I don’t know what happens, but somewhere between the ages 3 and 5, children often develop a distinct way of talking to adults that is very aggravating – they start whining. This can lead to very upsetting moments in the family and is a part of the development of my children that I work hard to avoid. Over the years, I’ve learned a few of the secrets to stopping the whine.
Secret Number One:
Children usually resort to whining because they aren’t getting the attention of the parents any other way. The conversation often goes like this:
“Mommy, can I have a cookie?” said in a reasonable tone by the child.
“Hmm,” says Mommy, very much distracted by some device, book, project, etc.
“Mommy, can I have a cookie?” said in a slightly distressed voice by the child.
“Ummm,” says Mommy again, not paying much attention to the child.
“Mommy, can I have a cookie?” said in a full out whine and a hit of serious distress by the child.
“Oh, sure honey, you can have a cookie. You don’t need to whine, you know,” says the Mommy, agitated by the child’s tone of voice.
So, in this scenario what did the Mommy teach her child? It wasn’t to stop whining.
The Mommy taught the child that the only way to get her attention was to whine. The child tried two other ways before finally getting the Mommy’s attention. Children are smart, and if this pattern is repeated often enough, the children will learn that Mommy only responds to whining – so they’ll start with whining. This leads to a lot of stress and an unpleasant home environment. A better response would have been to respond the first time the child asked the question. Notice I said respond – not give the child what the child was asking for. Parents shouldn’t give children everything they ask for, but they should respond to questions, in one way or another, when the children ask the question.
Secret Number Two:
When children are using whining, and they already have their parents’ attention, then the best way to get them to not whine is to call them on it. Look directly in their eyes, and calmly say “I can’t understand you when you whine.” Again, children are very smart, and if this conversation is repeated with consistency, they will no longer use whining to make requests.
Secret Number Three:
My final secret involves consistency – which can be difficult to maintain. The more consistent parents are with not tolerating whining, the sooner the children will stop using it as an attention-seeking device. It’s important to remain consistent in our approach, acceptance, and behaviors toward our children as we seek to help them improve their behaviors.
The secrets to stopping the whine aren’t very difficult to understand. The consistency this behavioral change requires can be. It takes time, patience, attention, and consistency. As long as children are getting their needs met, whining will decrease. Add to that increased attention when they aren’t whining and decreased attention when they are, and soon the household will be whine-free. And, that makes everyone happy, right?