I recently finished reading How to Win as a Step-Family (great book for blended families, by the way), and one of the suggestions they made to help family morale was a complaint and compliment box where everyone can air their grievances and share encouraging words in a safe way.
And so, I decided to give it a whirl with our new family of six, though you certainly do not need to be a blended family to try it out. In fact, I totally suggest you do, no matter your family size or structure.
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I have to admit that the hardest part was finding a box, and after way too long searching at my local Michael’s Store, I came home with a set of three glass jars (not exactly what I got, but close). I bought some emoji stickers and let the kids decorate them, all while explaining what the jars would be for: one for complaints or changes we’d like to see made and one for compliments or encouraging words. The other to keep the papers and always elusive pencils and pens in one spot. All notes are anonymous, and all are read by a parent at a weekly family meeting.
Well, after a week of trying the complaint and compliment box, I have to say things have been running much more smoothly in my home. Of course, I ended up writing most of the compliments (which was fine with me), and my kids filled up the complaint jar pretty easily. Some of their notes were just silly, “Please stop saying words wrong on purpose, Mom” and others actually useful, “Throw away your trash in the trash can,” which helped us figure out we need more than one trash can in our house!
All in all, my kids were super excited to use it, and then, listen to what was shared — good or bad.
What’s interesting is that not only did the kids appreciate the compliments, but they also really loved being able to share their feelings and have a voice in the family. Suddenly, the issues that they’ve had, which to be honest end up coming out as whining or, on bad days, yelling, now have an appropriate place to live and be dealt with. And really, some of them were so helpful to hear because we actually solved issues in a constructive way.
Those little jars have saved the adults in the house a whole lot of sanity, and the kids, well, I think they’re feeling more empowered and a part of our little community, which is exactly what I think a family should be.