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Behavior Makeover: Whining

Four Steps to Squelch Whining
You can use the following four steps to guide you in eliminating whining and making over your kids' behavior.

Step 1. Establish a Zero Tolerance for Whining
Rest assured, all kids whine occasionally, but the surest way to turn this grating attention-getter into a full-fledged habit is to give in and let your little nagger win. Take heed: once you back down and surrender, kids usually continue using the technique as a way to get what they want. Worse yet, if not stopped, whining often escalates to back talk, arguing, and tantrums. So the bottom line is, don't let your kid think it works.

The best way to stop the behavior is to flat-out refuse to listen to nagging requests unless they're spoken with a polite tone. At the first whimper of a whine, firmly say, "Stop! I don't listen to whining voices. Tell me what you want with a nice tone." Then walk away or turn around and ignore your kid. Turn back when the whining stops (even for a few seconds) and say, "I do listen to a nice voice. Can I help you now?" The trick is to not to look irritated or to react.

Step 2. Demonstrate Appropriate Voice Tone
Choose a calm time to talk with your kid about why whining is unacceptable. A key point is to make sure he knows the difference between a whining voice and a normal speaking tone. You might say: "The tone of voice you used to try to get my attention is whining. I will only listen to polite voices."

Next, show your child what a more acceptable voice sounds like. Don't assume he knows the correct way to get your attention. Whining may have become such a habit that he simply isn't aware of his irritating tone. Take a moment to ensure that your child knows what kind of a voice you expect – for example, "Here's my whining voice: 'I don't wanna do this.' Here's my polite one: 'Can you please help me?' When you want something, make your voice sound like my polite voice. Now you try." Be careful not to mimic your child. Your goal is to be instructional so he understands your expectations without feeling ridiculed.

Step 3. Lay Down Your Rules
Announce from now on that he should expect an automatic no any time he whines. Then refuse to listen to even the first note of a whine uttered from your kid's lips. Usually whining stops when kids realize it's getting them nowhere, so your child has to realize that your rule is nonnegotiable.

Step 4. Set a Consequence If Whining Continues
You may be wondering, "What happens if my kid still whines?" The answer is simple: you must set an immediate consequence so your kid knows you won't tolerate it. And it's the same for back talk, hitting, spitting, or arguing. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can wait until you're home to correct your kid's misbehavior. Wherever the whining occurs is where the consequence must be administered. That may mean the huge inconvenience of changing plans when your kid starts up his whining routine during a shopping outing. But if you really want to end the behavior, you'll calmly say on the spot: "That's whining, and you know the rule. We're leaving now."

Consequences stop bad behaviors only if they're used every time the behavior occurs. Take heed: if you don't follow through, the whining usually increases. That's because your child has learned you just might give in. You must also stay unemotional when administering consequences: no lecturing, displaying anger, or appearing irritated. Also, remember to praise your kid when he uses the right voice tone. Breaking a habit takes time, so always encourage his good efforts. Above all, don't give in.



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From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.


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