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My son is a whiner. Oh, not just any whiner.
He is in a whole class of his own. He is going for the gold. He doesn't display
this sort of dedication to just anyone either. It is all for me. Just me. His
dad rarely sees it if I'm not home. The babysitter doesn't get it either. This
is a private whining performance created daily just for mama.
As my son turned 3 and the whining
didn't instantly stop (I was shocked), I decided I had to get more proactive
about this behavior. I was (not so) slowly going insane.
My ears hurt.
My heart hurt.
I couldn't take it anymore, and the people around me, when
he whined, couldn't take it either. Although I'd started to tackle this before
he turned 3, his birthday was like an alarm bell in my head. If I didn't
stop this soon, my world would crumble or I would cross
a line in parenting I just didn't want to cross.
Recently I read an article on the top tips
to stop whining. I laughed out loud when I read them. The author
clearly had never met a willful child. Most of these didn't work, especially if
you were a tired mom with other kids. Instead, I came up with my own tricks, mostly on
the fly. (Some I also use to correct other behaviors, such as wailing on a big brother, who is too nice to stop you from beating him up.) Here's a compilation of expert whining tips and mine. Try them all and see what works for you:
1. Walk away
This is one of the tips that made me laugh.
Who among us has not looked at their whining child, turned around and walked
away only to have the child follow them from room to room? If you are lucky
enough not to have your child follow you, bravo. For the rest of us, it will
necessitate a timeout on the steps.
I tell him he has to ask and he has to ask nicely. Suddenly the "please can I have a cup of milk" pops out. I throw on my most radiant smile and say, "Of course. Thank you for asking so nicely."
2. Time out
Time outs only work if you are vigilant
about using them. I put my kids in time out for lots of reasons.
Most of them are good. You hit your brother; you go into time out on the steps.
You hit mommy; you go to timeout on the steps. Basically any dangerous behavior
I need to put a stop to sends my kids into time out.
They aren't long. They
aren't in dark corners. They are on our steps that look out the front door.
can still hear the screaming and whining, sure, but I don't have to watch it. He also
doesn't have to put on a show for me anymore. Because whining is all for me, I figure if
I'm not there, maybe he will stop. Usually this works. I have had to walk him
back to the steps for time out more than once to remind him he has to stay
there. After a few times he got the message though.
Oh, and time outs aren't just for home. If I start hearing the whine, all sorts of fun things
become a time out chair—park benches, tree logs, patch of sand at the beach,
3. Cover your ears
Whining hurts my ears. I don't know about
you, but it grates on me like nails on a chalkboard. I cover my ears and tell
my son that it really hurts. At 3 years old, his empathy has kicked in.
Sometimes this works, usually it doesn't because he is too busy working himself
up into a fine tantrum. But anything that sometimes works is good for me.
4. I can't understand you
Whining is a language all its own and one I
don't speak. When my son starts whining for crackers, or whatever thing he
wants, I simply tell him I can't understand him. Sometimes this frustrates him,
but most of the time he switches his tone so he speaks more clearly.
5. Ask nicely
Normally, the whining starts when he wants
something specific. "I want a cup of milk! I want a cracker!" Most of the time
what he wants I will happily give him. I know that I could make the whining
stop by just giving in, but this doesn't teach him not to whine. I tell him he
has to ask and he has to ask nicely. Suddenly the "please can I have a cup of
milk" pops out. I throw on my most radiant smile and say, "Of course. Thank you
for asking so nicely." This positive reinforcement shows him that asking nicely
will get him what he wants more often than the whining.
6. Use your happy voice
My son knows that there are happy and sad
photos he is in. On a recent trip, I had to tell him to put on his happy face. I
would show him after the photo was taken what his happy face looked like. He
loved it. He declared, "I happy mommy." I use the same idea for whining. I don't
want to hear the crazy voice; I want the happy voice that asks me nicely. I
reward this with loads of praise.
You hear the whining, point to something else in the room and act like it is fascinating.
7. Use your words, not your whine. You can't have wine until you are 21
This has to be my favorite phrase of 2015
with my kids. Whining doesn't solve anything. Wine may make mommy feel better,
but it doesn't help my kids stop whining. I pull out this phrase when I can't
take it anymore. I think it confuses my boys more than anything, but at least
it sometimes makes them stop.
A time-honored tradition is distraction when
your kids start to cry, whine or whatever else they are doing that makes
everyone unhappy. You hear the whining, point to something else in the room and
act like it is fascinating. This won't work all the time. Whining can lead to
tantrums and once those start it is hard to distract. Give it a try though.
Anything is better than looking down at your whiny kid and doing nothing. Oh, wait. Maybe that is the best way?
9. Ignore them
My son whines just for me. If I ignore him
he gets really mad, but other parents seem to have success with this. I do
ignore him sometimes, especially if he is in time out and can't see me. Do the
dishes, sweep the floors, make dinner—do not check your email or your phone.
This can cause major meltdowns, because every kid has learned at a young age
that technology can distract their mom more than anything else. Use activities
that you normally do with the kids that still allow them to interact with you
easily. Hopefully, they will calm down and either go play or want to participate
without whining again.
10. Break out the rewards
Every time your child can reverse their
whiny behavior, give them a sticker, marble, whatever they are earning for
whatever behavior you want to change. We have marble jars that
the kids fill up in order to earn small toys. When my son is in a full on whine, and he can change directions, I give loads of verbal praise, and he also gets a
marble. Soon he will see the jar filling up (we are also using it for potty
training) and be rewarded with new trains, planes, cars or whatever else is the
favorite vehicle of the moment.
As you can see there are many ways to get
creative with a whining child. Some are easy, while others will take dedication
and committed behavior from you to see through. Every single time my son starts
to whine at me, he needs to go on the step. I often find myself threatening
"time out" but not following through. If he knows there "might" be a
consequence, he may not actually stop. So I continue to put him on the step,
no matter how much it delays my trip to the grocery store or other things I
really need to be doing. In the long run, stopping the whining will help you and
your child, but also your entire family that has to listen to it happening.
Society will thank you.
Not to mention Grandma, who quietly cringes when she