Whining is a learned behaviour and as parents, our response to it can encourage our children to use it more or to find an alternative strategy to get what they want. Should children get what they want by whining? We all know that if we take the shortcut and give a child the thing they are demanding, we teach them that whining is a great strategy. Here are some ways to approach, manage and reduce whining.
- Teach your child how to ask for what they want in a polite, persuasive, charming way. Teach them to explain their reasons for asking for what they want. “I would like . . . because . . . I know that you have said no but I’m asking again because . . . “ Children also need to be taught that asking well doesn’t mean they will always get what they want. Sometimes no means no, but sometimes good negotiation skills will show that their reasoning is good and you will be happy to give them what they want. Note that this is still very different than giving your children what they want because they whined. Whining should still get a firm no.
- Have a ‘final-word’ strategy of your own. For example, you can tell your child “I have said no very clearly and firmly 3 times now. That is your signal that I am not discussing this anymore. You have my final answer.” Children can be taught that no means no and you need to teach them that you stick to this when you say it. Giving in and showing that you can be nagged into changing your mind will lead a child to escalate their behaviour and you’ll find yourself managing back-chat, arguing and tantrums. Your no means no.
- Be ready to pounce on any examples of your child asking for things and expressing themselves well. No matter how small or insignificant, mention what you’ve noticed. No big deal, no big song and dance of joyful praise, but a statement of what you’ve noticed. For example: “You told me that you were unhappy about not wanting to put your toys away. I appreciate that you used your normal voice and didn’t whine at me.” In this way your child will have their attention drawn to the type of communication that you want to encourage.
- Whining sometimes accompanies a feeling of powerlessness. There may be something that your child is unhappy or uncomfortable about or perhaps they just don’t have a better way to communicate their feelings at this stage in their development. Talk to their teacher and ask how things are at school or nursery. Pay attention to the sibling relationships in your home; are the children treating each other the way that you would like them to? If all seems well and the whining continues, try guessing and verbalising their feelings out loud to them: “You seem very angry about having to get ready for bed.” This is good role modelling of how to voice feelings and if they answer, you may get some information about what’s going on below the surface of the whining.
- This point contains a final resort, and one that you will need to use thoughtfully and infrequently. Many parents have never given in to whining and yet their child still does it. If this is the same for you, then you need to put effort into managing your own annoyance and give yourself time to recharge your own batteries as it can be very exhausting and frustrating to maintain the energy to constantly communicate with a whiny child. For these children a consequence probably needs to be put into place. For example: “You have been told no and I mean it. If you continue to nag and whine you will have no TV or computer time tomorrow, or I will cancel your play date.” It is tough to take treats and pleasures away from our children. We want them to be happy and to have good experiences. Long term though, we will be raising tyrants if they do not learn that sometimes no means no and you cannot have everything you ask for.
Previously Published in the Croydon Advertiser on 12th April 2013
Other posts that may interest you:
Five Ways To Prepare Yourself To Tackle Whining
How To Manage Your Childrens Whinging
Keeping Calm And Organised As A Parent