Not my best parenting moment.
My four-year-old son and I were running late. It’s always where my blow-ups happen.
We had left Target and were driving to pick up my daughter from her day camp when I noticed it… that orange light on the dashboard.
I only had 7 miles left in the tank.
OK, I can do this. I can hit the Circle K on the way to camp. As I cross the intersection, I notice the station is packed – I’ve never seen so many cars! Every pump occupied.
Ooohh… except one. I pull a fancy backup maneuver and sidle up to the pump.
“Mommy, I’m hot,” my four-year-old son tells me from the backseat.
I reassure him I’ll be fast as I jump out of the car and try to pump gas in record time.
Only 5 minutes until pickup and my daughter’s camp is still 2 miles away. Eeek…
I punch in my rewards number, swipe the credit card, place the pump into the gas nozzle and woo hoo.. Gas is flowing.
Ok.. this will be OK, I told myself. I’ll make it.
As I put my credit card back in my wallet, a wail erupts from the backseat.
“MOOOOOOMMM… I AM SO HOT!!!”
Yes, yes it is hot. We live in Phoenix. The summer is horrendous.
And I lose it. He had such an overblown reaction to something that we deal with EVERY SINGLE day.
All my knowledge about dealing with kid’s tantrums flew out the window.
“FINE” I bark at him, “FINE”.
I stop the gas pump and yank it from the nozzle. Gasoline drips on the concrete. I shove it back on its cradle and slam the car door.
As I peel out of the parking lot, I hear, “I’m sorry Mommy”.
Me: “I can’t talk right now, I’m way to angry”
And we ride in silence to pick up my daughter.
Whining twists this little nerve inside you…
It goes back to hearing our babies cry.
When they were little helpless newborns, the cry is what helps them get food and attention.
But now, NOW… the whining gets on our last nerves.
We’ll do anything to make it stop. Sometimes, even the unthinkable…
Let’s not do that. Goodness knows, I’ve given in on multiple occasions because in the moment it just seems easier than hearing the whine any longer. I’m simply too tired to resist anymore.
Many of the strategies here require mega amounts of patience to implement, so before we get into that.
Know when enough is enough…
The best mom is a happy mom so recognize when you are at your own limit.
If your child has been whining all afternoon or you’re:
- Hurting, or
Know that you are at your limit and that you can’t parent effectively. This is when you let yourself off the hook.
The phrases I go to are:
- “I’m too mad right now and you need to stop whining.”
- “I need a break to calm down.” – At which point, I lay on the couch in my living room with my arm over my eyes for 5-10 minutes.
Your emotions are real and I know how hard it is to reign them in. Before we teach our kids to control their emotions, we need to get ours in check.
And that’s hard. So, if you find that you are angry about the whining, be O.K. in taking a few moments to yourself before you try any of these strategies.
Ready? Here we go:
Give a do over
Best used for the first whine of the day. The do-over works like magic because it gives your child the opportunity to practice the socially desired behavior. No shame necessary.
Yesterday, my son didn’t know which book he wanted to read. Apparently, a big problem.
Son: “I don’t knooooow what I want to read Mommmmyy”
Me: “Hold up. I know you can ask me in your strong boy voice. Try it again”
Son: “I dooonnn’t wannt toooo… IIII caaannt”
(Nope this isn’t easy)
We wait. I leave to the living room. A few minutes later, he walks in, his blond head bowed low.
Son: “I found what to read. Will you read it to me?”
Me: “Of course. Come here”
Talk about the whining at another time
At the end of the story, I saw he was calm and ready to talk.
That’s when we talk about events in a logical way. When our kids are calm, they are ready to hear us and listen.
Me: When you whine, it really hurts my ears.
Son: I’m sorry.
Me: What can you do instead of whining?
Son: I don’t know.
It’s ok if you ask leading questions at this point. Many times, kids really don’t know what the desirable behavior is.
Me: Can you ask me in the strong voice you used when you came into the living room?
And that’s really all we can do.
After the gas station incident I talked about above, we chatted 15 minutes later – after I calmed down – about other ways my son could communicate to me that he was hot.
He agreed to ask in a strong voice instead of yelling and whining.
Has he since then? Not consistently, but those times he remembers, he mentions them to me, saying: “Look mommy, I was upset and asked you calmly.”
Connect and hug
Then there are some days where everything turns into whining.
Drop a toy? Complete meltdown.
Cup the wrong color? Inconsolable
Sister being mean? Whine. Scream. Hit.
That’s when something else is going on.
No amount of time outs, redirects or do-overs will cut it.
If the afternoon turns into one constant whine, it’s time to drop everything and hug it out.
I swear… sometimes – as bad as it sounds to say out loud – this is the last thing I want to do. These afternoons are usually the times I’m the busiest, the house is messy and I have a million things to do.
But… but, it solves the whining the quickest. (And usually, its exactly what I need too)
I bring my kids over to the couch and I hold them. We sit there curled up, not doing anything. Often, after five minutes they start telling me what’s actually wrong.
Because it’s usually not the toy, cup or sibling, but rather that they’re tired from a long day or their stomach hurts.
Stop the whining
The best way to deal with whining is when you are calm and have your emotions under control. Once you take your much deserved break, try a do-over where your child gets to practice the behavior.
When your kid calms down, ask her how she can handle the situation next time it happens, asking leading questions if necessary.
And if all this fails, taking a time-out together may be all everyone needs.
Be strong mama, you got this.
Need more positive discipline strategies? I recommend: