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Why do young children whine? What can parents do about it before the whining drives them crazy?
Young children whine to get attention and all kids whine.
Whining seems to be an “innate” behavior, sort of between crying and speaking. Kids come into this world with all the necessary equipment to cry and they are also programmed to learn language.
Every preschooler is entitled to a cranky day when he or she feels out of sorts and whines a lot. Such whining merely indicates that the child is having a bad day. However, chronic whining–the kind that drives a parent up the wall–is often unwittingly caused by the way parents react to the whining child.
THE BEST WAY TO STOP WHINING IS TO CHANGE RESPONSE BEHAVIOR IN THE PARENT.
Here are the Heins’ suggestions for dealing with chronic whining:
o When your child whines, never give in to the child. Establish a firm rule: we do not give the child anything unless it is asked for in a non-whining tone of voice.
o Be sure your child knows what you mean by whining and how it sounds. Role-play using a normal voice and a whining voice and ask the child to do the same.
o Tell the child that whining hurts your ears. If the child can’t or won’t stop whining, the child will have to go the “whining place” (somewhere out of earshot) and stay there until the whining stops. Tell the child that it’s OK to whine as long as it’s done in the whining place where you don’t have to hear it.
The child can come out of the whining place as soon as the whining stops. The child controls the length of stay by controlling the behavior. (This is different from a time-out place where the child must stay until the timer goes off.) A whining place works for two reasons: 1) The child does not get attention from the parents and 2) The parents do not have to listen to the obnoxious sound of a whining child.
o Try to prevent whining by keeping the child from getting overly tired or hungry.
o Try to eliminate the child’s need to whine by really listening when the child properly asks for your attention.
Remember focused attention is a parent’s undivided attention to the child. And every child needs some of this focused attention every day. Often the “whining-est” households are the ones where parents use the phrases, “In a minute!” or “Not now, I’m busy!” many times a day. These are legitimate phrases to use on occasion, but don’t overdo it with a three year old. To a three year old, a minute is a long time.
I am personally convinced that whining is much less common among children whose parents provide brief, but intense and readily responsive, attention when the child needs it. This seems to “immunize” the child so that he or she is better able to resist the whining virus.
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