Ah summer! -The sights and sounds of happy children and their families laughing, playing, and enjoying one another’s company, a virtual Rockwell picture is conjured up in your mind. Ugh, summer! –Whining, fighting, bickering, too much together time. While we all want a Norman Rockwell summer, perhaps the reality is somewhere in the middle.
Just in time to save the sanity of parents everywhere, but perhaps more importantly help us connect with and understand our children’s needs more, may I offer you a great article that is insightful and a good reminder to all of us parents. In her article, “The Cure for Whining,” Dr. Laura Markham discusses why children whine and what can be done to stop it or even prevent it in its tracks. She discusses how whining often occurs because children do not have the internal resources to cope with that is being asked of them. Often, especially for younger children, this boils down to the fact that basic needs aren’t being met, such as: food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with a parent. If you think of the typical situation where a child is whining while you are errand running, these contextual reasons make a whole lot of sense!
In fact, she stresses that “preemptive” connecting can do a great, great deal to ward off whining and other behavior issues in general. Children need attention, connection, and support! As the saying or experience goes, any attention good or bad is better than none at all. If we meet our children’s connection, support, and attention needs positively, we will prevent or offset the “naughties” later.
She also underlines the power of empathizing to get to the bottom of whininess. Children often whine because they feel powerless and do not know how to get their needs met. If we start with empathy and kind of deescalate the situation, that can also work to unplug whininess’ cord. For example, if two siblings are bickering over a toy and your youngest comes in whining, complaining about his older brother. Some sincere empathy and understanding over how unfair it can feel when someone has something we want, can dispel the whining. It can also lead the child to the pathway of appropriately stating their feelings and needs , rather than whining about it.
Back to the example, whining for a turn can be replaced by a child identifying they would like a turn to play with the superhero figure ,and that they need to ask nicely , or that they need their parent to help them negotiate proper turn taking for their child. So perhaps Joey gets the toy for five minutes and then he switched with Scottie. That is a fair scenario for both parties. It is all modeling that starts with true empathizing. Markham discusses how it is just counterintuitive to scold them for whining or refuse to listen to them, as it just makes them feel more powerless. Read more about this at the website and try the other techniques instead.
Markham goes on to discuss how excessive whining may also indicate the need for a good cry. Life is full of hurts for young and old. Having a good cry can release these feelings and help us move on. She suggests gently offering you’re the child the chance, support, and time for a good cry ,to allow them to move onward. Lastly, she describes how whining triggers instinctual feelings of rushing in and responding for parents. She reminds us all to pause, take a step back, and calmly assess the situation for what it is. Instead of rushing in to scold our children, she encourages parents to rush in to hug them instead. This may just nip it then!