Every kid whines when they’re tired, or hungry, or in any other circumstance an adult would whine in, but on the inside. But how long does it last? Has whining become your child’s default form of communication? You know if it has; what you may not know is how you are unwittingly encouraging it.
It’s more than frustrating, it is physically stressful to hear an ongoing whine. It wears on a person already laden with responsibilities and concerns. That justifiable stress is where the cycle first takes hold. Overwhelmed by the constant, high-pitched mental – and often incomprehensible - demands, the urge to yell Will you stop whining! or Just shut up for a second will you! becomes almost, or in some cases actually, irresistible. Then 1 of 2 things happen:
- The kid freaks out and the next 3 or 4 hours are ruined. Shot. Who wants to go through that again? Nobody, and when the kid whines the next time, they receive. Thus another parent, successfully trained.
- The kid slinks away, shocked and hurt. Infintely worse that #1.
- The kid ignores you and stares you right in your shouting face before beginning again. This cheeky reaction points to issues with your credibility.
You are feeding into your child’s whining if you:
- Ignore it and give them what they’re whining for
- Admonish them as you give them what they’re whining for
Ignoring it is basically saying, This is a great way of asking for what you want! And your kid can stand an admonishment; they’ll probably just tune it out because they know it’s just words. Blah blah blah…OK? Now here you go, honey.
It’s actually simple to stop kids from whining. Simple, but not easy. On the up side, improvement quickly takes hold; on the down side, it requires a strong stomach for dramatic confrontation.
- “I’m sorry, I don’t hear that voice.” This assertion, repeated doggedly until ‘that voice’ is no longer in use, works on every age group. Occasionally, you can alternate this with, “Can you find another way of asking / saying that please?” Stay calm and always be polite. The way you handle your irritation is the way they will handle theirs.
- Don’t give in until they use an acceptable tone. Whether it’s your time, attention, or compliance they’re looking for, or just another cookie, they don’t get it if they whine. Toddlers & school kids recognize brick walls when they’ve bashed their heads against them a few dozen times: they’ll either give in and speak nicely, or freak out. If they freak out, and you don’t cave in, they will eventually give in and learn to speak nicely. But only if you don’t cave in. Older kids and teenagers will grind their teeth in aggravation, but they too give in eventually.
- Remember: Kids don’t do stuff that doesn’t work. Show them whining doesn’t work. If they tried to use the TV remote control to turn on the radio in their bedroom, it wouldn’t work. The TV remote is an ineffective method of turning on the radio and not worth trying again. Just so must be whining: an ineffective way of getting what they want.
As in all things, consistency is key. But then again, isn’t consistency what we are asking of them? When we don’t stick to things, neither do they.