Are you feeling frustrated because your child seems to whine about everything? Are you unsure on what you can do to help stop the whining? To help understand common mistakes parents make when dealing with their whining child and how a parent can help eliminate their child’s whining behavior, I have interviewed therapist Dr. Ann Thomas.
Q. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A. “I’m a psychotherapist, teacher, coach and writer with a background in both child development and psychology.”
Q. What common mistakes do parents make when dealing with their whining child?
A. “There are four types of responses that are mistakes, either because they’re ineffective in changing the child’s behavior or because they create damage to the parent child relationship or to the child’s emotional development.”
“The first is to respond without understanding why the child is whining in the first place. Whining can signal any number of feelings or conditions. A child may whine because of fatigue or stress, or even the beginning of illness. Or whining could have become a habit because in the past it has been an effective way to get something the child wanted. Sometimes whining is for attention, or as a way to control or distract, or even an indication of discouragement or early depression.”
“Because children have limited experience, they need a lot of help as they try to figure out how to connect with others in life. Some of this help comes from a parent interpreting what may be going on physically or emotionally.”
“Sometimes parents try to ignore whining. That approach seldom changes the behavior, and could cause it to escalate. I think there are times, as over worked as today’s parents are, when they either fail to notice the whining or, if they do, lack the energy to deal with it, and that leads to a third common mistake, which is inconsistency. Inconsistency is a mistake because it encourages children to “take their chances and play the odds.””
“The fourth, and perhaps most damaging response occurs when a parent becomes angry and lashes out or decides to punish. Punishment, which influences a child through fear, will often eliminate an undesirable behavior, but creates long lasting emotional damage to an individual’s personality.”
Q. What type of impact do those mistakes have on the parent child relationship?
A. “The primary impact is usually on the child’s development because the child is learning and practicing through repetition a variety of ways to get what he or she wants, and whining, or its adult equivalent of manipulation, is frowned on in society at large.”
“The danger in the parent child relationship is usually escalating anger. Sooner or later adults tire of a whining child and become angry but if the child doesn’t know other ways of dealing with issues, the whining will only become repressed and anger will build on that side as well.”
Q. What can a parent do to help eliminate the whining?
A. “First is to take a guess at why. Parents are usually very good at understanding what their child is experiencing if they take a moment to think about it. When they come up with the cause, the next steps are to name the condition, in some situations suggest a better way to communicate, perhaps offer an alternative, and then say something that will be a decision to what is being whined about.”
“For example, at the grocery store, Bryan is whining for a box of cookies. Mom guesses fatigue and boredom. The response would look something like “I know you’re tired and this is really boring, but I’d like you to use your “big boy” voice. We can’t get cookies, but help me find the peaches and we’ll hurry and leave.”
“The guidelines for a response focus on the concept of understanding and teaching instead of allowing the situation to descend into a power struggle with anger and often tears.”
Q. What type of professional help is available for a parent who is feeling frustrated when it comes to their child’s whining behavior?
A. “There is a lot of great parenting groups around, so that’s often a good choice. For people who enjoy reading, there are books that can help. Whining: 3 Steps to Stopping It Before the Tears and Tantrums Start by Ricker and Crowder is an exceptionally good resource. There are also people who do coaching, often via the telephone or on the computer through email or Skype and finally there are counselors and family therapists who are skilled in family and child development issues.”
Thank you Dr. Thomas for doing the interview on how a parent can help eliminate their child’s whining behavior. For more information about Dr. Ann Thomas or her work you can check out her website on www.dr-annthomas.com.
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