What's the Cure for Whining? (page 3)

By — Hand in Hand
Updated on Mar 17, 2011

If you can't be playful, be attentive

Playful moments don't come easily to us when our children whine! So if you can't find a way to nuzzle your child or respond with humor to his whiny requests, it will work well to come close and keep saying, with as little irritation as you can manage, "No." or, "You need to wait." Or "I can't let you do that." Or, "He's playing with it now." Or, "You'll get a turn, but not yet." Being very clear about the limit, and offering eye contact, a hand on his shoulder or knee, and whatever warmth you can muster, will help your child work himself into the cry or the tantrum or laughter he needs to do. Children know how to release feelings of upset. To get started, they need us to pay attention to them long enough to communicate that we'll stay with them through this rough patch.

Allow for laughter, tantrums or tears for as long as you have time and patience

Children whine when lots of feelings have backed up inside them. When they finally break into a good wail or thrash, they may be working through more than the frustration of not getting the cookie or the red truck. They may be draining the tension from issues like having a younger brother or sister, having to say goodbye to you every morning, or having just gotten over an illness. In any case, children need to shed bad feelings until they don't feel bad any longer. If the pile of feelings is high, this can take some time. Parents don't always have the time a child needs to finish the emotional task at hand. You may manage to listen to 15 or 20 minutes of crying, and then feel the need to stop your child. If your child’s mood doesn’t improve, he wasn’t finished. It’s as hard to have an unfinished cry as it is to be wakened in the middle of a map. He’ll try to find a way to cry again soon. Something inside him knows that it will be good to finish the job. So listen again when you can. Your child will eventually finish his emotional project, and make gains in confidence that both of you can enjoy.

Listening time can help a parent keep perspective when whining begins

The hard part about trying the experiments above is that whining triggers all kinds of irrational feelings inside of us! When our feelings are surging, we don't think logically either. We react, usually behaving the way our parents reacted to our whining. The reactions we have to whining have been passed down through the generations in our families, each generation usually doing a milder version of reaction than the generation before it. So it takes some mental preparation to decide to move toward a whining child and offer connection, rather than placate him or punish him.

Whining kicks up feelings of resentment, exhaustion, and anger in parents. We feel like we’re being manipulated. We feel helpless. Every parent deserves someone to listen, over and over again; to how hard it can get to care for a child or children. Nurturing children is work that stirs more emotions than almost any other project we'll ever undertake. So finding ways to be heard by another adult who won't get worried or try to fix us is an important part of our job as parents. The Hand in Hand booklet, "Listening Partnerships for Parents," outlines how you can create a listening exchange for yourself, so you have a regular outlet for the feelings that build up over the days and weeks with your child.

Even ten minutes of "venting" with a friend, out of earshot of your child, will give you a better chance of moving toward your whining child and connecting.

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