By Carol Barnier
Listening to one of my children whine does something in me at gut level, producing a sensation that could just as easily be rendered by having a power sander applied to my heels. I begin to tense up, my eyes squint, my face scrunches, I start leaning away from the child, and my brain begins this internal siren call that sounds something like eeeee-aaaahhHH!
Turns out I’m not alone. Research indicates that whining, in any language, is more distracting to both men and women than even an infant crying, which as we all know, is a sound we are hard-wired to be unable to withstand.
God meant for that sound to move us to action.
So today, I’m sharing many ways (14 to be exact) to confront and hopefully alleviate whining. Why 14? Because no single thing works for every child. In fact, what works to soften whining in one child may actually intensify it in another. Kids are just made differently. So I’m giving you lots of options, hoping that within them, you’ll find that gem, that one idea that will work with your little whiner. And remember, the goal here is not to teach children to completely stuff away their feelings. (Although there are days when this has a certain appeal.) But rather, how to express those contrary feelings in a way that doesn’t make people want to run from the room to do something more pleasant, like tazer themselves.
But before we dive into the many methods of bringing our kids over to the whine-free zone, we should briefly consider these items:
Is it a Sign of Another Problem? Whining may be an indicator of another issue. Use the H.O.T.S. method of evaluation. Ask yourself, are they Hungry, Overstimulated, Tired, or maybe even getting Sick. If so, these issues should get top priority. The whining in this case may just be the fumbled expressions of a young child who can’t yet articulate well enough to tell you that something more serious needs attention.
Did We Bring This On? Did they first ask several times with a reasonable tone, but we gave no response? It could be that this whining strategy was only pulled out when the first, more civilized efforts went ignored. In which case, we’ve actually been the rude ones. It’s okay to say, “Mommy needs a minute to finish this. Please hold your thought.” But it’s not okay to simply ignore.
Sometimes even we whine. Let’s face it. There are times that I simply cannot convey to you just how annoying your request is unless I whine. “No, no, no. I don’t wah-nuh smell your earwax for the Four. Teenth. Time.” To whine is human. So bring a little grace.
Nonetheless, children will often whine because they don’t yet know what else they should do instead.
Here are 14 ways to teach them to end the whining.
* Hit the Pause, Rewind and Replay Buttons. When the whining begins, say, “Pause” hitting an imaginary button midair. Next say “Hold that thought. Now, here’s how I want to be asked.” Demonstrate a better way to make their statement. Keep your face neutral. Most of the time, a completely non-judgmental voice and expression is called for. No intense emotions are needed. You’re just teaching them a new skill like any other, just like you’d teach, “here’s how you hold your fork.” Plain and simple.
When you’re done, follow up with, “Okay, hit Rewind.” (Some kids might even enjoy inserting some rewind sounds here. However, this would require knowledge of the antique device known as the tape recorder, which would probably make your whining child about age 27, which means you have bigger fish to fry. Find a different article.)
Now they get a chance to attempt this newer more mature rendering of their previous complaint.
* Whisper. When kids have to become very quiet just to hear you, they often completely shift gears. Many even find the sudden switch to whispering fun.
* Have a Family WHINE Jar. 5 cents for kids. $1 for parents.
* Jodi’s Happy Heart Technique. This blogging mom has a sort of time-out, but the length of time is completely up to the child. They are taught the meaning of a happy heart, complete with relevant Scriptures, and they stay in their time-out until they can find, once again, that happy heart. This teaches an even bigger lesson that we are able to control where our emotions take us.
* Whine Alert. You say these words, and the child has been told this gives them a chance to restate it, minus the whine. Maybe two or three tries are permitted. But after some predetermined number of attempts, they’ll have to make their next effort on paper <insert the dreaded writing assignment additive.>
* Give Them a Mirror. In other words, let them hear how they sound. Say, “I’d like to hear that statement said like this . . .” “Not like this . . .” <insert honest or exaggerated rendering of their whine.>
* Get 1-2-3 Magic. This book suggests a method that is incredibly simply and bizarrely effective. It somehow helps the child find their “off” switch. I don’t know why it works. Even years later, my adult children agree that it worked but can’t fully explain why. Therein lies the magic.
* “Would you like some whine with that cheese?” This question was often used by an office manager where I once worked. It always got the whining to stop, and brought a smile to the face of the whiner.
* Get Down. Get In. Stoop down to their level, literally at eye-level, and give them mirroring language that helps them better express themselves. “You’re frustrated, right?” “You want to be able to stay longer and keep playing.” “I understand that you are having a good time and don’t want it to stop yet.” Sometimes just knowing that they’ve been clearly heard makes them more open to the change you’re asking of them.
* Need You. Is it possible that this child just needs some Mommy time? Don’t give in to the request of the whine, but do stop and give this child some attention. Being needed is a lovely thing.
* Secretly Record It. Then, when things have cooled down, replay it so the child can hear how they sound. Talk about it, helping them understand how this affects others and what alternatives would be a better choice.
* I Can’t Make That Out. Respond as though they’re speaking a language from another planet. With a puzzled look on your face, explain that you don’t understand whine-speak. “You’re going to have to find a way to say it in regular human language.”
* Nap Meter Reading. “If you’re whining, you’re telling me you’re too tired to ask correctly. Let’s get you a twenty-minute nap.”
* Create a diversion. Many kids have the attention span of a moth, so it’s really easy to get them to redirect to another task. Yes, sometimes it’s worth hitting the issue straight on and teaching them not to whine, and sometimes it’s not. Pick your battles.
Carol Barnier is a homeschooler of 17 years, author of four books, mother to three children, and wife to one husband. She’s been on numerous radio and TV programs, and is a regular commentary provider on Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine radio program. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that on most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. In 2004, she started www.SizzleBop.com. At Sizzle Bop, Carol Barnier and the thousands of members have dedicated themselves to finding those different ways of learning that work for distractible kids. If you want to find a bazillion ways to do this, see the many ideas on our SizzleBop Blog. This is a place where that distractible mind (the child’s and the sometimes the mom’s) has community. Whether speaking about her first born son’s 13 surgeries, her homeschooling challenges, her family’s many ADHD challenges, or her own walk from being a God-denying atheist to the most grateful recipient of God’s amazing grace, this woman speaks from the heart. She knows why she knows what she knows. To learn more, visit www.CarolBarnier.com and find out why her business cards read: Delightful Speaker, Entertaining Author, Adequate Wife, Pitiful Housekeeper.
Originally published at hedua.com