Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

War on whining March 20, 2009

Filed under: Behaviors,Communication and speech — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:10 am

swm01447To whine (v): “to utter a low, usually nasal, complaining cry or sound, as from uneasiness, discontent, peevishness, etc.: “

Any mom with a baby 18 months or older is familiar with whining…   Far, far too familiar, in fact.  It’s amazing the way virtually all kids pick up whining, as if they were all taught together at in-the-womb school.  Whining has been a major issue my husband and I have been working on with our three-year old son over the past three or four months.  It’s been perplexing to us, really.  Why, when we neverrespond positively to him when he speaks in a whiny tone and always have him to rephrase his words politely using his big-boy voice – why does the whining persist?  Shouldn’t the behavior be extinguished by now?

Whining as we experience it with my son runs the gamut from asking for something in a complaining manner (“Mom, I don’t like this plate”) to having a short tantrum-like outburst (“But I don’t WANT to wear shoes!”).  It’s a verbally inappropriate response that, with alternate phrasing and/or tone of voice, could be acceptable.  It might happen 3 or 6 or 10 times in a day… and how is one to best handle such a pesky and repetitive issue?

It seems to me that routine whining ultimately is 1) a bad habit, and 2) a self-control issue.  We began speaking to our son about whining in terms of self-control: “God tells us we need to have self-control, and that means even in the way we talk.”  Not sure how fully he understands that yet, but at least it’s planting the seed.  Secondly, if it’s a bad habit, it means he’s often not aware when he’s doing it.  [Actually I have more sympahty for him in this since my husband began pointing out the frequency with which I use my high-pitch baby voice in dialogue with the kids.  Annoying.  Unintentional.  Totally unaware that I’m doing it till he calls my attention to it.]

So to help our son become aware of the bad habit, we began attaching his whining to a tangible action that would cause him to stop and fully realize what he was doing.  That’s supposed to be a help in habit-breaking after all, right ?  (Trying to stop smoking?  Take up gum-chewing.)  So when he whines, he now goes and stands in the corner for about 60 seconds – longer, if the early part is spent in protest, further whining, or crying.  Then he returns and we repeat the incident correctly – I will say the same thing I said earlier that elicited his inappropriate response, and he’ll answer appropriately: polite words, acceptable tone. 

While this hasn’t worked perfectly, we have seen significant changes for the better.  I think the reality of his having to associate his words with a tangible response – nothing extreme, but just annoying enough for him to want to skip it – is helping the issue stick in his brain. 

Any helps or break-throughs you moms have had in this area?  “Best practices” in effectively training children to control their voices and words?   Love to hear ’em…


One Response to “War on whining”

  1. Jean Says:

    When our son started whining regularly, we were beside ourselves because my husband and I realized it was the one thing he did that neither one of us could stand. And, we were surprised at how quickly our patience was gone as soon as whining entered the picture.

    My son is crazy about trains – was then, is now, probably will be forever. We started taking trains away as soon as his voice started to get whiny. There were times that I thought his entire train set would be on top of the desk on display to remind him of his whining – and not to do it.

    We are not sure why it worked so well, but even now – at 4 years old – he only needs a gentle reminder that he will be punished if he whines and he stops. God is merciful!

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