Friday, June 22, 2007

Trenches / Chapter Two / Stop the Whining!

Were I to write my own personal dictionary, under whine it would say: 1) to generate a high-pitched nasal sound that torments, pesters and annoys parents into giving you your own way; 2) to complain over every little thing in an extremely aggravating and childish way.

No one I know needs the definition of whining. We all know what it is. Many of us hear it all too often. What we do need, however, are strategies to reduce the amount of whining we’re exposed to.

Believe it or not, whining is a natural phenomenon. All kids whine–at least until they’re taught other appropriate ways to communicate. In fact, whining is the stepping stone between crying and gaining the ability to verbalize requests. Babies, for instance, cry to get you to feed and change them. Toddlers rely on the same plaintive tones, plus words, to express their wants.

Kids also whine because it works. Just ask my daughter. I often give into Amanda’s whining simply because she’ll stop making that annoying noise. Knowing this, she then resorts to whining because it gets results. Our behaviors reinforce each other, and we’re caught in a classic catch-22.

So what can a parent do? Is it possible to have a whine-free home? I certainly hope so.

First off, there are all sorts of reasons kids whine, and just one strategy won’t work in every situation. For example, if your normally sunny child is unusually whiny, perhaps she’s feeling under the weather. Caring for the aches, in this case, often cures the whine.

Same goes for tired kids. If whine-fests are triggered by morning rushes, missed or late naps, and bedtime, consider ways to help your child get more rest – an earlier bedtime or maybe half an hour of "quiet time" in place of outgrown naps.

When trying to reduce whining in your home, there are a number of responses that don’t work at all. They include:

threats – If you don’t stop whining, you won’t get dessert.

commands – Stop it right now!

giving in – Oh, all right. You can have the toy.

making vague promises – We’ll do it later.

and whining yourself.

Instead, try these strategies that are effective against whining:

labeling the whine -- That’s a whine. It’s not a very good way to ask for
something. Here’s a better way to say it . . .

ignoring – I don’t listen when you whine. Or say nothing at all.

using empathy – You sound unhappy. Sit here for a minute and think about why you’re sad. When you’re calmer, I’ll help you.

and praising – I liked how you asked me that. You’re doing much better at not
whining, and that makes me happy!

My personal favorite is the line my mother-in-law uses with her first graders. When a student asks for something in a whiney voice, she simply says, "Would you please speak in your low voice?"

I’ve tried it with my daughter, and it actually works!

I'd love to hear any success stories and strategies that you have.

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