How to Help Children Who Constantly Complain

Children who constantly complain do so to manipulate their parents. It's important not to give in, but to show love and patience.
How to Help Children Who Constantly Complain
Mara Amor López

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Written by Mara Amor López

Last update: 27 December, 2022

It’s normal for children to complain and protest when they don’t agree with something, feel uncomfortable, or want to express their displeasure about a situation. However, although this behavior is normal, they may use it as a way to manipulate their parents. Therefore, they constantly complain in order to get what they want.

The problem arises when there’s no justification and the protest is used to avoid responsibility or as a way to play the victim in front of adults. For this reason, it’s important that we empathize with our children and understand that on many occasions, they act this way because they don’t know how to do otherwise. That is why parents should teach them other ways to manage those things that make them uncomfortable, bother them, or displease them. In this note, we’ll offer you some advice.

Why do children complain?

Generally, children complain because it’s their way of expressing the things they don’t feel comfortable with or that they don’t like. In addition, their personalities are still developing and they’re seeking to reaffirm their identity.

What we must watch for is that the child doesn’t use complaining as a way of expressing something they don’t know how to do in other words. For example, if a child complains about having to go to a certain place, we must find out what’s happening to make them feel uncomfortable there.

On the contrary, when children constantly complain in order to manipulate us, then parents must intervene to teach them to express their emotions in another way.

A young girls screaming at her mom at the supermarket.
When complaints or tantrums appear on the part of children, we must not give in to avoid the bad moment. Otherwise, this type of behavior will increase.

What can we do when children constantly complain as a means of manipulation?

Many children discover complaining as a resource that’s always available to them and that they use on a daily basis. In these cases, we can see that they use it to manipulate us when it’s accompanied by tantrums and calls for attention. These behaviors, if not corrected in time, can increase their intensity.

Many parents, when faced with these situations that can occur in public, give in to avoid this unpleasant moment, but this only aggravates the problem and makes it chronic. The child will know that this resource works and will repeat it at any time to get what they want.

How to help children who constantly complain

If your child’s constantly complaining for no reason, here are some tips to help them:

1. Don’t give in to their complaints

When your child constantly complains, their parents may lose their patience and end up agreeing to their requests just to stop listening to them. In this case, it’s best to give in, but to talk to them as usual, to show your normality, and carry on with our things. When you see that the child begins to speak more calmly, then you can negotiate a solution.

2. Keep calm

Although some of our child’s complaints can make us lose our nerves, this won’t help us. Your child complains and has tantrums that include crying and screaming to get your attention. If this happens, you should avoid looking at them and ignore them. On the other hand, if you scold them for this behavior, you generate a negative reinforcement, so they’ll understand that they’ve managed to get your attention.

That’s why you must remain calm and be firm. For example, you can say “please don’t kick me because you’re hurting me, I don’t like it and it hurts”. If you shout to express your anger, you teach your child to act that way too.

3. Always show them your love

When children constantly complain and have tantrums, they can trigger unpleasant situations for parents. In any case, adults should be close to them and wait for them to calm down. When they do, then you can hug them and talk to them about what has happened. You must help them to put into words what they feel and explain to them that there are other ways to express what’s happening to them.

A mother talking patiently with her angry daughter.
It’s important to show empathy to the child, talk about what happened, and teach them the appropriate ways to express themselves. On the contrary, anger and shouting from adults only validate the child’s behavior.

4. Teach them that their emotions are legitimate, but certain behaviors aren’t allowed

Children must be made to understand that their emotions are valid, but what they have to do is to find other more appropriate ways to express them. It’s normal for them to feel frustration, anger, rage, or displeasure, but they have to externalize them in other ways so as not to get used to complaining and victimizing themselves.

5. Show empathy and promote emotional management

It’s important that we know how to put ourselves in our children’s shoes and understand why they get angry and complain constantly. It’s best to talk to them to find out how they feel and together find the words that are most appropriate to express the feelings and thoughts they have at that moment.

It’s important to help children who constantly complain

Many children settle into complaining as a way to manipulate or play the victim with their parents to achieve their goals. When this happens, we have to act so that this behavior doesn’t go further. We must understand that children behave in this way because they’re in the middle of learning and don’t know any other way to do it. That’s why, above all, we must show them our love and be very patient.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.