Monday, March 24, 2014

How to deal with whining

Like all parents of young children, I have experienced my fair share of whining over the last few years. With identical twins, I sometimes think my boys conspire together to whine in perfect unison. "I want chocolate milk!" "I can't find my favorite hat!" "I don't like chicken!" If I am in a good mood (i.e., I had a full night's sleep) I find that I can handle whining much better. But, on most days, the sound of persistent whining is akin to nails on a chalkboard. To deal with whining, these strategies might help:
  • The first rule of whining is to not give in to whining!! Your child will learn how to always press your buttons to get what he wants.
  • The second rule of whining is to ignore, ignore, ignore. If that is possible in your situation, great - ignoring negative attention-seeking behaviors will teach your child that he needs to find another way to get your attention. But, let's face it, this is not always possible. Perhaps you can't tune it out, or you are stuck in the car with your whiner, or the whining persists. 
  • If ignoring is not possible, you can try using a short phrase such as "I can't understand whining," or "Ooh, whining hurts my ears." Then, you can either attempt to ignore again, or encourage him to use his normal voice.
  • If you are feeling up to it, minor whining can sometimes be deflected with teasing or humor. For instance, if your 3-year-old whines, "I want chocolate milk," you can respond teasingly in the same tone, "Chocolate milk, chocolate milk!" while tickling him. Then, you can encourage him to ask again using his normal voice. You can say something like, "I want to get you some chocolate milk. But, how can you ask using your normal James voice?" Again, it is really important to wait until the request is made in a non-whining tone before fulfilling it - otherwise you are reinforcing whining.
  • In most cases, this is the most effective strategy for whining:
    • Talk to your kids about how whining is no longer allowed. Explain the consequences below.
    • When your child whines, start a short countdown. (The book "1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12" explains this strategy in great detail - I highly recommend it!) 
    • At the first instance of whining, say, "That's a 1." You have already explained this process to your kids, so say no more.
    • If whining continues, say, "That's a 2." Say no more.
    • If whining still continues, say something brief like, "That's a 3. Take a time-out." Lead your child to your designated time-out area. Follow the time-out troubleshooting methods outlined in this post if needed.
    • Following time-out, briefly reiterate that whining is not allowed. 
    • Give specific praise when your child uses a normal voice in situations when he would normally whine. For instance, "I love how you used your normal voice to ask for a cup of water! Here you go!"
Things to remember:
  • Again - don't give in to whining or you will be dealing with it for much longer.
  • Make sure to notice and give praise for the use of a normal tone of voice.
  • As always, stay calm, firm, and consistent!

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