Whining is a universal behaviour in children. That voice that grates on the nerves and never runs out of batteries seems to be built in to their wiring. The syllables of whiny speech stretch words like “Pleeeeeaaase!” to the length of a stretch-limo. Whining is such a big topic that I’m going to break this into two instalments. This week, I’m concentrating on the feelings and responses of parents to whining.
- What causes whining? Investigate the times, places and situations when whining occurs. Are there any patterns? Are your children hungry, tired or stressed by a particular person or place? Perhaps they feel powerless in particular situations and resort to whining because they don’t know how else to respond. Or they may have learnt that they get what they want when they whine, in which case they need new strategies to ask for what they want.
- Change your perspective on whining: Whining triggers an alarm system similar to the response we have when a baby cries; it feels like an emergency situation that we must respond to urgently. Children don’t whine to annoy us, they just want what they want. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that there is no emergency. When you are calmer you might notice that your whining child actually needs a hug or to have a good cry. Or maybe they just need to be firmly reminded that no means no and it’s time for them to stop the fuss.
- Assess your own whininess: I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that if I admit to you that I sometimes catch myself whining, you might agree that you sometimes do too. Our children learn from what we do, not from what we tell them to do. Make sure that you are usually using the tone of voice and the polite, clear way of speaking that you want to hear from them.
- Notice how consistent you are: We live in an age in which we let our children voice their opinions and tell us what they want and don’t want. We need to know where the boundaries and limits are though. Zero tolerance is challenging but necessary with whining. Do you give in for a quiet life, or because you’re running late for school and work? Be firm but fair. You will sometimes need to say no. You can do so with empathy and kindness.
- Be Prepared: In http://www.theparentinggeek.com/2013/five-ways-to-stop-your-children-whining/ I’ll share strategies to support you in teaching your child to stop whining. There is a thin line between whining and tantrums. For a while, your child may escalate their whining and difficult-to-manage behaviours. Start working out how to carve out the extra time you may need to get ready to go out, to do the bedtime routine or to go shopping. You can predict that you’ll need it, so get prepared practically and emotionally for it.
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