Let’s look at 4 ways to end the whining while keeping your cool and empowering your child to control their own behaviour so you don’t have to!
1. Close the loop
The first premise of Language of Listening® is: Everything children do and say is a communication, and children must continue to communicate until they are heard.
Your toddler will keep whining and getting louder and louder and even more aggressive as they try to communicate to you what they want or need.
I call this the broken loop because if we don’t close the loop, if we don’t hear what our child is trying to communicate, we don’t give our child any other option than for the whining, crying and fussing to increase.
So often we can dismiss this behaviour as manipulative and our child trying to get their way. I like looking at it as our child just trying to feel heard and understood.
The first step to stop the whining and bring some calm back to the situation is to acknowledge your child’s wants.
Here’s an example.
Rather than saying, “How many times do I have to tell you? We’re not having ice-cream before dinner. I said NO!”
Try saying something like, “Hmmm, you Love ice-cream. It’s soooo yummy, and you would love to eat it allllll day! And it’s dinner time in 10 minutes.”
You can and should still hold your boundaries, but by first acknowledging your child’s wants, you’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes.
So many of my clients tell me that using Language of Listening’s first step of Say What You See® drastically changes their child’s behaviour in moments.
2. Change your perspective
The truth is your child sees the world very differently to you. Often, we’re so busy pushing our child through our agenda that we forget to slow down and notice the world through their eyes.
Contemplating things from your child’s view allows you to understand why they are whining.
We can be so quick to judge what they want as insignificant (and we all know how a toddler whines for the most insignificant of things!). However, when our child reverts to whining, it’s a sure sign they are trying to show you what’s important to them.
Remember, that acknowledging your child’s wants is not the same as agreeing with them and doesn’t mean that you have to change your boundary.
3. Look behind the behaviour to the need.
All behaviours are driven by three healthy needs: experience, connection and power. Whatever children are doing is already meeting their needs.
Our children have an unwavering drive to get their needs met. Unfortunately, our child’s strategies to get their needs met often don’t work in the way we like as in this case with whining to be heard and understood.
That’s why it’s so important for us to teach our children to get their needs met in a way we do like.
What does my child need?
Experience: Mastery of physical body through experiential and sensory exploration
Connection: Feeling noticed, understood, validated, loved, sense of importance & belonging
Power: Feeling confident, in control of self, able to make an impact on the world
Meeting your child’s needs is the only way to help them change their behaviour. When you focus on getting your child’s needs met in a way that you do like, the whining will automatically stop.
Recognising and helping your child meet their needs helps them feel more settled, less anxious and able to return to a calmer state.
What does helping a child meet their needs look like in a toddler’s life?
How can you help him get his need for experience met in a way you DO like?
Does he have plenty of time to play, explore, move his body? You know a toddler who’s been sitting for too long is going to be climbing the walls and whining to let you know he wants and needs to move.
How can you help her get her need for connection met in a way you DO like?
Does she have plenty of your undivided attention? Does she feel like your eyes light up when she walks into the room? Does she feel like she matters to you? Or is too much time spent telling her off or telling her what to do?
You know a toddler who lacks a positive connection is going to meet that need for connection anyway she knows how – whining sure fits the bill!
How can you help him get his need for power met in a way you DO like?
Does he feel confident and that he gets things ‘right’? Are you using STRENGTHs to point out his greatness? Does he get to make decisions and have choices over his life? You know an average toddler hears 17 commands every half hour. No wonder they stop listening and start whining to get some power back!
4. Helping your child change their own behaviour.
All children already have every possible inner strength. Take that in for a moment! Your child already is helpful, kind, generous, friendly, motivated, self-controlled, considerate… it’s already there.
Looking for their strengths and bringing them out helps your child see themselves in that light, too.
Why is that important?
Because children act according to who they believe they are. Often when they’re whining to get their needs met, we tell them off, shout at them and punish them. This leads them to feel even more misunderstood, powerless or that they can’t get it right, and you guessed it – straight into the behaviour you don’t want to see.
So, what does bringing out STRENGTHs look like?
When you SEE something your child is doing or saying that you do LIKE, you name a STRENGTH.
“You really wanted ice-cream, and you calmly asked. That took self-control.”
“You got all upset, and you calmed down. You knew what you needed to do to calm yourself down!”
“It’s hard to wait. You wanted to go on the swing, too, and you waited your turn. That’s patience!”
Point out a STRENGTH, change a behaviour.
If you have a persistent whiner or grumbler on your hands, this won’t change things overnight. To reverse this habit your child needs persistent practice and proof they CAN get their needs and wants met without whining.
However, when you focus your attention on helping your child get their needs met in a way you do LIKE and use STRENGTHs to point out their greatness, you will see whining become a thing of the past.
Want more help and examples of what to say to bring out more of your child’s inner STRENGTHs? Check out my downloadable books: Download now