Whining drives almost every parent crazy. It is often triggered with just one little word — No. No matter how one delivers this verdict, no matter how nicely and considerate of our young child’s desire, the whining can begin… “But, Mooooom!” The vowels are drawn out and the voice reaches supersonic frequencies.
My 7th grade composition class* noted that there are different types of whining depending on the manipulation that is being applied:
- The Guilt-Trip Whine: “You don’t loooove me! You neeever loved me!”
- The Comparison Whine (looking at a sibling) That’s not fair! You never let me dooo that!”
- The Blame Whine or Tattle Tale Whine or Alarm Whine (at the top of one’s lungs, designed to catch a parent’s attention): “Ouch, Billy. You’re huuurting me!”
- The Victim Whine: “I always have to dooo this! You never make (sibling’s name) do this!”
- The Greedy Whine: “You never buy mee anyyyythiiiing! I gotta have it! I’ll die without it!”
- Manipulating Whine: “But Dad alwaaays let’s me.” “But Mom alwaaays let’s me.”
The temptation is to engage and try to reason with your little taunter. If you could only convince him/her of the unjustness of his/her feelings, then the whining will stop, right? So, you remind your child that you bought something in the last store. You do love your child, since you feed and care for him/her. The clothes that they are wearing and the shoes on their feet are testimonies to your undying devotion. One question: Has that ever worked?
Steps to reducing whining…
- Don’t cave in: The temptation is to buy that thing, give the cookie before dinner, let the child stay up an extra half hour. Anything to stop the ear piercing whining. You know what they say, never negotiate with terrorists. The demands will only escalate. You have now trained a whiner to keep whining. Why? Because it works!
- Let whining backfire on your child: There were a couple of sure-fire ways in our family to get a firm no without any later compromise. The first was whining. If the daughter tried to whine, she was out of luck. The verdict would automatically go to no. (Even if the request was almost reasonable. We wanted to cut off whining at the root.) The second, by the way, was when they would ask if a friend could come over with the friend standing there next to them. We did not allow our girls to try to apply the pressure of embarrassing us.
- Pretend to not hear whining: Yes, you read that right. My wife practiced this trickery when the girls were really young. She would stare at their moving lips like she was deaf. Then she would ask, “Are you whining? Maybe that’s why I can’t hear you. My ears can’t hear whining.” She would gesture and stare as if she could not hear a word that was being said until the decibels and frequencies were dropped to the range of humans talking. When Abby came 3 1/2 years later, Hope cut her off in the midst of the whine, “Stop whining; she can’t hear you.” And she continued the request for her in a level voice. If you prefer not to play these games with your child, then simply ignore the whining. If you apply #2, then the whining should taper off quickly.
- Whining is not a sign of suffering. Your child is not under any real duress, no matter how pitiful your son or daughter can get. It is simply an attempt to get one’s way. Remember, even littles are born with a sin nature — the inner urge that says, “I want what I want when I want it.”
Older children are perhaps more subtle. But the instinct to whine, to phrase things in a whining manner, to use guilt to manipulate us is still there throughout their childhood years. Thus, as the girls got older I moved up to the opening line: “Do you serve any cheese with that whine?” My daughters quickly recognized the correction and shifted into adult to adult conversation mode to reason for their request. From what I learned about their work performance, their promotions, their recognitions for jobs well done, I am assuming that this training to not manipulate, starting with childhood whining, was well learned and it has served them well.
May you enjoy a household free of whining, Christopher
*Ironically, opening up this topic to my 7th graders uncorked a whole load of ploys that they use to manipulate their parents. What devious ideas do your children have up their sleeves?