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How to tackle whinging

  • The lid on the sistema container not being perfectly straight.
  • Me throwing out an empty fruit sachet that everyone assured me they did not need.
  • Only being able to keep one hat on at a time.

These are just three of the things that have sparked a full-scale, my-world-is-about-to-end meltdown in recent days, or worse – hours-long whinging sessions.

I was warned about the “terrible twos” and the “threenager” stage but it seems that almost-four has its own challenges. And we’re now past the stage where a cuddle immediately makes everything right again.

I’ve had to come up with some new strategies to cope.

Try to remember that they’re all actually a bit mad.

Part of the problem is that my son is articulate, intelligent and usually really good company. I have to remind myself that the part of his brain that’s responsible for rational thought and self-awareness isn’t even really starting to develop yet, so of course it’s a world-ending disaster when I won’t allow him to take my work laptop in the bath.  Another thing that helps is treating him like a slightly nutty dignitary from another planet, struggling to learn mysterious ways of society on Earth.

Catch them being good

Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent the whole day asking, reminding, pleading “please don’t sit on your sister’. “Please don’t hide in the toilet.”  “Please don’t rub that in your hair.” It’s boring for everyone. If I can seize on the slightest indication of desirable behaviour and perform an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of it, it puts us all in a better mood. You’ll be surprised what you can praise if you really try.

Try giving in

I know! But stay with me here. If the whinging is driving you up the wall, it’s easy to just refuse to listen to any of it. But sometimes, if you can make out what it is being said amid the long vowel sounds and shouting, it’s not an entirely unreasonable request. If it’s “play with meeeee” or “IIIII’m thirstyyyyyy” I try to find a way to accommodate, sometimes with boundaries. If that doesn’t change the behaviour then it usually means it’s just a symptom of something else, like tiredness or hunger.  Then I can resort to my super stash of potato sticks.

Choices

Experts reckon a lot of the whinging and complaining is because kids feel that they’re not in control. If you offer them choices, it removes some of the feeling of powerlessness. This should be things that still get you to your parental goal, regardless, like “do you want porridge or fruit for breakfast” not “do you want to go out or stay here and watch PJ Masks”.

Set up contests

I know we’re all meant to encourage inquisitiveness and creativity in our children but sometimes it’s way too time consuming (“Mummy what is that bird”, “why can’t I wear my undies on my head”) and I need a tactic to keep things moving. It turns out that my son has a bit of a competitive streak. Challenges such as “can you get dressed/brush your teeth/read that book with your sister in the time it takes me to drink my coffee/put the dishwasher on/find my bag” are great motivation and have got us out the door in record time.

I’m no expert and what works for me today may well prove completely ineffectual tomorrow. But it’s wroth a shot, right?