When you are pregnant with your first child and even after they're born, all you can really think about is how gosh darn cute they are. I remember putting my son down to sleep at night and staying up to stare at pictures of him, because I just couldn't get enough. And it's true, they are just amazing! How do they get to be so cute, and how is it possible that you made this adorable human being who tugs at your heartstrings? It's truly a mystery.
But, somewhere along the way (usually after they're 1 year or 18 months old), your child will learn what it is to whine. And suddenly, you find other things to think about when watching your child. Such as: they are freaking annoying
Now don't get me wrong. I love my son, and he is brilliant, amazing, kind, loving, and the cutest thing ever. But when he starts whining, I literally cannot stand him. It's like his cute layer has melted off to reveal an extremely repulsive layer of bathroom scum beneath. Luckily, I'm starting to realize that it's not just my kid that whines--it's a universal thing that all parents must experience. This whining thing is normal, and you just have to learn how to cope.
You're Not Alone
The reality of whining is that no one likes hearing it. It's just the worst, and can make you quickly irritated, angry, exhausted, or frustrated with your child. Most often, experts point out that
children begin and persist in whining because they feel that it helps them get needed attention and solutions. You see, because we all hate whining so much, we might be reinforcing this type of behavior in our kids without even knowing it. The key is to teach our children to not whine by asking for different behavior before providing a reward (attention, etc).
Here are some quick and dirty tips to help your child stop whining. They might not always work, but it's definitely a good place to start.
Define whining. Not every child knows what whining is, especially if they are younger than two years old. Help your child identify the difference their voice makes during whining and again during normal speaking. Encourage the latter type of communication, particularly when they are asking for things.
Ask for them to wait a reasonable amount of time. If your child is whining for attention while you're currently occupied, ask them to wait for a minute or two. Be reasonable in how long you have them wait, but tell them if they wait quietly that you can help them at that point.
Ask for a rephrase. When your child whines loudly asking for help, a snack, etc., and they are asking for something appropriate, tell them they may have the reward if they rephrase using their polite or normal voice. This emphasizes to them that whining doesn't give you what you want.
Of course, these strategies work best with a child that can understand you, but the first one can still be done with very young toddlers. Help your toddler identify what whining is, and why it might be unpleasant to your ears. Do not respond to whining, and help them ask in their normal voice so they know that whining is not a helpful tool to them.
Remember the Reason for the Whine
Most of the time, your toddler just wants your attention or help and doesn't quite know how to express it. Just remember when the whining gets to be often or unbearable, that perhaps your child could do with some food, a nap, a time-out, or some time away from an activity to calm down.
Most of all, realize they don't whine to annoy you--they're just trying to get what they need. Since young children get everything they need from you, they will whine, and it will be like fingernails on a chalkboard after a while. But you'll survive! Just keep plenty of cheese on hand ;)