Early in the New Year I’ve now started to add parenting goals to my list of personal goals. Top of the list this year is following through on a consistent strategy to help my kids stop whining. Or rather, to teach them better ways of asking for what they want.
What? A strategy? What strategy? You have one?
Yes, I do. Because my sister-in-law, Deb Levy, who gives me the best parenting books (she’s a social worker, life coach, teacher at Harvard’s positive psych course – and a great sis!) passed along in a pile of hand me downs: Whining, 3 Steps to Stopping It Before the Tears and Tantrums Start.
This short little book is perfect for the problem. Really! The three steps are simple, logical and easy to implement. When you are committed. My problem is sticking to the commitment. I basically need to read this book every Sunday night, gear up for the week ahead, and stick to it.
In a nutshell, the 3 steps are:
1. Whining = No Tolerance.
The authors use the term Logical Consequences. But what they really say is that if you’re out and your kid whines, you leave. If you’re at home, you ignore them. Period. I’ve done this and it works. And, when I don’t give in, lose my temper, negotiate, bargain, barter, or bribe; Son and Daughter move on. They get it. They stop whining. And, the best part is that their bad behavior doesn’t escalate. When I give in, they get worse. When I don’t, they get better.
2. Assertive Communication
The authors provide a recipe for how to keep your cool and speak openly, respectfully and firmly to your kids. One reason I like this book and agree with its methods is that it is very clear that parents should treat their children with kindness and respect. Losing our cool and dictating in anger doesn’t teach, train, nor set a good example. I’m working on all of this – maybe you are too.
The interesting third step is the authors’ suggestion that you specify ways for the children to be involved in the household so that they feel empowerment and don’t need to whine for it. (This is easier to understand after reading the first chapter on the definition of whining: Basically, a power grab by our kids.)
Throughout the book, the examples range from younger children to teens. This is what made me sit up and take immediate notice. You mean my kids might whine when they’re older? This isn’t just a little kid thing?
In fact, the authors state that it’s harder to break whining habits when the kids are older and I believe them!
So, my New Year’s Parenting Resolutions are a mix of ideas stemming from this book. They include:
Commitments to change my behavior when Son and Daughter whine so I can help them change their behavior.
A focus on communicating with more respect and losing my cool less.
And a growing list of responsibilities for the kids to start owning their full places in our family of four. I’m tired of feeling like a servant to my two little, adorable beings. They won’t know any better until I teach them better.
As the authors describe, we have moved out of an agricultural society where kids had essential jobs in the running of a house. In today’s digital, material world; many children don’t need to lift a finger to be well-fed, well-kept, and well-entertained.
Except I think it’s supposed to be different. And I think I’m supposed to mother differently than I have been. Sure, it’s a huge struggle to demand responsibility from my kids when they resist every step of the way. But I’ll have to pay the dues at some point. I can help Son clean up his room now, hang up his coat, make another dinner for Daughter, let the little punch slip by…..Or, I can wait another X years until the undone tasks and misconduct are magnified by age.
Here, now, at the beginning of 2010, I’m choosing to do some heavy lifting to help them be caring, respectful members of society who can pull their own weight. They might have a chance – if I can pull mine.