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?
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.
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.
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.
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.