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Why does my kid whine?
From: ivillage.com          Published On: November 8, 2012, 16:22 GMT
 
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Why does my kid whine?
As any parent of a toddler will tell you, a bout of bellyaching can strike at any time and for seemingly any reason. To figure out what's causing the whining, Dr. Eshleman says, take a look at your child's situation: Is she tired? Hungry? Had a rough day at school? In a bad mood? Any of these reasons (and more) are enough to make her extra prone to grumbling.

Whining is also a big way for your kid to get your attention, says Dr. Dan Levy, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. And any type of attention will do -- even if it's you fussing at them. Luckily, there are surefire ways to shut down the whining and still keep your cool.

When does whining start?

The short answer: As soon as he realizes it gets him what he wants. But typically, expect griping to begin around 18Ė24 months of age and reappear during key developmental phases. While you can't prevent whining from starting, you do have some control over when it stops.

According to Dr. Kate Eshleman, a pediatric psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, "whining can last as long as it's tolerated."

Why does my kid whine?

As any parent of a toddler will tell you, a bout of bellyaching can strike at any time and for seemingly any reason. To figure out what's causing the whining, Dr. Eshleman says, take a look at your child's situation: Is she tired? Hungry? Had a rough day at school? In a bad mood? Any of these reasons (and more) are enough to make her extra prone to grumbling.

Whining is also a big way for your kid to get your attention, says Dr. Dan Levy, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. And any type of attention will do -- even if it's you fussing at them. Luckily, there are surefire ways to shut down the whining and still keep your cool.

Spell out expectations and consequences

Next time your child transforms into a whining mess, try this tactic from Dr. Eshleman. "Clearly state your expectation and the consequence," she says. "For example, 'Please stop whining or else we're leaving the store.' Then follow through with it." If no immediate consequence is available -- say, you're stuck in line at the grocery store -- choose a future punishment, like no TV when you get home. But whatever repercussion you choose, stick with it. "You canít change your mind," Braun says.

"Don't ever say no if it's going to turn into a yes." For the best results, give younger kids the simplest version of what you expect of them; you can get more complex and detailed with older children. Dr. Eshleman also recommends sticking with consequences that are age-appropriate -- a three-minute time-out for a 3-year-old versus taking away a tween's cell phone privileges.

Ignore, ignore, ignore

Whoever said ignorance was bliss clearly found success dealing with a whining child. In fact, a great way to shut down the complaining or badgering is to simply tune it out. Easier said than done, we know, but showing your kid that all his bellyaching is falling on deaf ears can be pretty effective -- no matter what his age. "You can't give in," Braun says.

"That's the key. You can't give an ounce of attention. You can't get mad, you can't talk to him. He has to get no attention."

Dr. Eshleman agrees. "Even if you're getting upset or angry, or giving empty threats, the child is getting your attention, which inadvertently reinforces the behavior. If you're responding each time your child says something, that allows the episode to go on longer and the child learns that whining gets them what they want."

Point out the whining

When your child is in the throes of a good griping session, she can't see how she's acting. But in calmer moments -- especially when she asks for things in a pleasant, polite way -- talk about whining, Braun says.

"Say something like, 'You know, when you use your happy voice, like you just did, I can hear you loud and clear. But this voice -- and here, you try to replicate her whining voice -- doesn't work. When you use that voice, it doesn't sound good in my ears. I don't hear it, and you won't get what you want."

Reinforce positive behavior

Once you've showed your kid what whining sounds like, praise her each time she uses a pleasant voice to ask for things. "You want to reinforce the use of the voice you can hear," Braun says. "So every time you hear it, say, 'I love the voice you just used.'" That way, when she slips back into a whiny voice, you can say, 'That's the voice I can't hear,' or 'I'm listening for the other voice.' For an older child, Braun adds, you can have a signal, like tugging on your ear, that says, 'That's the voice you can't use.'

While complimenting good behavior is effective at any age, older kids also respond to incentives, Dr. Eshleman says. If your child behaves himself in the store, for example, he can earn an extra story at bedtime. "When a positive behavior is reinforced with anything from verbal praise to affection to more tangible items, it increases the likelihood that a specific behavior will be repeated," she explains.

Avoid toxic environments

Sometimes, whining is a direct result of what Braun calls "local lousy conditions," or an environment that sabotages a kid from being himself. That could mean anything from being hungry or tired to expecting a toddler to be quiet in a library or store. "It's not reasonable to expect a younger kid to muster up the resources to get through those situations," she says.

The fix? Look for your child's individual patterns so you can head off whining at the pass, Dr. Eshleman says. If your older kid needs a little downtime after school before starting homework, build some extra time in his schedule so he has a chance to recharge. Or, if you know being in the car for a long time sends your toddler to his breaking point, try shorter trips spaced out over a couple of days.
Be Prepared

Planning ahead is another great way to prevent whining. Before you launch into an afternoon of errands, for instance, load up your purse with any goodies that will help keep your kid happy. "Bring activities, books, an iPod, music, whatever," Dr. Eshleman says. "You want something that will keep your child engaged and distracted."

These distractions are just the thing to help your kiddo forget she's in a less-than-desirable place (like a grocery store line). "Having these things on hand can also give you something handy to provide positive reinforcement," Dr. Eshleman adds. Just be sure what you offer is age-appropriate, like a small snack for younger children or kid-friendly app for older ones.

Find the humor

No matter your child's age, laughter can sometimes be the way to shut down a bout of whining. When her son is extra whiny, iVillage mama cheekygremlin goes for a smile. "If it's really bad and itís an all-day sort of thing, I sometimes try the 'Where did your happy face go? Oh no! It's lost!'" she says. "Then weíll have a hunt for it. Usually I find it in his belly button, to much giggles."

iVillage mama silvermermaid2009 also uses tickling to break a sour mood. "When mine starts whining and is in a bad mood, I get down on all fours and tell him the tickle monster is coming to get him. Then I start chasing him with my hands out and my fingers moving, and instantly it turns into a gale of laughter and lots of smiles."

Change the subject

Another mom-tested strategy? Diverting a whining child's attention to something else. That's what iVillage mom deedee22222 does to shut down her daughter's relentless bellyaching. "I mostly ignore whining; I tend to ask her once or twice what she wants, like 'Can you show me what you want?' 'Please point to what you want,' 'I understand that you don't want X -- would you like Y instead?' But if that doesn't work, I usually just change the subject or turn her attention to something else."

Try a time out

Sometimes even the best strategies don't work. In those instances, some mamas swear by sending a whining kid to time out, a strategy Dr. Eshleman says can be effective with younger children. "If he doesn't stop, I just put him in his room," says iVillage mom mkuepfer. "It's worked for us."

Torileetrapp agrees: "First I tell her, 'use your words, tell me what you what, or show me.' If she keeps whining and throwing a fit, I put her in her bed and tell her to stay there until she calms down or I come get here. I let her know why she's there: 'You are whining and throwing a fit, and we don't do that. So you must stay here until you calm down.'"

Be consistent (But It's Okay if You Have to Change Tactics!)

Bottom line: A consistent response to whining is crucial to stopping it. "What you do in one situation you should do across all situations," Dr. Eshleman says. That said, if your strategy isn't working and your child is showing no signs of giving up the whining habit, it might be time to change course. "If itís not working, you donít want to consistently do something that doesnít change the behavior," she says. "But that depends on the parent and the family."

Speaking of the family, be mindful of how you treat your other kids. It's easier to dote on the sibling who isn't nagging and whining, but Dr. Eshleman points out that showing favoritism can make the situation worse.

Meet your kid where she is

There's no one size fits all approach to discouraging whining, since every kid is different. "Much of the way parents handle whining has to be based on knowledge of their child's developmental level," Dr. Levy says.

You should also be mindful of your kiddo's temperament. "Some kids do better if distracted, some children can be reasoned with," he explains. "Some do best if placed in a quiet place and allowed to settle their overtaxed circuits. The point is, use wisdom and be a good role model, regardless of your child's age."

Keep your cool

Even when your kiddo has already lost her cool, experts agree it's important you keep yours. One of Braun's favorite stay-calm strategies is to acknowledge what's going on. It could be as simple as saying aloud, "This whining is driving me crazy."

Or take a step back and try to get an overview of what's happening. ("It gives you a modicum of control," she says.) Is your child bellyaching because he's hungry or had too many playdates? Are you losing it because of the whining? Or is it the noise, or relentless asking? Once you figure that out, you can look for concrete solutions.

A change of scenery is also helpful for you and your child. "You are an adult," Dr. Levy says. "You have the capacity to find peace away from the situation." So if the endless whining is taking its toll on you, take a deep breath and step away for a moment until you've regained your composure.

It's never too late

Parents -- especially first timers -- may hesitate before shutting down whining and, in turn, later worry that they're raising a chronic bellyacher. The good news is, like most things in parenting, you get multiple chances to break a bad habit like whining. Just be prepared to be in it for the long haul (read: you'll probably have to keep at these tactics a bit longer with an older child). "If you've been giving into whining and stop all of a sudden, it'll just take a little longer to teach your child to stop," Braun says. "But don't worry, you can turn it around."


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