M-O-M-M-M, I want a candy. Pl-e-e-e-a-s-e, can I have a candy?"
Can you hear it? That high-pitched voice, the classic whine. Why can't she just calmly say, "Mom, could I please have a candy?"
"Why do children whine?" This is one of the most common questions I've heard from parents over the years.
The answer is simple: because it works.
Whining, that high-pitched repetitive sound, drives most of us to distraction and causes us to respond.
Let's face it, when she asks nicely for a candy it's easy to say no. When she carries on whining no matter what you say, it's a real challenge to stick to your guns.
Whining is a typical child behaviour. Whether or not it continues depends on your response.
It is particularly common among three year olds. Some parents of threes say that it seems that their child has lost her real voice and simply whines all day long.
It would be easy to decide that whining is typical preschooler behaviour so all you need to do is stick it out until it passes. Unfortunately, that rarely works.
Just think of an adult you know who stills drives you crazy with her incessant whining!
So, while you can relax and know there is nothing wrong with your child, she's typical, you still have to teach her that this is just not the way to communicate.
Kids learn by paying attention.
I know, it seems that they simply ignore most of what you do and say, but in reality they are extremely alert.
If you want proof, watch their play, particularly when they play house. You will see and hear yourself in ways you never expected.
So, if you come home from a lousy day at the office and promptly start whining about your day, know that your kids are learning their tone of voice from you. Try to listen to yourself and practice talking about your bad day in a civil manner.
A very effective way to treat whining is to prevent it.
Make sure she's getting enough sleep and meals and snacks at regular intervals.
Kids do not handle being hungry or tired with any grace or dignity. Whining is most often the result.
If they are hungry or tired, ignore their tone of voice and deal with the problem by offering a snack or settling them down for a nap.
He may also simply be bored. Whining may be a signal that he's ready for preschool, for some new challenges and responsibilities, or visits from friends.
When you can't prevent the whining you can model appropriate language and tone of voice. Simply say, "Melissa, would you like to ask me if you could please have a cookie?" Have her repeat her request and if she gets it right, respond.
Be matter-of-fact in your response. Making too big a deal of her improved speaking voice will encourage her to whine first and improve later. So behave as if you expect her to co-operate.
If she continues to whine, simply leave the room saying, "I just can't listen to that whiny voice."
When whining has become a regular habit, have a chat with him and explain that you are just not going to listen to that annoying voice any more. So tell him that when he whines, you will not pay attention but when his voice goes back to normal you would be thrilled to talk to him.
Resist the temptation to remind him repeatedly that you are not going to respond to whining. By reminding him, you are responding and he is getting the attention he wants.
If whining stops working for him, he will soon drop the habit.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.