Friday, May 27, 2011

Stop Whining!!!

This is a transcript of a typical trip to the grocery store/Target/Walgreens:

Toddler: "Please?" 
Me: "No."
Toddler: "Please?"
Me: "No."
Toddler: "Just a tiny one?"
Me: "No."
Toddler: "But I really, really want it!"
Me: "We are not buying that."
Toddler: "I won't ask for anything else."
Me: "I already said no."
Toddler: cries.
Me: searching my purse for Advil.

Children learn to whine before they learn to talk.  When babies reach the magical age of one, they being practicing whining using groans, whimpers, and cries.  By the age of two, the whining has transformed to groans, whimpers, cries, and the occasional "I don't want to" statement.  By four years of age, the child has fully honed her whining skills and now expertly uses begging, demanding, and negotiating.

Surprisingly, my whining threshold is relatively high compared to many of my mommy friends (this is probably due to all my years of training as a middle school teacher).  Most days I can deal with the persistent pleading of my toddlers.  As they have cultivated their whining techniques, I have honed my ability to ignore them. However, there are many days when their griping can beat me down, causing me to retreat to a locked bedroom and practice the yoga Lion's Breath.  This downplayed yogi roar usually does not accomplish the objective, so I often spend another ten minutes in the room playing Backgammon on my iPhone and disregarding the pounding on the door.

So, why do children develop the inevitable whining trait when every adult is in universal agreement that this is unattractive and annoying?  The answer is simple: attention. They all want attention, and inevitably at the times that are impossible to provide it.  Sure, I understand that the child is probably tired, or hungry, or grouchy, or not feeling well, but at some point I have to make dinner and fold the laundry.

While there are many ways to help eliminate the whining, my favorite is the simplest- ignore all statements that begin with a complaint.  Pretend as though you have become temporarily deaf, or launch into a loud solo of an old Suzanne Vega song.  Nothing helps drone out the sounds of griping toddlers like "Da da da da, da da da da, da da da da, da da da da."

As a math teacher, I understand that people need to be offered a variety of ways to tackle difficult problems (squashing whining is similar to solving a complex differential equation).  In case this method is not your style, I searched the interwebs looking for other solutions to the whining epidemic sweeping the houses of families with toddlers:
  • Acknowledge the toddler's need for attention.  "Honey, I know that you want me to pick you up this exact moment, but right now I am holding two bags of groceries and trying to open the front door."
  • Avoid triggers.  So, does this mean that I should never take my child to the store, out of the bath, or put her down for a nap?
  • Demonstrate the behavior.  Some experts suggest providing the child with a demonstration of the offending speech.  When my children repeatedly whine for something, I like to stop my foot and shout "I want an Oompa-Loompa, NOW!"
  • Redirect.   As soon as your two-year-old begins complaining about changing his diaper, try distracting him by describing tonight's dinner or lima beans, mushrooms, and polenta.  Soon he will have something new to whine about.
  • Walk away.  And repeat, repeat, repeat!
  • Reinforce positive behavior.   Let your child know how proud you are of him that he made it through an entire bedtime routine without the usual half-dozen groans!
  • Be consistent in your response.  This is so much easier to write than it is to accomplish. 
However you chose to abolish this behavior, know that you are not alone.  Kids have been whining since the dawn of man, and will continue whining until the Apocalypse (which, evidently, was not on May 21st).   Whining is developmental; it's how they learn to argue and debate. 

Damn, Maisy and Elana just began fighting over who gets to play with Baby Pee-pee.  I know that it is only a matter of seconds before one of them comes crying to me.  Oh well... "I am sitting, In the morning, At the diner, On the corner..."

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