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Dealing with Whining, Profanity, and Sass

“I don't like that tone of voice, young man!” “We don't use that kind of language in our house!” “Talk to me with respect, please!” Any of those phrases sound familiar? Between whining, swearing, tattling, and sass, many parents have their hands full.

Whine, Whine, Whine

There's little as annoying as a whining child. Your tolerance for whining may vary. Some parents don't mind a bit of whining, some declare a No-Whining Zone that encompasses the entire house. That's your choice. Here are a few things to keep in mind about whining:

  • Whining is different from complaining about something that is legitimately wrong. Make sure you're hearing the message, not just reacting to that horribly irritating voice.
  • Probably 99.9% of all kids whine, at least a little.
It's a Good Idea!

Remember to look for the positive intent! Your child is not evil, and all his misbehavior has a reason behind it. Look for the cause, don't just treat the symptoms.

  • Remember that kids whine because it gets results. Keeping your limits consistent, and only saying no when you mean it will help reduce the whining.
  • Respond to the feelings behind the whine, rather than just trying to stop the whining. Whining is a request for attention. Often, if you stop and focus on the child, the whining goes away.
  • If you want to establish a no-tolerance-for-whining policy, here are your scripts: “I can't hear you when you talk to me in that tone of voice,” and “If you whine about it, you don't get to do it, and that's that.” (If you decide to enforce this, be prepared for immediate conflict and resistance. Hang firm, one slip and your word is mud. The whining will increase.)

Foul, Filthy Language

For a few months my eleventh year, I went through a cursing phase, where every other word out of my mouth had four letters. I wasn't alone, my friends were doing it, too. A few years later, so was my younger sister.

Almost all kids go through stages where profanity is intriguing and desirable. Even though some experts consider it almost a developmental norm, it can still be quite distressing and embarrassing to parents (and other adults). Kids swear to be cool, impress their friends, and shock adults. What can you do about your little foul-mouthed Felicity?

  • Many kids experiment with foul language. Figure out where your personal indignity level is—the level of swearing, or the particular words, that you consider simply unacceptable. Establish for yourself the difference between certain words and ways of talking that you don't like and don't approve of but will let slide, and ones that are simply not okay under any circumstance.
  • Watch what you're modeling. How's your language?
  • Try “ignoring” the swearing. Your child may be doing it to see what kind of reaction it gets from you. If you downplay it as an issue, your child will probably move on, very quickly, to irritating you in some other way.
  • Draw the line at certain terms and phrases. Racist, sexist, or derogatory language is not okay, nor is swearing at somebody. There's a very big difference between salty language and name-calling.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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