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Unraveling the mystery behind children’s whining

It’s a common sight in many households – a young child voicing their discomfort or frustration through whining. As per Dr. Jessica Michaelson, renowned psychologist and early parenthood mentor, children between the ages of 2 ½ and 4 are most prone to whining. While they possess the language skills to voice their needs, it’s challenging for them to manage their intense emotions. Hence, when they are tired, hungry, or overwhelmed, they resort to whining as a means to communicate their plight, saying, ‘I’m unable to behave maturely anymore, I need care as a baby would.’

The simplest explanation for why children resort to whining is because it works. Children are astute observers and learn quickly that whining is an effective strategy to express their needs or wants. For adults, the sound of a child’s whining strikes a chord stronger than any other sound, even surpassing crying or screaming, as suggested by research.

Strategies to effectively deal with a child’s whining

Encouraging a confident voice: Whining can serve as an opportunity to teach children a better way of expressing their needs. When a child whines for attention, it helps to interact with them at their eye level and encourage them to “ask again in a clear, confident voice.” Demonstrating this voice and helping them recognize the difference may require some effort, but the outcome will be worth it.

Communicate that whining won’t yield a response because they are capable of using their confident voice. A calm “please try that once more” can serve as effective guidance. With time, children will start understanding what is expected of them.

When a child whines for something that isn’t available or appropriate, responding kindly yet firmly, and sticking to the decision even if the whining continues, can be an effective strategy.

The importance of listening: Children often resort to whining when they struggle to get the attention they desire, particularly when adults are busy on the phone, engaged in a conversation, or engrossed in a task. Tuning back into the child’s world and taking the effort to understand their needs can make a huge difference. At times, just acknowledging that they’ve been heard can be enough.

Observing patterns in whining behavior: Paying attention to when a child whines – during certain times of the day, when they’re overly hungry, or in specific emotional states – can offer helpful insights. The whining might just be a sign that they need a snack or perhaps they need to go to bed earlier due to inadequate daytime sleep.

Accepting whining as a part of childhood: Whining is quite common among children and is not a reflection on the quality of parenting or the nature of the child. It is just a phase in a child’s development that, with the right strategies and timely intervention, will pass.