Without the Whine, Thank You
Professional marriage, parent, and family life coach and published author, Kindred Howard shares how he deals with whining. www.familyupward.com, www.cavemeninbabyland.com
Most kids whine. Normally, they whine because they don’t want to do something they’ve been told to do, or because they want something they’ve been told they cannot have. In my family, it’s mostly my six- and four-year-old sons who provide the whining. If tag-team whining were an Olympic sport, I’m confident my boys would win the gold medal, probably defeating the French by the narrowest of margins.
Take the other day. I told my sons that they could not play until they straightened up the garage. My sons whined and complained as if I had just asked them both to donate a bodily organ without the benefit of anesthesia.
Needless to say, I didn’t relent. “If you guys want to whine and wail instead of cleaning, that’s fine,” I said. “Just know that you will not play until my garage is back in order. If you can clean it in an hour then an hour from now you’ll be at your friend’s house having a ball. But if it takes a week then you won’t see your buddies for a whole week. Either way is okay with me so long as my garage gets cleaned. It’s totally up to you.” And I left it at that. They finally accepted their fate and cleaned the garage—without parental assistance!
I’ve found that there are two effective methods to dealing with whining:
Method 1 – Ignore and Insist: I just ignore their whiney complaining and insist that they do what I said without compromise. This is the approach I took with the garage. “Whine all you want, but you will not play until this garage is clean.” I fine this method works well with outside projects or in situations where I won’t be disturbed by the ongoing crying and complaining.
Method 2 – Dismiss and Impose: I simply dismiss the whiner from my presence and the task at hand, then impose consequences for his or her lack of obedience. I find this method very useful when I’m in no mood to hear the house ring with sounds of “Daddy, I don’t want to… Daddy, that’s unfair… Daddy, why do I have to… Daddy, you are trying to work me to def…”
I’ll tell my kid what to do. Then, when he starts to whine or question in a complaining fashion, I’ll simply say, “Don’t worry about picking up your toys (or cleaning the basement, or wiping off the kitchen table) I’ll do it.” The great thing is that whenever I say, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it,” my kids normally get their act together, cut out the whining, and do what I ask.
The reason? They’ve learned that when I say “I’ll do it,” it means that my “doing it” comes with a price. I’m not going to be one of these parents who constantly have to repeat myself, yell, threaten, or “remind” my kids in order to get them to obey me. Nope, I’m going to have more fun than that.
If I tell my kids what to do and they whine, complain, or blow me off, then I’ll just do the chore myself—then extract payment in the form of a child having to spend a full day (maybe a couple of days) in his or her room, or a week of early bedtimes, or perhaps even revoking the privilege of attending a classmates birthday party or going to a sleepover.
This approach is effective for one simple reason: my kids have learned from experience that I’ll follow through. Seriously, there have been times when I have literally seen my kids dive across a room to pick up a toy before I can get there because they don’t want to find out what unpleasant consequence is waiting on the other side of dad relieving them of their duties.
We parents deeply love our kids. But our children have to learn to clean up their own messes and deal with even unpleasant circumstances without whining, complaining, or expecting someone else to do the dirty work. Our children have to learn that privileges come with responsibilities. And they have to learn to tackle those responsibilities without the whine, thank you.