What’s with kids and whining? It’s epidemic.
At the park, the school, the zoo, the grocery store, constantly I hear these whiny voices. People seem to think that there is nothing that can be done about it.
I remember when Alex was only about two years old, and he started getting fussy at a gathering. A man I know stomped over to the blanket where Alex was sitting, leaned ominously over him, and said in a loud, booming voice: “This is a no whining zone!” Alex immediately shut up and just blinked at him. Tantrum averted.
That man is now Alex’s very good friend. Clear, unambiguous communication right from the start!
One of Alex’s friends has never spoken a single sentence to me that was not in a whine. All he’s ever said to me is “He won’t let me…” or “I wanna…” or “I don’t wanna…” in the most annoying voice. I am not sure if he has ever finished a sentence to me, because I stop him with “Don’t whine at me”, and turn my back. Finally he stopped talking to me at all – if there’s another adult in the room, he goes to him/her instead. Yay – problem solved.
Recently it occurred to me that maybe this friend just has a whiny voice, and I was judging him too harshly – like I once thought of a particular kid as grumpy and bitter, and it turned out it was just his face (he is one of those “upside-down smilers” and is actually a very nice and happy and friendly kid). So I asked Alex if his friend’s voice always sounds like that. He said “No, he has a normal voice. He just whines when he talks to adults”. Grr.
Sure, Alex still whines from time to time. I specifically remember the last time, a couple of months ago. He said “I don’t WANNA go to the GYM! I wanna-“ and I cut him off with “STOP! Do NOT whine at me! Go away and come back when you can talk to me right.” He went to his room for a few minutes, and then he can back with his face all stretched down and said in this hysterically deep and slow and serious voice: “Mooom. I am saaad because I would rather stay heeeere than go to the gym. But, I’ll goooo anyway.” Not only had his voice changed to the most unwhiny one he could manage, but his entire attitude had changed.
I meet a lot of parents who don’t ever want to let their children know that they are mad. I remember my own mother quite often saying the ridiculous sentence “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” She thinks that “mad” should only be used for rabid dogs and other animals. But it’s purely a matter of semantics – since I knew she would spank me for “disappointing” her, what’s the difference? Often I think it must also be hard for some kids to know when their parents are pleased, since the parents speak so “nicely” to the kids all the time – there’s just not a lot of contrast. My kids know damned well when they have made me mad. Alex loves Happy Mom, and he has learned what to do to keep Happy Mom around. He’s not so fond of Mad Mom, and avoids doing things that bring her out.
It is not an incurable condition, people. It is a manipulative behavior and bad attitude that can and should be changed, in the most direct and honest way possible – by telling the kids to STOP and not giving them what they want, ever, if it’s demanded in a whiny voice.