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Pam walks in the house having just picked up her two children at school. On the drive home, she had told both children that she had to make some work-related phone calls as soon as they got home. She asked the children to take their school things to their rooms and change clothes while she conducted her business.
Once at home, however, the children dump their school bags on the living room floor and fly into the kitchen whining that they're hungry, they need snacks, they must have some milk and cookies right away.
Pam reminds them that she's asked for a few minutes to make some business calls, and she asks them once again to put their things away and change clothes.
At this point, the children begin to whine loudly, bickering with each other as they stand before the open refrigerator door, taking matters into their own hands. Pam is now at a loss. She's promised to make some calls for her fledgling real estate business, and she's already late. She wishes her children would cooperate and give her the few minutes she needs. She begs them to just let her make a couple of calls. They turn teary faces to her as they beg back for cookies.
She wonders if she's asking too much of a six- and an eight-year-old. Their pleading stirs her guilt. When Bobby pulls the milk out of the refrigerator and spills it all over the kitchen floor, she loses her temper, yelling at them to get away from her and go to their rooms.
Spilled milk? Yelling? Whining? Guilt? Parental self-doubt? Pam and her children have experienced all these things and more in their brief trip to the "whine cellar." Do you have a "whine cellar" in your home? Are your kids in it a lot? Do you find yourself going down there on occasion?
If you're like Pam the only things you can think of to do when your children whine are to whine back at them or become angry. Yet, in your heart you know there have to be better ways of responding. This book is about those better ways.
Few things can reduce parents to jelly or make them feel more like failures than the spectacle created by their children's misbehavior, whether it occurs in public or at home. It is difficult enough when children act out within the family unit, but raised eyebrows and critical looks from strangers witnessing "bad" behavior from our children magnify our inadequacies and make us feel as if we're not up to the challenge of child rearing.
Yet every child at times will test our limits, jockeying for power and trying to get the upper hand. A key weapon children use is whining -- the loud, pitiful, grating, or whimpering sounds that every parent has experienced. And while every parent knows the nightmare of whining children, very few have even a clue about how to deal with it.
Consider the following incidents:
Parents know all too well that what begins as whining can quickly escalate into a full-blown tantrum, and most parents will avoid that ugly conflict at all costs. If the incident occurs in public and parents do nothing in response, the opportunity for teaching children how to behave is long gone by the time the parents get the children home and out of the public eye.
Whining may become a staple of the children's daily lives, something they use to get their way in the privacy of the home just as effectively as in public.
Here's an example of a lost opportunity when a parent forgoes teaching his children respectful behavior and gives in because that is easier:
Dan, father of three boys, agrees to take them to the video store to rent a movie for Saturday night. He tells them as they leave the house that they can rent only one movie, since on other weekends the family has wasted money by renting three and never watching them. The boys agree and off they all go.
Once in the store, the brothers begin to squabble over which movie to rent, which, of course, leads them to begin whining to their father. One boy accuses the other of always getting his way; another complains that renting just one video is not fair.
Dan threatens to take them home if they can't agree on which movie to rent. They shrug him off, knowing his threat is empty, and continue to argue among themselves.
People in the store can't help but notice the boys' rude behavior and shoot accusing looks at Dan as if he is failing to act properly in his role as a parent. After several minutes of continued whining by the children and scathing looks from the other customers, Dan throws up his hands and yells at his sons to "just go get what you want and let's get out of here."
The sons, having gotten their way, high-five each other and race down the aisles to select their videos. Dan stands alone, feeling defeated and weak, as if his own children have beaten him at some game that he wasn't even aware they were playing.
Dan has just missed a golden opportunity to teach his children how to behave in public. Instead, he trained them how to use whining, arguing, fighting, and complaining to get their way. You can bet that this scenario will occur again and again, because the boys know it works.
Like many parents who find themselves in this situation, Dan backed down by appeasing his sons to keep the peace and restore some quiet, but the three boys have learned nothing about working with each other, cooperating with Dad, or showing respect for others -- including the other people in the video store.
Many parents like Dan feel helpless, especially in a public situation where their children's whining is drawing the attention of others. They feel there is nothing they can do but appease when faced with their children's misbehavior. However, parents must remember that whining is just a first step that can escalate to backtalk, arguing, and tantrums. Trying to appease whining children is a losing proposition. You're not going make them happy by giving in; they'll simply whine more. If you think the whining causes critical stares, just wait until the escalating tantrum occurs because you've failed to give them what they want.
Whining can be stopped. You can stop it by the way you respond to your child. In our first book, Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids, we taught you practical techniques for handling your children's rude verbal behaviors. In this book we give you three ways of responding to whining that work and that are built on respect for yourself as well as for the child.
In this method, your child's whining is met with consequences that occur as a result of the child's misbehavior. For example, when your child whines in public, you immediately take the child home without comment. The logical consequence for not behaving in a public place is that they don't get to be there.
Consequences are most effective if they are logical and immediate. The earlier you begin using logical consequences, the fewer problems you'll have with your children later on. Using consequences works with even the youngest child. In fact, some people find this most effective with very young children who have not yet established patterns of misbehavior.
Most parents talk too much. Instead of taking action, they fuss, lecture, and threaten; meanwhile, the whining continues. Establishing consequences requires very few words, and these should be respectful, clear, and neutral in tone.
This method encourages the substitution of calm, respectful dialogue that gives a child a mode of communication to replace whining. Children learn to ask for what they want and to articulate their desires without tan-trums or manipulation. Parents must model assertiveness for their children and establish it as the typical mode of communication within the family. (Note: This is different from the "assertiveness" you've experienced in business or social situations.)
When you talk to your children, whether it be setting up consequences, following through, or stating how you feel about something, you must always be assertive (take the leadership role), respectful, and calm. We're going to give examples of this type of respectful language as well as provide you with an Assertive Communication Formula that you can use to address whining and other serious issues after you've dealt with misbehavior by establishing consequences.
The Assertive Communication Formula is especially effective when parents need to talk about value-based issues with their children. We urge you to use this method sparingly (the less you use it, the more impact it will have) to let your children know how you feel about very important topics like lying, stealing, physical or verbal abuse, or other behaviors that may result if whining works for children and they escalate into these other areas.
The underlying principle of contribution is simple but effective. Contribution means that children are expected to work for the common good just as adult members of the family do. When children are made to feel they are important to the family by contributing and belonging in positive ways, they have no need to use negative behaviors such as whining to gain that feeling of importance.
These three methods work independently or together depending upon the situation. For example, consequences should be used routinely in response to whining. Any talking done around the setting up of consequences should be minimal and respectful in tone -- in other words, assertive. When the whining escalates into more serious misbehaviors that challenge the parents' values, we recommend adding the formula for assertiveness as well. Contribution combats all misbehavior and should be an expectation of every member of the family, including the very youngest.
Children who contribute have a positive sense of belonging, and empathy for others soon replaces the need to act out. From the youngest to the oldest, contribution allows everyone to feel important by working for the good of the family as a whole.
For those of you wondering why in the world children would want to provoke negative reactions in adults, we provide a model to help you understand the purpose of misbehavior and why changing your response works to stop whining. This model is rooted in the theories of two pioneering psychiatrists: Alfred Adler and Rudolph Dreikurs. The ideas we present are based on their techniques, which were developed from 1900 through the 1960s.
The commonsense approach that we provide here is, therefore, nothing new, but it is very much needed in these days of indulgent parenting when adults flip-flop between giving in and making idle threats to punish. Our three methods can be used with a child of any age -- and, dare we suggest it, any adult -- who whines.
Even very young children who do not yet understand words and sentences will understand tone, body language, and consistency. While these methods work with all age groups, the earlier you begin the easier your parenting job will be.
What we prescribe here is simple but not easy, because it requires you to think before you act or speak and requires you to have a plan of discipline that you follow consistently each time a whining incident occurs. The chapters cover the following topics:
We also provide a workbook with exercises you can use to teach yourself and your children new modes of communicating. We include a fourteen-day diary that you can use to chart your progress in responding to your children's whining and misbehavior. By taking careful notes you'll begin to analyze patterns of negative behavior in yourself and in your children. More important, by keeping a record of the changes you are making in your own responses, you'll begin to recognize improvements in your family's relationships.
How We Would Like You to Read This Book
First, we suggest that you read this book in one or two sittings so that you get a feel for the methods we suggest. Some of the ideas we're presenting will be new to you, and you'll need to think about how to go about making the changes we're suggesting.
You need not grasp every detail; just read for an overview of the problems and their solutions, and think of ways you can begin to try some of these approaches. It does help to think about the instances of whining you experience with your children and identify specific areas that are going to need the most work. The more thinking you do, the more easily you'll be able to plan and implement positive changes within your family.
Finally, once you've embarked upon your quest to rid your life of incessant whining, go back and read the chapters you feel are most helpful to you. This is your book. Write in the margins! Use the workbook and begin tracking your progress as you work toward eliminating whining behavior once and for all.
Copyright © 2000 by Audrey Ricker, Ph.D., and Carolyn Crowder, Ph.D.
Posted July 7, 2002
Although I did learn alot about the 'why' of whining, the book did not give me what I needed for my very young children. The information in the book was sensible, easy to understand and not too clinical; but I hoped for more specific suggestions to try with my 1, 3 and 5 year old when their whining really gets to me at certain times of the day. I found the information in this book more directed to older school age children (6-teens). I have recently found a new quick-read A-Z guidebook written EXCLUSIVELY for parents of 2's, 3's, 4's and 5's. 'The Pocket Parent' addresses 40 problem behaviors including whining, interrupting, 'the gimmes', biting, morning 'crazies', lying, listening, separation anxiety, tantrums, bad words, potty training, bedtime, mealtime, picking up the toys, hitting and hurting others, 'I Hate You!' and many more. The anecdotes are short, helpful examples for moms and dads to clearly see more effective ways of talking to the kids in order to gain their cooperation. Both books suggest that inorder to change your child's behavior you'll probably have to change yours first! So, if you have little ones that often drive you nuts with their whining, shreking tones, I recommend both the compassionate, practical 'Pocket Parent' for parents of preschoolers along with the more theoretical book, 'Whining.'
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Posted October 30, 2000
This book was a great book to read. The infromation was useful and helpful. I have found that if I keep my mind focused on the long range goal of a 'whine' free house then the course of action is easy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.