Coach me on whining, please. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-22-2011, 06:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Okay, my dd is 4yo.  She whines a lot and talks to me in unpleasant ways, often when she wants me to do something.


I know that prevention is totally worth the effort -- enough sleep, enough attention, enough food, etc.  But, of course that can't head it off every time.


I don't expect her to not whine or be demanding, she's 4, I just want some help about my response to it.


I'll give some examples from this morning:


She is standing by me in the kitchen and suddenly cries out, "my diaper is wet (she wears diapers at night) and starts whining and dancing around."  I say in a cheery and calm voice, "oh, lets get that off you then" and bend down to help her get it off.  She has pajama shorts on and realizes they are wet (we don't have any other shorts out since it's not the season yet) and starts whining and fussing that her shorts got wet and she wanted to wear them.  I should have reflected her emotions to her, but I just suggested that we wash them so they'll be ready for bedtime.  She didn't like that.  I suggested that she wear her skirt, which I knew was on the floor of her bedroom.  She agreed to that and went to her room.  Then she started yelling to me, whining and crying...I couldn't understand what she was saying, but I didn't want her to wake her brother, so I went over to her to quiet her down.  She couldn't see her skirt and hadn't turned on the light.  I said, "Mama, will you please help me find my skirt" which she repeated, but not in a very nice tone.  I turned on the light and pointed out the skirt.  I said it's easier to see with the light on, and she started fussing and whining, "I don't WANT to turn on the light."  I walked back to the kitchen.


In the midst of all this she said she was hungry and I was trying to help her decide what she wants to eat.  I listed off a few things, she said she wanted toast, and that she wanted something else, so she wanted to stand in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open while she decided -- something I do not allow.  I made her close the refrigerator and gave her some suggestions again as to what she could have.  She decided on applesauce and milk.  She was at the table eating her toast while I got the applesauce and milk and she shouts out, "applesauce" in a demanding voice.  At this point she has been whiney and demanding for 5-8 requests in 10-15 minutes.  I told her that I was getting the applesauce and that it made me feel bad when she talked to me that way and that if she couldn't turn it around she was going to have to spend some time in her room until she could be nicer.


So, how often do you ignore the whining and demanding and feed the hungry kid anyway?  How often do you insist that they talk nicely to you?  How often do you send them away from you until they can ask nicely?  How often do you just help them with their clothes when they are being whiney but not necessarily directing it at you?  Do I just need to get a lot more strict/consistent?  I'm just not sure it will be helpful to crack down every time she whines, since that is her major form of communication.  Thoughts?

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#2 of 9 Old 03-22-2011, 07:58 AM
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Hi Sunny, I feel your pain. My daughter is 4 too and the whining gets to be too much.


Re this:

Originally Posted by sunnygir1 View Post

I'm just not sure it will be helpful to crack down every time she whines, since that is her major form of communication.  Thoughts?

Do you want whining to be her major form of communication? I doubt it. So I think it is helpful to "crack down" every time she whines. Start with the wet shorts. My line is "that's not how we ask for things", and request for assistance not fulfilled until rephrased in a nice voice. This, plus prevention as you mentioned, results in polite requests more often than not.


(Of course, sometimes after I say this she whines again and appends a please, and comes back with "But I said please" when refuse to fulfill her request try to correct her tone of voice again. The method is not foolproof. :))


I have one child, a bit of patience, and a high tolerance for potential embarassment, so I do this even in public places. My daughter had a meltdown over my refusal to accommodate her whining (and lack of listening) for an hour at the beach one day, until she finally cried so much she fell asleep on the lawn. After she woke up and had a snack she felt better. I couldn't even get a snack into her until she had had it out.


I have tried the "I feel bad" routine on her and that doesn't really seem to work - just makes her a bit more rebellious and ups the power play aspect of it.


The other thing that works is cutting down on fun activities due to whining. Whining makes any activity (such as getting dressed, getting ready for bed) take 3x longer. This means less time to do fun things, such as read a book, because the whining took up all the time allotted for the activity. Saying no to the activity makes my daughter upset and she cries ("I won't do it again Mama!"), but if I stick to my guns here, the next day I don't get as much whining because she wants to spend her time on fun things instead.


Hope this helps. The main situation I haven't figured out how to handle with my 4 year old is whining when we are running late (typically because I have early meeting, so we deviate from morning routine and rush) and do not have time to deal with whining properly as above. This just results in tears. I have no solution for this yet. Good luck

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#3 of 9 Old 03-22-2011, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, I often get the, "please, blah, blah, blah" in a whiney or demanding voice when I ask her to try again.  She just wound up in her room screaming because she was demanding that I tell her which tea cup was hers, when she knew perfectly well which was hers.  I guess I just have to have faith that if I am totally consistent for long enough it will get better.  Thanks for your thoughts!


When we are trying to get out the door, I often just offer to do things for her or with her to speed up the process and reduce the whining.  It is stressful for me to try to get out the door on time which means it is stressful for her too.  So, instead of just telling/asking her to get dressed or whatever, I will ask her to do it and immediately ask if she wants me to help her.  Then she doesn't have a chance to demand that I do it for her or state that it is too hard or she doesn't know how, etc.  I agree that this is a tough time to stick to your guns.  I usually just help her out the door and talk to her about how I expect her to behave.



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#4 of 9 Old 03-22-2011, 02:22 PM
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We've been working on the demanding talk with DD (3yrs) for a few months. The hardest thing for me to deal with is ten demands in two minutes. My head wants to explode. I'm not sure if this is good parenting, but one day I tried to pretend that my head was actually exploding. I said (very jokingly), "Oh honey! You're asking for too many things too quickly. My head is full. It's going to explode. I'm not sure what to do first. Ahhhhh!" And then I used my hands to try to show that my head was exploding. I messed up my hair and sat in a lump on the floor. My daughter was laughing and she came over to me and said, "Kay, Mama. I only ask for one thing at a time."


That afternoon, in the van, she started asking for a snack, and a drink, and some gum, on and on and on. I stopped. Turned around to look at her. She said, "Your head full again?"


How could I not laugh??!! I guess what I learned is that I need to gently (and with humor) show her what it feels like for me when she is really demanding. In the end, I want her to ask for what she needs. But I also want her to learn to do things herself and to be patient and thoughtful.


Hope this is at least a little helpful.



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#5 of 9 Old 03-22-2011, 10:29 PM
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I don't respond to whining. If the level increases, I will say (once), "I can't hear you when you use that tone of voice." When the request is re-made in an acceptable tone of voice, I will repeat it back, "Oh, you'd like a slice of toast? I can get that for you."


The beauty of the non-response is that you avoid the whole, "But I SAID PLEEEEEEZE," response that is so irritating. You can decide exactly how pleasant a tone of voice you will require. When they comply, you reward their improved behavior.


No one should need to justify their need to be treated with consideration and politeness. This way, you encourage the correct behavior by only responding to that, and ignoring the rest.

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#6 of 9 Old 03-23-2011, 07:41 AM
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I find whining to be the most irritating of all! It makes my skin crawl. When my DD whines I say " do not speak to me with that tone" then I demonstrate the polite way to ask fo something. I do this every time she whines, or demands something. The key is to lay down the law. She needs to be corrected every single time. She'll get the message pretty soon!

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#7 of 9 Old 03-29-2011, 02:30 PM
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Just a few things I try:


It is very hard to understand what you are saying - could you try again?


A sweet voice helps my ears hear you!


O! How I wonder where [child's name] sweet (calm, clear) voice is...


That /sound/ really hurts my ears I hope it stops soon... 


Maybe if you whisper I could understand you. (yes, sometimes this works)

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#8 of 9 Old 03-30-2011, 07:49 AM
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I agree with the others who say you need to deal with it every time.  If your morning routine is like that even half the time, she definitely needs a crack down!   I was stressed just reading about your interaction with your dd this morning.  Here's how I handle situations like that.


"My diaper's wet!"

"My diaper's wet!"

"Oh, Is that a question?"
"Get my diaper off me!"
"Hmmmm... that wasn't a question I understand. Maybe if it was more polite..."

(fuss whine/ignore her fussing)

"Will you please help me with my diaper?"

"I'd be happy to."


Then for the escalation of whining/fit, honestly, I would send her back to bed for a do-over.  My boys used to wake up cranky sometimes and nothing I could do would make them happy, so off they'd go until they could come back out of their room with a happier demeanor. 


For other whining I would say, "Ouch.  That hurts my ears.  I can't hear anything when you use that tone of voice."  Or I might say, "EXCUSE me?  That's not how you ask for something."  I don't beg them to repeat it or otherwise cater to their sassy whines and demands.  I ignore it until they can speak to me in a respectful tone.  I don't speak to them disrespectfully and I certainly don't want to teach them that other people will deal with them when they're being so rude.


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#9 of 9 Old 03-30-2011, 11:09 AM
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This has been helpful - My DD is 4 and the whinning is way too if she doesn't get her way well watch out world! I have tried everything and teh  thing that works teh best in ignoring her behavior until she can act like the sweet lil' girl i know she can be - IT IS HARD WORK THO!!!! .. lol

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