself too. I also have told them I reserve the right to close the complaint department on weekends and holidays.

Of course, none of this works on children under the age of 3. I’m currently trying with my 2 year old and failing miserably! As soon as she’s able to understand better, she’ll have to figure out the complaint department program. Or I’ll have to figure out how to modify the compliant department to accommodate a toddler.

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