Magazine article Work & Family Life

How to Get a Young Child to Stop Whining

Magazine article Work & Family Life

How to Get a Young Child to Stop Whining

Article excerpt

When kids start whining, the normal response is to do whatever you can to get them to stop.

Whining is like chalk scratching on a blackboard. It can get a rise out of the most even-tempered parent. But ordering a young 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.

What it can mean

Whining usually means one of three things:

* Children are trying to communicate with you,

* They are trying to manipulate you, or

* They whine so often they're no longer 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 kids have learned words, they will use them.

But most two- and three-yearolds don't have a very well-developed sense of language. So when tiredness and/or frustration overwhelm them, all they may be able to manage is a display 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 something they want and to test their power over you-or sometimes all three.

Set a good example

Sometimes we don't realize how we sound. We need to listen to ourselves. When we say the same things over and over again- "How many times have I told you...?" "Hurry up, we're late... "-it can sound an awful lot like we're whining, too.

To avoid this, try using brief phrases, delivered in a neutral tone, 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 mom in one of my workshops, taught her five-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. Harry learned how to ask for what he wanted without whining. When he occasionally slipped, Carol would calmly remind him, "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, make it playful and never sarcastic. Your goal is to teach, not to make fun of your child. …

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