I think most parents can agree that whining is one of the most annoying things about our love-able kids. Am I right? It sounds like a baby crying, igniting our fight-or-flight response…but it’s coming from children who are big enough to talk. It can make even the most patient of us reach our wit’s end. I’ve been searching for some ways to help us in the whine department, and want to share the ONE thing that has helped stop whining in its tracks many times. Not ALL the time, but enough times for it to be worth sharing to make your life just a little easier, while making your child feel a lot better. So, the one useful way to help stop kids’ whining? Write it down.
Write It Down
You know how when you feel overwhelmed with things to do, the simple act of writing it all down can bring relief? Putting our thoughts on to paper is like getting it out of our head and thus displacing the burden. And did you know a study found that writing down your goals makes you about 37% more likely to achieve them? Writing stuff down makes your thoughts real.
The same goes for kids. I mentioned in my last blog post that one of the many books I read to help me through the joys of parenting is How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Kids Ages 2-7. I also listened to How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. Both discuss the power of writing it down.
Essentially, when we write things down for our kids (especially those who can’t write yet) — it validates their thoughts and feelings. They see that we’ve taken the time to write their concerns down. And this has a powerfully soothing effect — it can help defuse a lot of tension and potential meltdowns.
Here are a few scenarios in which “writing it down to reduce the whine” can really help, like when kids really want to:
- Get something from the store
- Eat something NOW that you don’t have at home
- Do something but it’s not the right/appropriate time
Wanting Something from the Store
I love Target. Pre-kids I could spend hours in there on my own. Now it’s like an indoor playground for my kids so we’re on constant alert keeping our kids from getting run down by shopping carts.
Another downside of Target nowadays (though still pales in comparison to its upsides) is that Haru will spot a toy he wants. That he wants real bad. We’re lucky that this doesn’t happen all the time. He’s often content to just peruse the toy section, but sometimes, there’s that one thing that hooks him.
Back in December we went on a Target run, but had already done most of our Christmas shopping for the boys. We didn’t want to buy another random toy but Haru found an Optimus Prime truck he really wanted. We talked about how Santa was going to bring him lots of presents, but this “reasoning” didn’t work. He whimpered and whined all the way to the car.
I had learned about the power of the wishlist in
How to Talk to Little Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk and knew this idea might come in handy one day. I didn’t have a pen and paper on me, but I had my phone on me, of course.
With the phone up so he could see, I typed out the email below to Santa. He doesn’t understand the concept of email but he knew I was writing something down. Haru sensed I was responding to his deep want for Optimus Prime and taking it seriously. Pretty soon after I stopped typing, he stopped whining. He still looked a little sad, but he looked out the window and was quietly dealt with his emotions all the way home.
While I didn’t write it down in wishlist format, you get the idea. The important thing is that I wrote it down for him. And of course, we had to end up getting Optimus Prime for Christmas since we wrote Santa after all.
If you don’t carry around pen and paper, use your phone and write their wants down. Writing it down gives a sense of significance to your kid — don’t worry they’ll expect everything on the list. Plus, you’ll now have a wishlist ready to refer to when their birthday is coming up and you need gift ideas!
Wanting To Eat Something NOW That You Don’t Have at Home
As an adult, I can understand the pain of not having a food that I’m really craving at that moment. But we all know things can take a turn for the worse when you’re out of stock of your kid’s favorite fruit, snack, or cereal. Or something they just want, NOW.
The whole writing it down also works really well in this situation. There have been three recent occasions when Haru wanted something but we didn’t have it at home — grapes, pizza, and bananas.
Usually I respond with, “Oh, it looks like we’re out of grapes. We’ll have to get them at the grocery store next time.”
He goes: “Nooo, but I want grapes noooooww.” Then there’s more whining and me offering anything and everything to distract him.
Now I go: “Ok, how about we write it down on our grocery list so we remember the next time we go? Do you want to write it down?”
With this new approach, he always says yes. I hand over our whiteboard and marker that hang on our fridge, and he sounds out the letters with a little help from me. The activity diverts his attention and he’s content we’ve written it down. It’s also a great way, of course, for him to practice writing.
This has stopped the whining almost immediately in every one of those instances. Here’s a picture of how he wrote “bananas” last time. I should probably put it in landscape orientation for that word!
When They Want to Do Something But It’s Not Time
In my post on family traditions, I mentioned that one of my favorites is a mommy date with Haru. We go to Starbucks (what he calls “Treat House”) every Wednesday before daycare for a quick treat. He really looks forward to going and will bring it up multiple times a week.
Haru will usually ask to go to the Treat House every day of the week except Wednesday. It’s just his thing. He’ll ask on Monday or Friday or Saturday. Breaking the news to him that it’s not Wednesday is tough!
The funny thing is he’ll even dispute the days of the week with you. You can say it’s Tuesday, not Wednesday, but he’ll insist it’s Wednesday.
When he got super whiny about it the other day, I wrote down, “Mommy and Haru will go to the Treat House on Wednesday” on his Fisher Price Magnetic Drawing Pad. He appreciated this and accepted the “authority” of the written word. (By the way, I got this drawing pad by B. toys as a gift for someone and think it’s better quality. I recommend the B.toys one over the Fisher Price one.)
If you have similar challenges — your kid wants to go to the playground or to their friend’s house today — try writing it down in front of them. Some good places to write it down include a whiteboard, chalkboard, calendar, or just a piece of paper.
Some Final Thoughts About Whining
Whining is tough on parents’ ears and patience. I can definitely lose my patience sometimes, but I also empathize with them. Even though Haru can speak, I know he doesn’t always know how to describe what he’s feeling. It might be tiredness, thirst, hunger, a bad day at daycare…
I KNOW that writing it down doesn’t work for every instance of whining, but it helps in a LOT of instances. So, if you’re caught up in a storm of whiny children who want this or that, stay calm and write it down.
If you try any of this and it works for you, I’d love to hear from you. Also, let me know what else would be helpful to hear! Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m so excited that a few of my mama friends will be guest blogging in the next few weeks! We’re in the midst of coming up with a unifying theme, but they are bright, amazing moms so I know it’ll be good.
Also, if you read my last post carefully, I mentioned I’d be sharing our habits around our financial goals. I didn’t end up feeling ready to share those this week, but I’m still so on the habit track. I’ll keep sharing on that in the future.