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5 Practical Steps for Parents: From Whining and Crying to Thinking and Reasoning

5 Practical Steps for Parents: From Whining and Crying to Thinking and Reasoning

Many times in my life, I have seen children and teenagers whine, stick out their lip, and cry to get what they want. I always think that they are behaving this way because they have learned that this behavior works. They wouldn’t do it otherwise. An article titled, Why Kids Whine and How to Stop Them states, According to Bay Area pediatrician Laurel Schultz, kids whine for a very simple reason. It works. “Whining gets the parent’s attention,” Schultz says. “A high-pitched whine is effective because a parent can’t not attend to it.”

So, how do we help our kids, from an early age, find a different way to communicate?

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1. Model good behavior

In the same article mentioned above, the author explains how it’s important to answer children with “I-statements” and then explain how you would like them to ask for something. For example, let’s say your child is whining or crying and saying he wants a toy at the store. He even puts out his lip and says, “Pleeeeeeease…..” You would take a deep breath and say, “I don’t like it when you ask for things this way. Please ask me in a normal voice and we can discuss this.” Staying calm and focusing on your child at that moment provides a good role model for your child.

2. Prevention at the onset

Sometimes in our busy and hectic lives, we don’t have time to notice those little warnings that a child is giving us. If we can become more mindful and aware of situations that cause our children to act out, we can prevent it from even happening. For example, if you are shopping and you know that going by the toy store, candy shop, etc. is going to result in your child wanting something, avoid going by there if you can. If you are at Target or Walmart, don’t go right by the toy aisle or candy aisle.

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Prevention also refers to any circumstance where you can see a whine, fit, or crying spell starting to take hold. Stop what you are doing for a minute and tell your child that you can see he or she is starting to get upset. Deal with the situation right there before it escalates.

3. Shift to reasoning

When my kids were little, they would ask for something, and if I didn’t say yes immediately, I would see big eyes, a lip out, and a sweet expression begging for me to give them what they wanted. I intuitively knew that if I gave in, I would get more of this behavior. I wanted my kids to grow up to be good communicators. Instead of giving in, I would say, “That’s not going to work, give me some good reasoning.” This would make them stop and think. When they were real little, their ideas were pretty weak, as they got older, their reasoning skills sharpened. I used positive reinforcement every chance I could. Sometimes, I would let them have what they wanted simply because they used their reasoning skills instead of whining or begging.

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4. Reinforce their new method

Once you get your children to find better ways to communicate, it’s important you reinforce this positive behavior. I am not saying they should get what they want; I am saying you should acknowledge their efforts. For example, let’s say your child starts to whine because she wants to have a friend over for a sleepover and you said no. You can ask her to use a normal voice and ask again. You can praise her for asking without whining. You can ask her why it’s so important to her. You can listen while she gives you her reasons. You can thank her for communicating so well and ask if you both can find another time when she can have her friend over.

5. Resist giving in

It’s important to resist giving in even when we are tempted to. What’s cute and kind of charming as a child might not be so cute as they become adults. Being consistent in our actions is important to children. If we consistently don’t give in when they whine, cry, or beg, they will learn that these behaviors aren’t effective measures in getting what they want.

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In conclusion, we all want to raise our children to be the best individuals they can become. Encouraging good reasoning skills and rewarding positive behavior can have a lasting impact on our children and help them grow into good communicators as adults.

More by this author

Tomi Rues

Adjunct college teacher, notebook/journal designer, author

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Published on November 12, 2020

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

Identifying Strengths

Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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Participate in Their Play

Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

Um, yes, please?

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As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

Provide Many At-Bats

Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

Teach Them to Trust but Verify

Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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