05 May 2008

If you ignore them

they will in fact NOT go away. They will in fact follow you quite closely and whine all the louder.

Long ago and far away, when I foolishly believed that parenting books could actually help me, I recall ingesting the helpful advice that ignoring unwanted behavior would make it simply disappear. I understand the principle here: acting out is often a ploy for attention; hence, any attention, even negative attention, achieves the child's desired goal and puts the control back in his court. But in parenting, principle and practice often seem to be two very different things.

I was relieved to hear off-blog from Rebekah that excessive whining among the preschool set is not necessarily a phenomenon limited to our household. Lately, though, it's been ridiculously excessive (We've had a few things disrupting the routine around here lately, which hasn't helped, but enough is enough!)

So if anyone has whining-management techniques that have proved effective, by all means, SHARE! We've tried everything from the sugary-sweet "Oh, honey, Mommy's ears can't hear you when you use that whiney voice" (HA! Verbatim from another of those parenting books that we gave up LONG ago) to "GO TO TIME OUT RIGHT NOW AND DON'T COME OUT UNTIL YOU'RE DONE WHINING UNLESS YOU WANT A SMACK ON YOUR BOTTOM!" and quite a bit in between...and still the whining goes on. Makes the two-year-old's tantrums seem downright refreshing :P


Rebekah said...

Here's what I've been doing for a couple of days now: when something happens to catalyze the crying (ie, when something happens), I wait for him to come to me to register the offense. Then, after he warbles out his formal report, I only say, "Is crying ok?" I keep saying that until he stops crying and says crying is not ok (he knows that crying is ok if he's injured). Then I tell him I'm not interested in anything he has to say if he's crying while he says it. Then he goes away feeling betrayed and neglected and unloved, and I wonder if this is such a good idea.

I'll let you know how it works out.

Gauntlets said...

Here's what I do with my still whiny four-year-old:


"What, honey? I can't understand you?"


"You don't make a bit of sense. Did you just say *insert something inane here*?"

"*sniffle* . . . what? I didn't say that."

"Oh. Well, what did you say?"

And then he says it, whatever it is. Usually something like, "I stepped on the floor and there was carpet there!" And then I feign interest. And then he goes away.

This method only works when I am not also whining.

The end.

Rosie said...

Ew. Whining. Gross! Maybe this blog isn't the best for expectant mothers...

Pr. H. R. said...

The DCFS of IL doesn't want me to write my advice. . .

Christine said...

What works for me:

"Can you cry louder? Come on, that's nothing. Let's have a BIG scream -- you can do it!"

I keep on like a cheerleader at a pep rally. Sometimes I ask if I can scream too because it sounds like so much fun.

This technique stops my daughter cold in her tracks. Granted, she's not quite 3, so she's still rather easy to confuse.

BTW, do you ladies have a place where one can e-mail comments/questions that aren't directly related to the posts? Thanks.

Rebekah said...

Hi Christine--nice idea!:D

Talk to us off-blog at concordiansisters AT gmail DOT com. I think that's buried in one or more of our profiles for future reference.

Reb. Mary said...

Rebekah, I've had some success lately with a variation of what you're doing--"Does crying help?" and just keep asking till he finally admits that no, it does not in fact help anything. Then we work on solving the problem (if there is an actual problem!) once the crying is over. But as Gauntlets notes, this only works if I myself am not crying, ha!

pr. h.r., my husband is right there with you on this, i think...more of that good ol' man-parenting!

Rosie, don't worry--the joys outshine whine (many days, anyway), as you've no doubt already observed as an aunt.

Christine, I like the idea of a big screamfest...maybe i can get the 2 yr old to join in too! Amazing what a little humor or reverse psychology can do to restore a parent's sanity, even if it doesn't always solve the problem right away.

Glenda said...

shh, don't tell anyone but too often whining continues past 4 and into 5, and all the way to pre-pubescent girls age 12 (and I fear even further). But one secret: mommy's ears become immune and ignore most, probably too much as all of a sudden mommy erupts in her own conniption fit that is definitely not the best model for such children.

Good luck, I've given up the battle. ;-)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I'm pretty much with Rebekah and Reb. Mary on this one.

Warning: longer answer ahead.

I believe there's more than one reason for whining. The proper reaction depends upon the reason for the whining. Is he whining because he isn't capable of handling life at the moment because he's not feeling well physically? Is he overtired? Has someone done him a true injustice? Is he just being plain old selfish, whining because he's not getting his way?

Different children require different responses as well. We've had some children who respond to the right look straight in the eyes and who would be forever scarred if we reacted in the more severe fashion we have found necessary with other children.

I'd always explain to the child that whining is not the proper way to handle things, but the balance of the disciplinary content of the reaction depends upon a lot of factors. The training that must occur is usually when the whining is over. It's good to talk about these things at completely remote times as well.

Whining is also different from a temper tantrum (though it usually precedes one). You can still reason with a whining child. I believe in trying to reason the child out of the whining by saying things like what have already been recommended. If you can't reason with the child, the temper tantrum usually should be considered to have already begun.

Temper tantrums should always be contained and ignored until they're over it, even if the child is sick or tired. No excuses!

Then, when it's over, if the child is old enough to have a chat (even my 2.5 year old is capable of this) we talk about the fact that THAT type of behavior is NEVER acceptable. Don't EVER reward a temper tantrum. I often point out to the child that I might have given him what he wanted if he had talked about it without crying, but that since he had a tantrum about it, now I can't possibly give him what he wants.

Something that has worked really well for me is taking a child who is having a tantrum and put him in a room (where he can't hurt himself or others as easily) and close the door. If he comes back out before it's over, put him right back. If they don't know how to crawl out of the crib, this is a good rubber room. Don't do it in an angry way, but rather just matter-of-factly, saying "you stay in here until you're done." Sometimes I poke my head in and say "are you done?" Sometimes he will immediately calm right down and put his arms out to be held. Then I say "are you done crying?" He'll often say yes, and then we have a little chat. If it starts up again, I start heading back for the room and it usually stops immediately.

I have found over 17 years of raising six different children through this stage that if I follow this technique they learn the tantrum is not going to do them any good and they learn to talk things out rather than whining and crying and letting things rise to a tantrum state. The whining gradually disappears as the child matures in this consistent training.

We're at the point now where our 2-year-old just has to see me coming at him to pick him up and he stops his whining.

I suppose this technique is a form of "just ignoring it" because you put them out of sight where the whining or tantrum is ignored. But it's a type that doesn't really just ignore the problem, but rather trains the child toward the proper behavior. The whining and crying and tantrum type behavior improves faster the less attention you allow the child to get for it. So, "if you ignore them" has a certain level of truth to it.

Being taken out of the presence of others when you're whining and crying leaves you without any audience. But again, the attitude of the parental reaction all depends upon a consideration of all the factors involved.

Another word from experience: Make sure your child gets the sleep he needs! Tired children whine ten times more, and ten times louder, than well-rested ones.

It always makes me sad when I see a toddler being severely disciplined by a parent at one o'clock in the afternoon when you can tell the child should be home in bed taking a nap.

Good bedtime routines and well-enforced bed times are wonderful preventive maintenance! Life is MUCH happier for all involved if children get their needed sleep.

Note bene: Parents, don't expect to ever get your needed sleep. But remember, you're the adult.

Gauntlets said...

Is someone channeling Dr. Sears?

Rebekah said...


Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Gauntlets and Rebekah,

Can you let me in on the joke? Is my answer similar to what Dr. Sears recommends? I've never read him, but have heard he was a bit of a liberal wacko. What I recommended above is purely the result of trial and error over 17 years of parenting experience.

Reb. Mary pleaded: "So if anyone has whining-management techniques that have proved effective, by all means, SHARE! We've tried everything..."

I was only trying to help. If you have tried what works for us and it doesn't work for you, then try something else.

I told my wife I thought this would be a good place for her to share in respectful mutual encouragement and support. Was I wrong? If we want to be the subject of scorn and jokes we can get that from the rest of the world just fine.

Pr. H. R. said...

Dr. Heidenreich,

In my experience, the CSPP Sisters are pretty good-natured - so don't take offense. Dr. Sears is a well-known and beloved child-care guru known for his copious advice - most all of it good. So I took the Gauntlets' comment as a good-natured and humorous complement directed in your direction.

By all means, I'd encourage your beloved to read the blog and converse with the Sisters - and you'll notice how the menfolk in these parts do more lurking than anything else. It's kind of a ladies-night-out blog :)


Rebekah said...

Hi, Dr H--I'm sorry if we came off the wrong way. Dr Sears is the main book in my baby library. If I can't begin live up to his rigorous expectations, I can at least feel guilty about it. ;) And we're very glad to have your saintly wife here; I hope she'll tell us how she stores all the shoes between one kid growing out of them and the next one growing into them one of these days.

Gauntlets said...

Dr. Heidenreich,

I love Dr. Sears, for what it's worth. He was the the first great published helper I referenced when I first began childrearing, and I still consult him from time to time as crises arise.

We can use all the advice your wife has to give. We welcome another sister to our fold.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

It sounds like I just read it the wrong way. I'm sorry for taking offense. We're not very keen on childrearing "specialists" ourselves. I often cringe when I hear their advice.

To be honest, you'll probably not hear that often from my wife. She's not a big computer user. And, right now she's taking a nap. She's 32 weeks pregnant, and this is her ninth pregnancy.



Reb. Mary said...


I appreciated your concern in taking time to share helpful techniques and will ditto the appreciation of Dr. Sears--I don't go with everything he says, but he's bookmarked on our computer!

We do indeed hope to hear from your wife as she has the chance, though we certainly understand how the opportunity for a nap trumps the desire to blog :) Any sister who's got #7 on the way has a lot to offer us as we all try to muddle through!