Jack's mother is going crazy! Jack is whining out every request from "milk!" to "no!' to "pleeeeease?". His mother keeps telling him to stop whining. "When you stop whining, you can have your milk." Jack whines more. His mother wonders why he is doing this and how she can get him to stop.
The tendency to whine seems to be built in to some stages of development. Perhaps it's what Dr. T.Berry Brazelton calls a "touchpoint" - a rocky time before a new developmental surge occurs (crawling, walking, language, etc.) Sometimes parents accidentally reward whining by getting the child something he wants quickly in order to shut down the whining. This rapid pay-off usually ensures more whining, because it may seem to the child that it worked well.
I've always advocated that parents purposefully ignore whining for about twenty minutes at a time while they appear not to be listening and going about their business. After twenty or so minutes, I've suggested that they now deliberately give their child some attention (perhaps even granting their wish), by offering a book or a snack, etc. Saying something like "OK, I'm done now, let's go get a snack.." gives the child the impression that he has your attention finally because you are not busy any more, rather than because he whined long enough.
However, I watched a parent recently who did things just a little differently. As he and his son were forging their way through their day, the two year old whined plenty. He seems to be in a disgruntled stage these last few days for reasons unknown, as yet, to the parent. When the child whined that he wanted "moooore" pasta and held his plate up, the father never mentioned or addressed the whining, but casually said "Oh, you want some more pasta?" And got the pasta. The reasoning here was that the father felt the request was legitimate and it was only the manner of asking that was not. So he purposefully ignored the manner of asking, but casually granted the request. The happy father's report is that within a few days he realized the child wasn't whining any more. Each time a legitimate request was whined out, the father repeated it in a calm, polite style. If the request was illegitimate ("more caaaake!"), the father said no more cake in a firm but neutral manner, and ignored any resulting temper tantrum by turning away or walking away.
We can't "cure" whining, but we can learn to handle it well, knowing it is a stage which will pass, perhaps faster, with our low-key responses. This father's style gives us a more finely-tuned version of purposeful ignoring.
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