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Monday, October 24, 2005


Stop. It. Please.

Maggie follows me to the refrigerator as I fill her bottle with milk. It starts. She grabs my leg and pulls on my jeans because she wants to be picked up. It starts. She stands by the front door and wants to go outside. It starts. I try to keep her legs from flailing about while changing her diaper. It starts. The WHINING. The Cursed, torturous sound that children make so that their parent’s heads explode. That way if Maggie can just work that pantry open, she can have all the Ritz crackers she wants. Because mommy can’t stop her because of her exploded head and all.

Why do children whine? I think I know the answer. Because it works.

I observed my mother-in-law with Maggie last week. She watches Maggie every morning while I am at work, and I was trying to learn a few tricks from the woman who raised seven children. Things just went so SMOOTHLY. I didn’t know what to make of it.

“So, does she cry a lot over here? Have you noticed she has gotten a little whiny?”

“No! Maggie is so happy all the time! Just a happy girl!”


So, apparently it’s just me! Great.

This led me to think about what I might be doing to perpetuate this ugly, eardrum piercing, headache inducing sound.

Basically, it keeps happening because I respond to it. She whines, she gets what she wants. She does it because it works. Part of me actually wants to say “SMART GIRL! Way to go Madge, you clever wee one!” But then I realize that is not the best course of action.

A child of fourteen months has a limited vocabulary. It can be difficult for them to express their desires. On one hand it is great that she is learning how to tell me what she wants. On the other hand, Grandma seems to be figuring it out without the whining. This led to my next realization.

I work full time, and I want the time Maggie and I spend together to be happy. So I have been taking a few shortcuts to prevent crying. I succumb to the whining because I want to cut it short and move on to the fun time. I need to watch this. I have seen monsters created with this exact formula. I don’t want to be one of those permissive mothers whose child runs around shrieking and pulling hair and snatching toys from other kids. The kind of mother who in her oblivion, acts like her colossal brat is the second coming of Christ or something.

So I am thinking it might be time to think about the message I give her when I respond to her whining. There is a lot or grey area there. If she is hungry, I want to feed her. If she is thirsty, I want to give her something to drink. If she wants me to pick her up, I want to hold her. In certain situations, a whine is invariably going to get her what she wants. But I can start out with the little things. I can ignore her protests as I change her diaper. I can ignore her lamentations, and read the book when she approaches me with a hopeful expression and a smile. I can ignore her racket when she wants to walk out the front door in 2 degree weather.

I hope that this leads to her developing better coping skills. Like patience and problem solving.

It is still really hard to ignore a whining child. Especially if you have figured out what it is that they want. It just feels mean to deny them. I will need to fortify my resolve with the thought that in the long run, it will be better for her, and better for me to not reward the behavior. If feels a bit “behaviorist”, like that whole Pavolovian dog-salivating at the sound of a bell thing. I have always considered myself more Paiget than Pavlov. Developmental psychology has always made more sense to me. But the whining. It must stop.

This parenthood thing is starting to get a little complicated. I cringe to think of the teenage years. Pray for us.


Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Sounds like a decent approach to me. Tacy has always been so verbal that she just TOLD us what she wanted - the true whining started when she was old enough to do XYZ, but wanted us to do XYZ FOR her.

I do tell her, "Oh please, whine some more. You know how much I love it when you whine." This just completely confounds her, and she wrinkles up her forehead and cocks her head to the side and reminds me, "But you don't like it when I whine."

Never too early to introduce them to the fine art of sarcasm.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous pjindy said...

Me wonders if it not the "juice", the "walk" the "book" or the candy she wants, but her mother's attention. When you can, give it undivided and totally focused.

12:25 PM  
Blogger God's Child said...

have you already tried whining back?

12:35 PM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

It only takes about one second of whining to drive me crazy. I have a short fuse for the whining. My advice (which I need to follow more often myself) is to ignore the whining.

Also, I agree with the poster who thinks it's an AGM (attention getting mechanism). Maybe a hug and a cuddle and a kiss (but not the cookie) will distract your daughter, satisfy her needs, and put an end to that moment's whining. Worth a try, at least.

1:25 PM  
Blogger cmhl said...

if you figure out how to curb the whining, PLEASE let me know.. in my case at least, it is more of a "girl thing".. my daughter can't seem to talk without whining. it makes me crazzzzzzzzzy.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous amy said...

I am working on igoring the whining while diaper changing, but I can't seem to figure out how to prevent the rolling over - twisting and turning - and attempts to crawl away - that foil my attempts to diaper my boy. Does Madge do that? If so, do you have an answer? Wishing you the best of luck with the whining - it makes my head explode as well

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I agree with god's child. When I whine back it really irritates my daughter, and she stops. But my girl is 3 1/2, so she should be old enough to know better. Sometimes I think she does it just to push my buttons. :-)

10:21 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Meghan! Get this book:


Seriously. It is freaking fantastic.

10:59 AM  
Blogger missjackie said...

I don't have any kids, but from time to time I whine back at my students. Like God's Child suggests, it works pretty darn well. :-)

12:05 PM  

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