Do you have toddlers and preschoolers who won’t seem to stop whining? Here are two things I’ve done that have found great success.
It happened gradually. My sweet 2 year old son turned into a fall apart child at the drop of a hat. Blue fork instead of orange one? Lay head on the table and cry. Wanted 5 veggie sticks instead of 4? Fall down on the ground and whine.
Whine. Whine. Whine. Mommy gets migraine.
I tried empathizing with him.
“I know it’s hard to get one handful of veggie sticks when you want two.”
“I wouldn’t want to share my 536 tractors either, if it were me.”
“Oh, going to bed isn’t very fun, is it?”
Except I couldn’t put my heart into that one because I think going to bed is one of the best parts of a long hard day.
Now, I talk extensively on this blog about how we should let kids tell us how they really feel. How we should not make a habit of brushing things under the rug. How we can ask our kids to have good attitudes without stifling their emotions.
But whining is not talking about feelings. Whining is not something to be encouraged. Whining is, quite simply, not productive. And for me, whining is right up there with screaming. I can’t stand to hear it. Plus, he was even showing aggressive and angry behavior towards all of us.
So, things got so bad with my baby boy, whining, crying, and anger at the slightest thing, that my husband and I were at the end of our rope. I even took him to his pediatrician and asked him to please tell me there was some infection, boil, or other uncomfortable (but transient) malady that could account for his behavior. But no… healthy as a whinnying horse.
So I decided on a two-pronged attack and, after only a few days, things were completely different. The whining nearly stopped. Oh, it comes back when he’s tired or not feeling well, but he reverted back to the sweet boy he really is. Without further ado… here are the two things we did.
1. No screen time at all during the week.
I’m not against screen time or think TV is the devil, but its effects were simply too much to ignore. It didn’t seem to effect my daughter, but my son was not coping with even one hour of TV a day. I repeat, they only watched one hour a day. So that stopped. Now Monday to Friday they have no TV whatsoever except Friday night movie nights. They never play games on the cell phones or tablets as a general rule, so movie night and Saturday morning cartoons are it.
We were worried it would be difficult to nix the TV, but the positive effects outweighed any temporary babysitting benefits it previously afforded us. After only two days his behavior turned around. Less aggression. Less anger. Less melodramatic whining.
I’m not sure if it’s because the TV shows he was watching (all children’s shows) were putting ideas in his head or whether it was simply too overstimulating for him. I can’t speak to the exact reason, but it made a world of difference. Well, that coupled with the second thing I’ve done.
2. We stopped letting him whine.
Sounds silly, but I just refused to let him. When he started to melt down, I said, “Stop whining now. Use words.” He’d start again and, louder than his whines, I’d say, “No whining. Say it or go lay down, calm down, and come back.” Sounds harsh, but I didn’t use a mean voice. I wasn’t angry. I, quite simply, did not allow the whining/crying/fussing.
And you know what? It worked! By saying no to the whining, he’d stop, take a few seconds to calm down and then say his request in his “normal voice.” And I’d honor his request. It was relentless for a day or two and then it just tapered off.
Sure, he’ll still whine on occasion – he’s 3 – but it has drastically reduced and now all it takes is a quick, “No whining, normal voice” for him to take a minute and self-regulate. Even a 3 year old can learn to self-regulate!
I still validate his feelings
Now, before you send me hate mail, I do validate his feelings. If he’s really feeling upset and having a hard time I’ll take him to the side and talk to him. I do not say things like “boys don’t cry.” It’s important he learns that if he doesn’t like his fork he can just go get a new one. There’s no need for a breakdown. I validate his thoughts and feelings by responding appropriately after he’s calmed himself down. Not by giving him whatever he wanted while whining the roof off.
I’m not trying to raise an emotionless man. Of course not! I want him to be free to share what’s going on with him.
But having a total meltdown at the kitchen counter because your grits didn’t cover the entire bottom of your bowl is not sharing your feelings. It’s pitching a fit.
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