I just got off the phone with a sweet friend who asked my advice on dealing with whining in children and so, I thought that while this is still fresh in my mind, I'd share what I've learned.
First, whenever we are dealing with a behaviour issue in a child, we ask ourselves, how are they feeling. Are they sick? Are they tired? Has this child been sleeping well at night? Should I consider giving this child a section of quiet time by themselves in the afternoon to help them feel more rested? Is there a situation that is making this child feel stressed, such as a parent working longer hours, over-hearing parental arguing, teasing by another child and so on, that we could help them think through and talk about... By the way, I think every child benefits from a half hour to hour of restful time each day, looking at books or playing quietly with a small toy on their bed. I'm more lenient with behaviours I'm not fond of if sickness or tiredness is the issue. There will always be healthy, more rested moments to work on those issues if they persist.
Now, once you've eliminated stress, sickness, or tiredness from the equation, on to the heart. Most behaviours and acting out stems from a heart issue. Every child is special and unique but I've found that whining is the fruit of a few heart issues, mainly disrespect and discontent and reinforcing respect and thankfulness will go far in helping a child not whine.
In the past, when one of our children repeatedly woke each morning grumbling and complaining, we asked this child to thank God for three things before they got out of bed. To help with this, I'd meet them at their bedside each morning and help them verbalize what they were thankful for. I didn't critique what they chose to be thankful for but encouraged them just to think of three things. In time, as they cam downstairs, I'd ask them if they had remembered to be thankful to God that morning and a few times, they'd turn right around back upstairs, hop on their beds, say their three thankfulness's and come back downstairs.
When a child is whining and asking for something, I get down to their level, look them in the eye and ask them to repeat their question or plea in a nicer way, without whining. I reiterate that I love them and I know they love me and that we can show our love for each other by speaking respectfully to each other. And parents, this you must do - please speak to your made-in-the-image-of-God little ones respectfully.
If a child keeps whining and we've gone five minutes, ten minutes or more trying to ask them to speak politely and they are not, I'll tell them that what they have to say is always important to me but I think they need a three minute moment of silence to think about how to say it nicely and we set the timer and I plop them down near me to wait quietly. Then we try it again.
I have a child who lately whines for food all day, every day. He will have just finished two bowls of cereal and half an orange or a stack of pancakes and smoothie and will start whining about what is for lunch and when is lunch. This isn't an exaggeration. The issue isn't hunger, the issue is that he likes to eat and is impatient to do something he enjoys again. We are teaching this small child to be thankful for his fruit, for his smoothie, for his pancakes or whatever he has eaten and look forward to later on in the day, when he can thank God again for what he eats next.
We can reinforce thankfulness by memorizing scripture with our children that deals with thankfulness, complaining, and contentedness. This helps and strengthens our walk with God too.
Well, math lessons are waiting to be checked and Addie-girl is tiring of the toys on her tray and needs a change of scenery so I need to leave the laptop be for now. I hope your day is a great one. If you have any other suggestions for whining, please chime in!