Today my four year old and I had it out. A tantrum was chucked to epic proportions (by both of us) because the bucket had finally flowed over on a 2-month build-up of incessant whining. She’s at her grandparents tonight and although we made up before, I can’t help feeling like an utter and total asshole for not handling it better earlier. I’m whining about my kid whining too much… huh..I wonder where she gets it from. Sure, whining and tantrums are all part of the game of raising young children; and anyone who tells me hat their child “oh no, has neverrrrr done that” can suck it, but I still feel I shouldn’t have let the situation escalate to that extent. I’m writing with a caricature glass of red wine, feeling somber and depleted, with just a side of guilt. It’s funny, because over the last few months we have really been working with her on the whining and have seen some very good results already (although you wouldn’t have thought so had you seen us this afternoon when all that got thrown out the window for about 50 minutes).
It’s not so much her demands (I mean, everyone has to pee right? And of course you want to wear the right socks to school..) but it’s the whiny, sulky tone her otherwise beautiful little voice has taken on recently. Paired with the new attitude of not listening and giving me lip (‘talking back’), one would say she’s 4 going on 14 sometimes!
Like any parent, we listened to other parents’ experiences, trialed and erred, read up, and Googled our way to finding useful ways that suited our little family to help significantly bring down the whining (from both children and parents… we’re only human) and get back to spending more time on the fun stuff!
So this little hypocrite is going to share with you the useful ways that have helped us deal with our child’s whining so far. Granted not always successful (demonstrated by this today’s little tanty) but we’re pressing on until we find the right groove…after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day (they probably had whiny pre-preschoolers as well).
For younger children, whining often is the only way for them to express that they are hungry, tired, cranky, bored, or just plain don’t want to do something like clean their room. Although they can talk your ears off with rapidly growing language skills, Michelle Borba, author of “Parents do Make a Difference”, states that 3-4 years old just don’t have the vocabulary yet to describe all of these feelings. They learn from experience that whining will get a reaction, and the stronger we respond, the more they’ll do it. Jane Nelson, coautor of “Positive Discipline for Preschoolers” (told you we’d been reading up 😉 ) agrees that children just want a response and when they don’t know how to get a positive one, they’ll go for a negative one.
1. Introduce the ‘New Rule’
When you get a quiet moment, explain to your child that there is a ‘new rule’. When they whine, you will not respond. Borba suggest to calmly explain that you can’t understand them when they whine but that you’ll listen when they use a nicer voice. When the time comes for the next whining session, indicate to your child that you don’t understand them as they whine and wait for them to use a nicer voice before you respond to their request. Don’t completely ignore them, but simply give them a chance to correct themselves in a way that will help them develop further rather than punish them for it.