Whining

Is it just me, or does anyone else find whining intensely irritating? I mean irritating enough to take a normally calm individual and make her start to hiss through clenched teeth while fighting the urge to slap someone?

Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

My 4-year-old whines. I don't mean that he whines just to get attention or when he doesn't get his way. No. Whining is his default means of communication. I don't know why. Maybe it's a stage. Maybe it's one of his personality quirks. All I know is it's driving me insane, and I've been trying to break him of the habit for about two years, ever since he started to speak.

Maybe it has happened, but I cannot remember a single time when I gave him something because he whined for it. As far as I know, I always point out that he is whining and instruct him to ask nicely. This usually means first rephrasing his request to make it polite ("Can you please give me Curious George?" instead of, "MooOOOooommyyyyyy, eeeuuh, eeeeuuuuh, gimme the mooOOOooonkey book!"). Then he has to repeat it in a pleasant tone of voice. The latter sometimes takes several tries, with me modeling how I want him to sound.

You would think that after two years of this he would begin to get the idea. Whining is useless; I might as well be pleasant and ask politely the first time. But as far as I can tell, this lesson is still lost on him. On second thought, maybe he is starting to get it, because there are rare moments when he will thoroughly bless me with his speech. One day he came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and said cheerfully, "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!" I was stunned, and it made me want to clasp him to my chest and give him anything he wanted to eat. But usually he just whines and demands things.

One day in desperation I found myself praying in the middle of dealing with him. My conversation with God went something like this: "Lord, I can't take it any more!! This child is driving me nuts!! Why does he have to be so whiny??" And then it hit me. I was guilty of the same behavior as my 4-year-old. I was whining to God. It was a revelation that caused me to reevaluate my prayers. God is an infinitely better parent than I will ever be, but how often do I approach Him with a whiny attitude as if He does not have my best in mind, does not understand my struggles, and is not going to provide for my needs? He deserves better than that. He deserves the kind of praise and trust of provision implicit in my son's charming comment to me in the kitchen. "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!"


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4 thoughts on “Whining

  1. God definitely uses our little mirror images to show us things about ourselves. He’ll continue to do that for many years to come :-) About the whining, however, sometimes it’s helpful to just ignore the whining rather than correcting it. Every once in a while, you can say, “I can’t understand a word you are saying.” It helped me. Or, alternatively, sending the child to their room until they can speak “respectfully.” Sometimes they’ll go straight in and come right out. Other times they’ll hiss and cry in their rooms for a few, then come out (deliberately) happy. Who do you think I tried these on? Much love, Diane

    • I’m chuckling trying to imagine Julianne in the scenario you described! Thanks for the advice. Come to think of it, I do use all of the tactics you describe, depending on the situation. If he’s whining about a real need (hunger, for example), I correct it so that I can meet his need immediately. If he’s whining about a want, sometimes I’ll just pretend that I can’t understand him until he asks nicely. If he’s whining with a nasty attitude, I give him a timeout in his room until he can be pleasant.

  2. I’m reading through all your posts and the thing I like the most is the way you describe things so well that it gives me a clear visual picture of the stories. Love it!

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