Whining – it can feel so incredibly triggering and just downright irritating right!? Even if we can recognise in our child that it stems from an unmet desire or the feelings of desperately wanting something and at the same time being powerlessness to change the outcome in that moment. And of course, typical moments for whining to be at its height are during the morning rush, at the end of a long day when we are just trying to get dinner sorted or in moments when we are feeling completely mentally and emotionally spent. So, if you are a perfectly normal imperfect parent like me, these moments can result in a ‘will you just stop whining, I have said you can’t watch TV and that I cannot play with you a hundred times and if you ask me one more time in that voice you will not watch TV for a month’…and then the of course what follows? An escalation of the whining or a meltdown and the parental guilt right!?
Now there is a lot that we could talk about in terms of repairing with your child after a moment like that and also on how to manage our own triggers and emotions, but I want to really focus on what we can do to manage the whining.
In a calm moment
If this blog post immediately caught your eye because whining is a challenge in your home, it’s likely that a bit of work outside of the moments of whining may be helpful.
For most parenting challenges, my first piece of advice is to try and get into a ‘child’s perspective mind-set’. In this situation this means spending some time reflecting on ALL the whining that takes place in the home and trying to understand what might be going on for them in these moments. Is it connection with you they need? Is there a sense of powerlessness associated with their whining? Is it associated with a common desire for something? This reflection moment is key to getting us into a more compassionate frame of mind and to effectively do the next step.
Once we have reflected a bit, I would encourage you to open up a conversation with your child about whining. Explore with them about what whining actually is and depending on their age and willingness to share, either ask them what is going on in those moments for them or suggest what you think might be underneath the whining. Even if they don’t say a word or seem disinterested in the conversation, you will have shown them that you have heard them and tried to understand where they are coming from. All of this brings connection which is often at least part of what is at the heart of whining. This also provides an opportunity for you to make a plan with them around whining and to be explicit about what you will do in those moments and what you would prefer they try and do too. You could even think about making this visual with a poster for example.
In the whining moment
Some suggestions of approaches you can take in the moment are:
After taking a pause to compose yourself, you could try simply showing you hear and understand them, ‘You really wish you could watch TV today, I understand, it’s really fun, I love TV too and sometimes wish I could watch it on days I can’t too’. Or ‘It is just sooo hard being little and not being allowed to make your own choices, I can see why this is a really hard moment for you’. Or ‘you want the red cup, the blue cup and the pink cup, it’s really hard feeling overwhelmed by choices’.
Model an alternative way to approach the situation, ‘Remember how mummy said that using that voice can be really hard for us to hear, why don’t we try and ask Daddy like this, ‘Daddy, please can you get the book because I am really feeling exhausted right now’?
Sometimes being kind but firm is what our children need in the moment. Again, after a really deep breath and a moment of pause for us, it’s about actually just saying, ‘I love you and I hear that this is really hard for you right now, but I have said no to the cookies. You can feel sad about that and cry, but my decision is not going to change’. And then as far as possible we need to allow all those feelings and emotions space to be expressed.
Try injecting a bit of fun into the moment, ‘Wow I think this house might burst with all the whines in it right now, look I think I can see the windows bulging, ahhh the doors creaking. Can you see what I am seeing! We better catch those whines and put them in the bin, quick, quick, help me’. Sometimes a moment of decompression like this can actually change the whole atmosphere and doesn’t have to take long.
If you feel like you need more resources or support in dealing with whining you can think about booking in to see me for a 1:1 consultation or joining us on the Brain Based Parenting Bootcamp where we equip you with knowledge about how your child's brain grows and develops which helps to put behaviour in context. We then also go through many more strategies than can be covered here and there is lots of time to interact with other parents, ask the facilitators questions and get help with troubleshooting when things feel stuck.