The time after childcare and before dinner is ‘whine-central’ at my house. Just last night my little ‘Pumpkin’ jumped from one demand to another, and when I wouldn’t or couldn’t comply (it makes no difference to kids, does it?), she brought out the big gun: whining. Her voice is not just high-pitched, but she will test out her entire vocal range and is almost impossible to understand. We’ve learned quickly that there is the ticking time bomb that goes along with her whining: a tantrum can that can explode in just 2.5 minutes!
In my I’m-living-on-3-hours-of-sleep-and-I-just-need-everyone-to-be-quiet moments, I have given in, “Yes, here child, here is the purple cup. Fine, have more raisins.” Sometimes that works and the whining stops because she got what she wanted. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or a child psychologist to figure out that I’ve just reinforced that if at first you don’t succeed, just whine!
I now have a plan for dealing with whining: as with everything else when raising a child, consistency is the secret. And I’ve made sure my hubby and I are on the same page.
3 things to do when your child is whining:
- Ask yourself why the whining is happening.
Be a detective and try to understand your child’s point of view. All behaviour has meaning. Often kids will whine when they are tired, hungry, sad, lonely, etc.
- Show & Tell them what to do.
Get down to your child’s level and make eye contact. Keep your own tone of voice and facial expression pleasant. “Pumpkin, use your nice voice. Say ‘Mommy, can I please have the purple cup?’” Think of it as role-modelling what you want your child to do. Be mindful of this when interacting with other people as children learn what they see.
- Praise when they ask nicely.
“That was nice asking, thank you.” And now you can tell them your answer.
If you think the whining in step one is for a minor thing, like for a snack or a certain colour of cup, you can ignore the whine. But if you realize your child is sad, afraid or upset and is needing attention, affection or reassurance from you, focus on providing that. You may find that there is a pattern to the whine. For example, with Pumpkin’s whining after childcare, I know she’s hungry and she misses me. If I give her a small snack and some brief quality time before making dinner, she’s much more likely to remember to use her nice voice.
The first time we tried this new plan, Pumpkin had a temper tantrum, but we remained consistent and eventually she calmed down. She refused to try asking nicely for her beloved purple cup so she never got it. But the next day, when the whining started up again over her cup, we followed the steps and <gasp> it worked!
So the next time your child whines, take a deep breath and resist the urge to get pulled in by your child’s emotions. Look carefully at the Why, be gentle with the Show & Tell and loving with the Praise. Above all, remember that with your guidance and acceptance, this too shall pass.
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