Delivering Discipline - Wrangling Whining

Module three : Lesson four


Have you ever noticed your child whining over everything? Do you feel like everything you say is met with a complaint? Sometimes whining has a way of just really getting under our skin and making everything so much harder than it has to be. I think the best thing to do is to bear in mind that when children are whining, a lot of the times this comes from a place of discouragement. They're feeling overwhelmed. Maybe they feel spent from the day, maybe they just got back from a play date and their brains are just tired of all the social interactions, or maybe they've been on their iPad for an hour, maybe two hours of watching TV, and chances are good that their brain is not going to be receptive to the instructions that we are placing. That means that coping for them might look like following you around and complaining and whining rather than listening.

I want to encourage you that if you were struggling with a little whiner at home, to start simple. Remember to be empathetic in the moment to recognize the fact that their brains are most likely discouraged and overwhelmed, which is why we're seeing this difficult behavior, but there is a solution to it and that is starting simple. This is where we start to explore a little bit of behavior science versus high probability and low probability. A high probability demand means that there is a good chance that your child will engage in it as soon as you ask them to. This might be a high five, a quick cuddle. This might be a request for information, can you show me what you are making in your room? Can you show me what you were drawing? What kind of animal is that? There are simple questions, there are very simple demands that we can make that we know have a good chance of children engaging in.

Then there's low probability demands. This might be put your shoes on so we can get in the car. This might be eat your vegetables. We all know that there are certain instructions that we're going to give, that children might start to resist and they might start to whine around them. What I encourage families to do is to start simple and work your way up. This allows your child to get into that more cooperative state, before placing a big demand like put your shoes on, it's time to leave the birthday party.

Starting simple might look like, give me a high five, tell me what you're doing, sitting on the floor with them, making those strong connections, of course, focusing on empowerment through choices which we've already explored. Now we're just adding that next step of starting simple and building our way up.

A great example of this is, I was working with a family and their little boy who was four and a half, he struggled with cleaning up his own mess. As a matter of fact, it would get so difficult sometimes for mom to get him to clean his mess that she kind of just gave up and started doing it for him versus arguing, and debating with him, and listening to all the whining that was inevitable every time she said, let's clean up your toys so you can go to bed, let's clean up your toys so you can get a bath, let's clean up your toys so we can have dinner. She would just do it for him. She just completely stopped placing the demand because the whining just really was starting to get under her skin. What we did instead was we started small.

Rather than saying something big like, clean the room, which seems like an epic instruction, rather than that, we broke it down into small bite sized pieces. Started with a high five, then can you give me the cow and what does the cow say? Can you give me the blue blocks? Thank you. Can you put those in the box, right? Can you put the red Lego on the table.

You can see how we broke it down into small pieces, and then we slowly started to build from there. Can you put all the Lego in the box? Wow, what great cleaning. What about those books? Shall we put the books on the table or on the bookshelf? Again, we use choices to empower him while he was listening so beautifully. It was a way of keeping him motivated while we increased the demand. Within a couple minutes, he had cleaned the entire area and the place looked great, and mom was so impressed with him. She was like, that was amazing, he listened so beautifully and he didn't whine it all because he was engaged, he was having fun, and it was simplified in order to increase his success.

Starting small and building your way up is a very powerful way to boost cooperation and regulation in the moment and to help your child make better decisions.


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