In a Nutshell: Say what you mean, and say it without whining
I once babysat two kids I didn’t know well who only stopped whining long enough to eat a snack and take enough quick breaths to sustain their complaining. They must have been practicing the high-pitched tone, the I-just-ate-a-pickle-face, and the scrunched up posture especially for our day together, because they had it down. I endured the day, and eagerly awaited their mother’s arrival. As they were fighting with her about getting ready to leave, I heard a high-pitched voice say, “You guuuuyyys! Knock it oooofff! Get in the car now.” Like an unwelcome flashback, I heard the same whiny voice I’d been trying to block out all day, but this time it was coming from momma.
After that babysitting day from you know where, I was more aware of the similarities between the voice tone used by adults, and the voice tone used by their kids. And (gulp) I became more aware of how my own whiny voice came back to haunt me through my kids.
Do you ever sound like this poor, under-appreciated buzzard? When a child doesn’t clean their room, do you simply set a reward/consequence for their choice, or do you say something like, “I work so hard to keep this whole house clean! You guys don’t even care what I do around here. You can’t even keep one tiny little room clean. You expect me to do everything.” It may be true, but it is a certified parent whine. At times it can be useful to have a good heart to heart with a child who needs to understand your perspective, but the martyr attitude accomplishes nothing. Instead of whining, be direct. If a child talks back, don’t launch into a tragic soliloquy about your 19-hour labor without any pain medication, just repeat your instruction and let the consequences finish teaching. If kids complain about dinner, don’t start into how you’re dead on your feet but still sacrificed to put food on their plates, just ignore the junk talk or be creative (one friend, fed-up with dinner whining, fed her teenagers oatmeal for dinner for a week!).
How do you handle whining from kids?
1. Monitor your own voice tone, facial expressions, and body language. Don’t mirror the whine. Remember…you’re the grown-up!
2. Do not answer questions put forward in a whiny voice, or give children anything they whine for.
3. Set expectations and be direct. Here’s some ideas: “I can’t understand what you want when you ask that way.” “Let’s try that again in your big boy voice.” “We can talk about that when you’re using a respectful voice.” My very favorite line to use with little kids is: “I’ll talk to you when your voice is as sweet as mine.” I like it because it reminds both of us not to whine!