I’ve never met a parent who likes—no, is even okay with—whining. For me it was like nails on a blackboard. Many parents don’t know of another torture that would be worse.
Whining is as developmental and normal in a toddler’s life as discovering the pleasure of saying “no”. Don’t think about teaching your child not to do it. Do think about ways you can help yourself deal with it calmly and perhaps shorten it’s duration. Here are a few:
1. Don’t call it whining. It’s very hard to talk to your child about whining without being critical and blaming. “Stop whining.” “I can’t hear you when you’re whining.” These proclamations will not get you what you want. It may only make it worse.
2. Make a compassionate association when you hear it. Can you instead think about how frustrated your child is feeling—even if it’s over something you won’t allow. I once heard Aletha Salter say that whining is stuck crying. A child who whines is actually trying hard not to cry so the cry gets stuck. Sometimes validation of the frustration will bring on the crying which eliminates the whine—for now.
3. Don’t try to teach anything during the whining. As soon as the whining is past and you hear your child’s “normal” voice, name it. “There’s the Sarah voice. What shall we name the voice you use when you feel really frustrated?” Let your child name it. Then when you hear the whine, you can say, “I hear the ‘—-‘ voice. Do you need to use that or can you use the Sarah voice?” You might name a couple of different voices you use as well.
4. Give the connection that is really needed. If you don’t think you have to teach your child to stop whining, when you hear it, get down to your child’s level and validate the frustration. “You really wish I could do what you want. I know I would want that too if I were you. Will you take a hug for now?”
5. Pay attention to the times your child doesn’t whine. It’s so easy to focus on the tones you hate to hear, but how often do you acknowledge the times your child does a good job coping. Whenever your child doesn’t whine when she asks for what she wants, notice it. “You really know how to ask for what you want. I like that.”
Know that this too will pass—even though it may seem like an eternity.