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Dealing with a Negative Child: How to Put a Cap on Complaining

Posted by Dr. Ann Gatty

Are you the parent of a negative child? You know the personality type. The child is always complaining and whining—it seems that she has been doing this since birth! Such a personality can be tough to handle for parents, and at times, nerves can fray. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to see past the negativity, to see a loving, caring child.

As a parent who raised two children with very distinct and almost opposite personalities, there were times when I witnessed such negative outbursts on an almost daily basis. Some of these behaviors I could attribute to raging hormones, but some of it was simply a preference to react in a negative way. What I insisted on guarding against was allowing the negative responses to be used as a tool to manipulate my response. Just because my son was upset about an event that occurred at school, it was not okay for him to be rude or disrespectful to his family members.

I was not going to let his complaining about how life was treating him become a habit for how he responded to all situations he didn’t like. Yes, life can be cruel, but finding alternative ways to view the situation was a goal I decided to embrace. I began to limit the amount of time I would allow him to complain about the latest situation bothering him — no more than 10 minutes. Then I had enough. If I couldn’t get him to see at least one positive alternative point of view, I’d change the subject. It can be difficult to remain detached and show some tough love, but I was determined.

I realize that my child is not negative on purpose. Many times the negativity is a personality trait. Trying to cheer up or change a negative child can feed into the negativity and make the child more defiant. Opposition, anger and strife are emotions negative children are often comfortable with. It is probably a reaction that your child has become extremely proficient in exhibiting. But it is not the only reaction available.

I gently assisted my child in living outside his negative comfort zone. Over time, with each outburst, we would stop, allow time for cooling down and subsequent reflection. We then would revisit just enough to consider alternative viewpoints and alternative reactions. My modeling as a parent was an important aspect of this. I never asked him to change. I never asked him to be more positive. I displayed a positive outlook that he could see. As we continually had these discussions after different outbursts, he became used to and more comfortable with considering alternative, more positive reactions to these life events. He knows his first reaction to many things is often negative, but he also knows that it is not his only reaction.


About Dr. Ann Gatty

Ann Gatty, a life coach, inforpreneur, author and organizational strategist. She has taught in classrooms and organizational training sessions and now works as a life coach for professional and personal development. Dr. Gatty has developed curriculum for college courses, organizational training and personal development. From her work and personal experiences, she finds a continuous need among women, of all walks of life, to find a life balance between professional goals and personal responsibilities. Ann Gatty hosts a website,, which offers stress management strategies, life skill development, and a means of finding your true passion in life. She has also authored Discovering God’s Recipe for a Healthy Body, Heart and Soul. Ann Gatty earned a Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. She is married, the mother of two young adult boys, and shares her home with her husband, two Great Danes and a Bassett Hound.

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