Why do children whine?
Why 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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