The Cure for Whining

The Cure for Whining

Should they get what they want by whining? Absolutely not. Should
they learn that they can get their way by marshaling good arguments
and making them in a reasonable, humorous, charming way that meets your
needs as well as theirs?  Absolutely, if you want them to get anywhere
in life. But how to help them make that transition?

Whining is
common with toddlers and preschoolers.  Parents are usually advised
to tell their kids to ask in a nice voice, because they can’t hear the
whiny voice.  But whining is a symptom of a deeper issue.   So if you
want to eliminate whining, you have to address what’s underneath. If
your child’s whining is driving you crazy, here are six parent-proven
secrets to stop your child from whining. Which secret you use depends on why he’s whining.

1. Whining because he doesn’t have the internal resources to cope with what’s being asked
of him:

When humans feel overwhelmed, they get whiny. (As a toddler, he would have thrown himself howling to the ground, but by three or four he can often whine instead.) Meet his basic needs for food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with you, or you can count on whining. He may not tantrum as much as he
used to, but he will certainly whine if you force him to endure that
shopping trip while he’s hungry and tired.  Why create a negative
situation from which he’ll learn and repeat?

2.  Whining
because she needs more connection:

Be pre-emptive. Make sure
that your child gets enough of your positive attention, unprovoked. 
Pre-empt whining by giving attention BEFORE she gets demanding.  Anyone
who’s had to ask a romantic partner “Do you love me?” knows that
attention given after you ask can never really fill the need. The secret
is to take the initiative and give attention the child hasn’t asked
for, often, so she feels your support and connection. And of course it’s
particularly important to give attention when she shows the first sign
of needing your emotional support, before that quick downhill slide. (No, you’re not rewarding “bad” behavior by giving her attention when she’s whining. If she were whining from hunger, would you think you were rewarding that by feeding her?  It’s our job to meet kids’ needs so they have the internal resources to cope. That includes giving them our loving presence so they feel safe and loved.)

3. Whining because she doesn’t like what’s happening but feels powerless to get her way: 

Cohen says, “When
children whine they are
feeling powerless. If we scold them for whining or refuse to
listen to them we increase their feelings of powerlessness. 
we give in so they will stop whining, we reward that
powerlessness. But if we relaxedly, playfully, invite them
to use a strong
voice, we increase their sense of confidence and competence.
we find a bridge back to close connection." 

Start by letting her know that you hear what she wants, and you see her point of view: "You really want to go to the playground, and you keep telling me that, and here I keep stopping at all these stores that you aren’t expecting, and you’re disappointed, right?”  Sometimes just feeling heard is enough to stop whining in its tracks.

Then, if she keeps whining, you can say playfully “You don’t sound like yourself.  I wonder where your usual strong voice went?”

Express confidence that your child can use her “strong” voice
and offer your assistance to help her find it, by making it into a
game:  “Hey, where did your strong voice go?  It was here a minute
ago.  I LOVE your strong voice!  I’ll help you find it.  Help me look. 
Is it under the chair?  No…In the toy box?  No….  HEY!  You found
it!!  That was your strong voice!! Yay! I love your strong voice! Now,
tell me again what you need, in your strong voice.”

Finally, give her alternate tools by teaching her how to ask appropriately for something
and negotiate with you.  Since whining is so often a function of
powerlessness, helping your child to feel that she can get
what she wants through reasonable measures will carry over into the rest
of her life. 

In other words, you don’t want her to learn that she gets her way in life by whining or tantrumming, but you do want her
to learn that she can get what she wants through managing her emotions,
seeing things from the other person’s point of view and setting up
win/win situations. (And of course, that’s what you always try to model.)

So if you simply don’t have time to go to the playground today, then don’t.  Be empathic about his desire, and nurture him through the meltdown, as described in #4 below.   But if your objection is to his whining, rather than his request, and he manages to pull himself together and ask in a
reasonable way for what he wants, then you’ll be able to engage in the kind of conflict resolution that finds a win/win solution.

“Ok, you want to go to the
playground, and I need to stop at the hardware store.  Let’s do this: 
If we’re really quick at the hardware store, we’ll have time to stop at the
playground on the way home.  Think you can help me be quick? And if you are really fast about getting
in and out of your car seat, we
can stay even longer at the playground.

Are you “rewarding” whining?  No, you’re empowering him by demonstrating that finding solutions that work for both of you is the way to get what he wants in life. 
4. Whining because he needs to cry: 

He has a lot of pent-up emotions about things that are stressing him – the new babysitter you left him with on Friday night, that kid who grabbed the truck away in the sandbox, potty training, the new baby – there’s no end of stressful developmental challenges!  Toddlers let off stress by simply having a meltdown, but as they get older they gain more
self-control, and begin to whine instead.  Be kind in response to his whining until you get home and have a few minutes to spend with him.  Then draw him onto your lap, look him in the eye and say “I notice you were feeling so whiny and sad, Sweetie.  Do you just need to cuddle and maybe cry a bit?  Everybody needs to cry sometimes.  I’m right here to hold you.”

5. Whining because it works:

Don’t reward whining.  Don’t give
in and buy the candy. But there is never a reason to be less than kind about it. Responding to his desire with empathy  (“You wish you could have that candy”) helps him feel less alone with his disappointment.  And there’s nothing wrong with finding something else that will make him happy, like a shiny red apple or a trip to the playground.  That teaches him to look for win/win solutions. If, by contrast, he feels
like he only gets what he wants by whining, he’ll become an expert

6. Whining
because you’ll do anything to stop it: 

Change your attitude.  Why do parents hate whining so much?  Because
whining is your little one’s more mature form of crying.  She’s letting
you know she needs your attention.  And human grownups are programmed to
react to whining as much as to crying, so the needs of tiny humans get
met.  So the minute you hear that whine, you react with anxiety.  You’ll
do anything to stop it. 

But if you can take a deep breath and remind
yourself that there’s no crisis, you’ll feel a lot better, and you’ll
parent better.  Don’t let your automatic crisis mode of fight or flight kick in.  Don’t feel like you
have to do anything at all except love your child.  Just smile at your child and give her a big hug.
Most of the time, the whining will stop.

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

by Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

While there’s no perfect formula that determines when children are truly ready for kindergarten, you can use this checklist to see how well your child is doing in acquiring the skills found on most kindergarten checklists.

Check the skills your child has mastered. Then recheck every month to see what additional skills your child can accomplish easily.

Young children change so fast – if they can’t do something this week, they may be able to do it a few weeks later.

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Understand actions have both causes and effects
  • Show understanding of general times of day
  • Cut with scissors
  • Trace basic shapes
  • Begin to share with others
  • Start to follow rules
  • Be able to recognize authority
  • Manage bathroom needs
  • Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers
  • Begin to control oneself
  • Separate from parents without being upset
  • Speak understandably
  • Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
  • Look at pictures and then tell stories
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Identify some alphabet letters
  • Recognize some common sight words like “stop”
  • Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
  • Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
  • Count to ten
  • Bounce a ball

If your child has acquired most of the skills on this checklist and will be at least four years old at the start of the summer before he or she starts kindergarten, he or she is probably ready for kindergarten. What teachers want to see on the first day of school are children who are healthy, mature, capable, and eager to learn.

More on: Kindergarten

Why Our Preschoolers Are Couch Potatoes


Our preschoolers are couch potatoes.

I’m serious. They really are – at least the ones in childcare or some sort of school program, which is three-quarters of the US kids ages 3-5. They spend 70-83% of their time being sedentary – and that’s not including meals or naps. In fact, they spend only about 2-3% of their time in active play.
To find out why our little kids are mostly sitting, researchers at Cincinnati Children’s put together focus groups of different childcare and preschool programs in the area and asked them why the kids weren’t more active. The study, released this week, is in the February issue of Pediatrics.

For some providers the issue was financial: they couldn’t afford much outdoor (or indoor) play space or equipment. But even when they could afford it, the researchers found that the equipment they had, chosen for safety reasons, wasn’t all that interesting to kids (face it, those little slides are boring). To make matters worse, the staff often discouraged kids from being active for fear of injury (sometimes at the request of the parents). And the centers felt pressure to get as much academics into the day as possible.
Why do we care, if they are safe and learning? Isn’t that what we want for them when they go to preschool?

Hmm … not necessarily.
Kids need active play. They need it for the exercise; a third of US kids are either overweight or obese. And what’s particularly worrisome about that statistic (besides the fact that it’s likely to rise given our TV and Super-Size culture) is that more and more studies are showing that fat kids grow into fat adults. If we don’t act now, we could literally be dooming our children to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and everything else obesity brings.

Kids need play for more than that, though. They need it to learn what we call “executive function” – the organizing principles of behavior. Through play they learn to share, negotiate and solve problems. They learn to be creative and use their imagination. They learn to focus and finish tasks – and they learn empathy. Play isn’t just goofing around. It truly is the work of childhood.
It’s easy when your kids are small to get sucked into the paradigm of keeping them totally safe and trying to turn them into Einsteins. It’s our culture, after all – the culture of keeping kids in bubbles (God forbid they get stitches!), and of achievement. We don’t want them to just enjoy books, we want them to start reading them really early so that they will go to an Ivy League college. As for play, we think of it as a waste of time. If they are going to be active, we want them to join teams so they can get really good at a sport and get an athletic scholarship. Starting early on this stuff is key, we are told.

(It was really different when I was young, which is why I spent my childhood in trees).
Okay: reality check here, folks. About 1% of high school athletes get athletic scholarships to college. And less than 1% of kids who go to college graduate from an Ivy League school. Starting early doesn’t guarantee anything – in fact, often it hurts more than it helps. And despite what the Occupy people might say, I really don’t think that 99% of us are miserable.

Stop for a moment. What do you really want for your child when he or she grows up? I am hoping that the answer is that you want them to be healthy, happy, kind and self-sufficient adults.
To make this happen, we need to get over ourselves and let our kids be kids.

So when you are looking for a program for your preschooler, look for places where the kids really play – inside and out. Look for places with the fun stuff to play on and open spaces where kids can run. Look for dress-up clothes and blocks and finger paint. Sure, you want somewhere that encourages learning – but they should encourage singing and dancing and making pretend dinner just as much.
And don’t be afraid to let your kid climb trees. I had a wonderful time up there – and still made it to med school.

Ron Huxley’s Comments: This post takes a balanced look at a common (if not all too common) problem of the lack of adequate play/exercise in children. It is easy to judge parents for this problem but many homes have to deal with unsafe environment or have no outside for children to play. The helpful insight of this article is that it illustrates the psychological value of play. The idea of “executive functioning” is lacking in many children and the author correctly pins this crucial development on child’s play.

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