If you've ever had a child who is given to whining, you know how grating it can get on the nerves of every member of the household.
Parents are sometimes prone to make excuses for this bad habit. "She missed her nap. He's feeling sick. They're hungry." But we do our children no favors by letting them get away with such behavior.
Ready to wipe out whining for good? These six strategies will help:
Explain to your child that his whining makes it hard for anyone to enjoy his company. Sure, you'll love him regardless of how he acts, but you want others to love him, too. And you'll do whatever it takes to help him beat this bad habit.
Giving in to whining only rewards and reinforces such behavior. Make sure fit-pitching never pays off. If your child whines for something he doesn't need, like candy at the checkout counter, deprive him of it completely. If he whines for something he does need, like a drink of water when he's thirsty, then insist he ask nicely before you give it.
Stay happy and upbeat. Don't respond to your child's sour disposition with anger or impatience. In the above example, when your little one wants water, fill the cup, get down on his level, smile broadly, and prompt him, "How do we ask?"
If you'll teach your child to say please in sign language (by rubbing his open hand on his chest in a circular motion), you can even help him "say please" when he's too upset to utter the words. Gently guide his hand through the motion, then respond enthusiastically, "See? Isn't that a nicer way to ask?" as you give him his drink.
Language skills vary greatly from child to child. One two-year-old may be able to say, "Mommy, I feel thirsty. May I have a glass of water, please?" while the next can barely string two words together, especially when he's upset.
Make sure older siblings are sensitive to this fact, as well. They need to know that little brother sometimes whines because he doesn't have the words to say, "I don't like it when you tease me, so stop doing that!"
You cannot crack down on whining one day, ignore it the next, reward it the next and expect that approach to work.
Consistency is key, not only in responding to whining when it occurs, but in sidestepping situations that provoke it in the first place. Since young children are prone to be cranky whenever they're tired or hungry, keeping to a predictable schedule for meals and naptimes will go a long way in helping your child maintain a more pleasant disposition.
Lastly, remember that we teach best by example. Joy begets joy just as surely as discontent breeds discontent. Stay focused on the positive, replace your own inner grumblings with sincere gratitude and your children will eventually catch your enthusiasm for living.
Neither Jennifer Flanders nor her children have a perfect no-whining track record, but these tips have helped keep any crankiness to a minimum. For more parenting pointers, visit her blog at http://www.flandersfamily.info/web/