parenting

Children Whine?

Why do children whine?

children whineWhy do children whine? Because it works! When children whine, parent’s instinctual reaction is to respond to the whining child.

I always tell parents whining is a learned behavior and parents are the teachers. It begins when they are infants. They cry because they’re hungry, tired, or need a diaper change and we respond. As they become more verbal and are able to use their words to communicate many of their wants and needs, we continue to respond to whining. At the point when they are fully capable of communicating with their words – we continue to respond but usually with an irritated tone or a reprimand such as, “please don’t whine”, “use your big girl voice” or “I’m not going to answer you when you whine.” (Guess what – you just did?)

Even though the attention we provide as a result of whining isn’t necessarily positive – they still get a “hit” of attention. What they really want is our positive attention, but in the absence of positive attention, they’ll take the negative attention every time.

To put an end to whining, we have to make sure we’re giving plenty of positive attention when they aren’t asking for it. (Proactively fill their attention basket in positive ways.)

To remove the payoff for negative demands for attention such as whining, don’t respond – just walk away. This works for children ages 1-18! Instead of saying “use your big boy voice” – don’t say a thing! NO WORDS! When you hear the whiny tone, just turn around and calmly walk away. He will get the message that “a whiny voice doesn’t help me get what I want.”

Here’s the deal…children WILL have their needs for attention met – one way or another. If we don’t fill their attention baskets in positive ways – they will use negative attention-seeking behaviors. They know it works and that’s why they continue it!

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Disciplining Other People’s Children

Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling
Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling
Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling

Have you ever seen children acting up in the grocery store…and not just acting up, but being downright obnoxious? What do you do?

It takes every fiber of your being to just walk by when you really want to go over and discipline them. You think if you say something it will help the child and the parent to learn a lesson in effective discipline strategies. But is that the case?

Is it okay to discipline another person’s child?

As tempting as it may be, it’s not appropriate to discipline another person’s child except in 2 situations.

Read More
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The Spanking Debate Continues…


A segment on The Today Show discussed the recent poll by babycenter.com that reports that 49% of Americans spank their kids.

The debate rages on. Is it okay to spank your kids? If so – under what circumstances?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking under any circumstance. They state “although most Americans were spanked as children, we now know that it has several important side effects.” They site the following outcomes:

  • Even though spanking may seem to “work” at first, it loses its impact after a while
  • Because most parents do not want to spank, they are less likely to be consistent
  • Spanking increases aggression and anger instead of teaching responsibility
  • Parents may intend to stay calm but often do not, and then regret their actions later
  • Spanking can lead to physical struggles and even grow to the point of harming the child

A recent study from Duke University concluded that spanking does indeed affect a child’s development. In the study, children who were spanked more often at the age of 1 behaved more aggressively when they were 2 and had lower scores on tests that measured thinking when they were 3.

The Duke study went on to say “when parents use physical discipline through childhood, their children experience more behavior problems in adolescence.”

What if the child runs out into the street?

When the child does something dangerous – is that a good reason on spank? I often hear this question from parents. To which I ask a few questions:

  • If your young child runs into the street and you spank her, are you willing to allow her to play unsupervised in the front yard tomorrow? (They usually respond with “of course not.”)
  • Well, you gave her a spanking, why not? (“Well, I can’t feel certain she learned the lesson.”)
  • How many times would you have to spank her before you could be sure she would learn the lesson?

The point of this discussion is not to “judge” parents, but to help them understand that spanking isn’t effective for long-term behavior change.

When our kids are processing pain, anxiety, fear or shame, they aren’t learning for the future. They aren’t thinking about how to make a better decision next time.

More effective strategies for keeping a young child safe is close supervision and being very clear about the consequences. “If you go outside of the yard, we will go inside for the rest of the day.”

Then, ask the child to repeat back the rule and the consequence for going out of the yard. (If she is too young to repeat back to you – then close supervision is the only strategy that you should use.)

If she goes outside of the yard – don’t repeat or remind! Very calmly say, “I see you decided to play inside for the rest of the day.” She’ll learn much more from following through on the consequence than from our lecture or our hand on her butt.

Spanking sends the wrong messages.

It teaches our kids:

  • It’s okay to let out your anger and frustration by hitting someone else. (That’s what we’re trying to teach our kids NOT to do!)
  • A stronger, more powerful person is justified to exert his power over a smaller, weaker person.

Physical punishment also encourages lying. What reasonable child would want to tell the truth when he knows that pain, humiliation, anxiety and shame are going to follow?

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that we could make kids do better by making them feel worse?” (Jane Nelsen, Ph.D.)

Whether you are among the 49% of parents who spank or not, my mission is giving parents the positive discipline tools so they don’t feel the need to spank. Remember, the word “discipline” comes from the Latin root “discipulus” which mean a pupil, student or learner.

Disciplining our children means training them to behave in appropriate ways and holding them accountable with dignity and respect so they learn to make better choices in the future.

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Good Parent Sportsmanship

The line between being a supportive, engaged, sports-loving parent and applying too much pressure on kids is easily crossed. To avoid embarrassing your child and making him/her feel more pressure than he/she already feels about playing the game – we recommend these strategies:

During the Game

Avoid criticizing referees. This teaches the child to have a victim mentality and reinforces that it’s okay to blame others for his/her performance. Even if the call is wrong, the referee is doing his/her best.

Use ENCOURAGING comments during the game. Save constructive feedback for one-on-one discussions with your child after the emotion of the game has passed.

Avoid coaching from the sidelines. Nothing frustrates a coach more than when a parent yells, “shoot the ball” when the play intended for your child to “pass the ball

Show unconditional support. Immediately following the game – win or lose – put your arm around your child and give encouraging feedback.

After the Game

Focus on effort and improvement versus winning or losing. If the child believes it’s all about winning – he may come to believe he can never please you. Comment on the improvement since the beginning of the season or since last year. Acknowledge how his/her extra practice is showing on the field. footballThe child will naturally bring up the topic of whether the team won or lost. Celebrate wins – but tie them to specific behaviors. What did your team do (or did you do) that contributed to the win? Same thing for losses – what could your team/you do differently next time?

Counter-balance your child’s complaints about the referee. Remind the child that both teams had the same referee and like players, some referees are more skilled and experienced than others. It’s part of playing sports.

Come Clean. If you do “lose it” during a game, come clean with your child after the game. Let him/her know that you were frustrated/angry with the referee/the other team, etc. – but it is NOT OKAY to demonstrate that frustration/anger with yelling and behaving poorly from the sidelines.

This teaches your child that feelings are okay – but the way you express those feelings is not always okay. Apologize for embarrassing your child (even if he says he wasn’t embarrassed – assume he was) and reinforce that this is an area you are working on improving. You will earn great respect in the your child’s eyes by “coming clean.”

There’s a lot to cheer for when it comes to athletics. Not only do our kids develop a sense of teamwork and stay in shape, they develop traits such as responsibility, accountability and resilience. Follow these tips to be your child’s biggest fan on and off the field.

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“Date Night”

mother and son photo

When I mention “date night” to my husband, he gets a very happy look on his face! In this article, I’m talking about a different kind of date – one between you and your child.

I encourage you to “schedule dates” with your children on a regular basis. A “date” is defined as a “one-on-one outing between parent and child.”

That’s ONE parent and ONE child. The benefits to date nights/days with your kids are as follows:

  • While family time is important also – one-on-one dates give the child an opportunity to have mom or dad ALL to himself. He doesn’t have to compete with a sibling or your spouse for your time and attention. It’s a HUGE dose of positive attention!
  • The “outing” gets you “out of the house” and away from the distractions/demands of the home and office and allows you to focus on each other.
  • Strengthens the relationship between parent and child
  • Provides memories that the child will remember into adulthood

A date night doesn’t have to be elaborate or cost a lot of money. It can be going to a park or taking a hike.

There are only three “requirements” for your date night/day:

  • planned in advance – gives you and the child something special to talk about and look forward to
  • the location is “out of the house”
  • something the child will enjoy doing

Today (Friday), Brent and I are going on a date to Sbarro for lunch (his fav) and to the new LEGO store at our local mall! (He has birthday money burning a hole in his wallet!)

I sent him this silly “email invitation” earlier this week:

Dear Brent,

I would be honored if you would join me on Friday, July 10th for lunch at Sbarro and a trip to the new Lego Store at Crabtree Mall.

Can we make it a date?

Please RSVP if you can attend.

Cordially yours, Your loving mother

Here was his response to my invitation:

Totally with a capital T, I can’t wait!

And another email yesterday:

Hi Mommy,

I can’t wait for tomorrow. It’s going to be a blast. Thanks for taking me.

Love, Brent

mother and son photo

I encourage you to plan a date with each of your children. If you have several children – have one date per week and rotate them throughout the month. Your kids will love it and you will be creating memories they will keep forever!

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3 Great Reasons to Play With Your Kids

Young girl playing with a hula hoop
Young girl playing with a hula hoop
Young girl playing with a hula hoop

When you were young and imagined what life would be like with kids, what did you picture?

If you’re like me, you envisioned playing games with them, taking family adventures, and teaching them how to ride a bike.

You imagined laughter shared around a dinner table and snuggles at bedtime.

You imagined reading books together and sharing heartfelt conversations.

But then, children arrived.

And somewhere between our perpetual exhaustion and unending frustration with their misbehaviors, those idyllic dreams of parenthood flew right out the window.

And instead of looking forward to playing a game at the end of the day with our kids, we LONG for bedtime and a minute to ourselves.

So instead of being excited to play with them, we are overjoyed when our children are able to play independently or play nicely with a sibling.

Breathing room! A few minutes to yourself!

FREEDOM (well, almost).

I get it! I’ve walked in those exhausted shoes! And it IS a wonderful thing when kids are independent enough to play on their own. And, it’s important for their development.

What’s also important, however, is to make sure we play WITH our kids on a daily basis.

You know…eye-to-eye, on the floor, forgetting about your to-do list, not having another care in the world except having fun with your child.

“Play” is whatever your child likes to do for fun. Toddler time can be tossing a ball, finger painting, or breaking out the blocks. Teen time might be a round of Uno, a turn at an Xbox game, or playing catch in the backyard.

In case you need a little convincing, here are 3 great reasons to play WITH your kids…

1. It’s a chance to create an emotional connection

Much of the daily interaction between parents and kids consists of “ordering, correcting, and directing.”

Drink your milk.
It’s time to take your bath.
Stop hitting your sister.
(Fill in your favorite here.)

When parents order, correct, and direct, they are operating from the “Parent Ego State” (telling someone else what to do) and this type of interaction often invites the “fight” response in our kids, resulting in power struggles.

When parents play on the floor and have fun with their kids – both the parent and child are operating in the “Child Ego State.” The child ego state is where emotional connections are made.

It doesn’t require a long time to create emotional bonds – but being INTENTIONAL about spending playtime each day with your child in the “child ego state” will do wonders for strengthening emotional connections. You’ll also create memories you’ll both treasure forever.

2. You’ll have fewer attention-seeking misbehaviors

When parents play WITH their children, they proactively fill the child’s attention basket in positive ways.

Children have a hard-wired need for attention. If parents don’t provide sufficient POSITIVE attention, children will resort to negative behaviors to get it such as whining, clinging, helplessness, sibling fighting, etc.

When parents implement consistent playtime WITH their children – attention-seeking misbehaviors begin to fall off the radar screen!

3. You’ll have more cooperative children

As parents fill attention baskets in positive ways and emotional connection increases, children consistently become MORE COOPERATIVE at other times during the day!

When the child’s core emotional requirements for connection and attention are met, he or she doesn’t feel the need to “fight us” to get negative attention and is more cooperative when asked to do things throughout the day. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

Life gets busy – sometimes crazy busy –  and it feels like there’s not enough time left in the day to get it all done – playtime included.

What I can promise you though…is that when you take just 15 minutes a day to fill up those emotional buckets for your kids – you’ll actually have MORE time, because you’ll be saving yourself from power struggles, sibling battles, chore wars and the rest!

How’s that for a win-win?

Final Thoughts

Fostering the habit of playing with your children is a great first step in changing your child’s behavior. But trust me, I know it’s not a cure-all for the wide range of frustrating behaviors you may be experiencing.

That’s exactly why I create the Positive Parenting Solutions Course and filled it with 37+ tools to help parents handle even the trickiest power struggles.

If you don’t know where to begin on this positive parenting journey, I’d love for you to JOIN ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS. In just one hour, I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen — no nagging, yelling, or reminding required.

As always, I’m wishing you all the best on your parenting journey and I’m here for you whenever you need it!

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