Winning with a whiner

Have you ever noticed that it doesn't matter if your child is 3 or 13, they have this very special way of talking that just drives you crazy? This particular communication method is called a whine. It is high pitched and drags out vowels, making words twice as long as they need to be. It may sound something like this, "Buut Mommieeeee, I waaant it!" When first encountered it may sound like a whole new language that your child is talking, but after a couple of sentences like this over and over again, many parents will do anything to make it stop, including give it to what their child wants. How can a parent win with a whiner instead of giving in?

Why do they whine? Children whine because it is effective. How often have you let them watch television, stay up a little longer or have that package of candy in the check-out line just to make them stop? See how effective it is? It is almost like they are training us, instead of us training them. The first way of winning with a whiner is to not give in. When it is no longer effective it loses power and kids will have to start looking for another way to get our attention and their way.

Respond with respect. Parents are busy people and often children want or need our attention right in the middle of something we are trying to get done, like cooking dinner or talking on the phone. To them it is the most important thing in the world to talk to you right that very minute. Respond to your child, but let them know that as soon as you get done with what you are doing you will be able to help them or answer their question. That response from a parent only takes a minute, a whines take a whole lot longer to deal with and try to avoid saying "Stop that whining."

Mirror image. Younger children don't even realize that they are whining. They don't even know what it is. They are just trying to get their attention, and sometimes yes they are just trying to get their way. Try talking to them in a whiny voice so they can hear what they sound like and how irritating it can be. With young and older children you can record them and let them listen to how they sound. You may find they don't like the sound of a whine either.

Don't give in and don't give up. It's hard not to give in to that voice, that irritating voice that triggers a "I'll do anything and I mean anything to make it stop" response in adults. But it's important to not give in and don't give up. This behavior isn't going to be corrected overnight, it is something that is going to take practice from both parents and children.

Provide alternatives and practice, practice, practice. Work with your children on finding better ways to talk. Do you maybe take on a certain tone when you talk to them? Or when you respond to their need for attention? Try avoiding saying "No" to many requests and see if there is an alternative answer like "Maybe later," or "Not this time because we need to get home, but I promise next time." It doesn't hurt to take a minute to explain why the answer is no. Practice with your children teaching them to say things in a "nice" tone, one that will still express their needs and wants without the annoying sound of a whine.

There are lots of reasons why children whine. Sometimes it is because they don't know how to express their wants. Sometimes it is because they feel like they aren't getting enough attention, not just from you but from say siblings that have gone on to school leaving them at home. Maybe one parent has been working really late. But the number one reason children whine is because it works. When it no longer works and they are taught different ways to express themselves you may actually be able to go to the store and win with the whiner.

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