Magazine article Work & Family Life

Yes, You Can Get Your Child to Stop Whining

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Yes, You Can Get Your Child to Stop Whining

Article excerpt

When kids start whining, all you can think of is getting them to stop. Whining is like chalk scratching on a blackboard. It can drive the most even-tempered parent over the edge. But ordering a child to stop whining is about as effective as ordering an infant to stop crying.

Whining typically progresses in stages and it can become habitual, a rut. In order to climb out of it, you need to understand how you got there in the first place.

All whining isn't the same

Whining usually means one of three things: (1) children are trying to communicate with you, (2) they are trying to manipulate you, or (3) they whine so often they're no longer even aware of it.

A lot depends on a child's age. For toddlers, whining usually isn't deliberate. It's more like an advanced form of crying. And the reason it's so frustrating for parents is that, although we expect infants to cry, we assume that once children have learned words, they will use them. But most 2 and 3 year olds don't have a very well-developed sense of language. When tiredness and frustration overwhelm them, all they can manage is a cry of distress, which can come out as a whine.

As kids get older, if they learn that whining achieves results, they will use it to get attention, to get what they want, and to test their power over you - or perhaps all three.

Set a good example

Sometimes we don't realize how we sound, but we need to listen to ourselves. When we say the same things over and over again ("How many times do I have to ask you?" "Will you get moving?" "Hurry up, we're late."), it can sound an awful lot like we're whining too.

To avoid this, try using brief neutral phrases to make your points, such as: "It's time to get up. Your cereal is ready." Single-word prompts can work well too: "Teeth." "Shoes." "Jacket."

Try role playing

Carol, a mother in one of my workshops, taught her 5 -year-old son Harry to identify the difference between whining and asking - to help him gain more control over the way he expressed himself.

When he started to whine, Carol would say: "I only answer when you speak in your regular Harry voice, not in a whiny voice. Can you ask me in a way that makes me want to listen?"

The approach worked. In time, Harry learned how to ask for what he wanted without whining. When he occasionally slipped, Carol learned to say calmly, "Try it again in your regular voice."

Another way to get your point across is to change roles. You pretend to be your child, and your child pretends to be you.

Of course, if you try role playing, be careful to do it playfully, never sarcastically. Your goal is to teach, not to make fun of your child. Just be aware that when kids are truly overtired or hungry, they are not likely to appreciate humor. …

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