Sulking

What should you do with a child who's pouting?

I don't know how to deal with Paige these days," my friend Allison confided. "She's always pouting about something." Allison admitted she sometimes gave in to her 5-year-old or would coax her out of a stubborn mood just to keep peace. Frankly, Allison said, she was tired of being manipulated by a preschooler.

Actually, Allison's admission, much to her surprise, was the first step in dealing with this parenting problem. She recognized that the problem existed.

While it might seem hard to believe, a preschool-age child doesn't usually set out to manipulate a parent; he or she resorts to pouting when other communication has failed. Once a child discovers sulking enables her to get her way or gain attention, it becomes the tool she employs.

"At this stage of development, a child sees her interaction with her parents mainly as communication, not manipulation," explains Dr. William Sears. In short, a child who manipulates with whining or pouting is stuck in an immature form of communicating what she wants. Sears cautions parents: Instead of squelching these manipulative techniques, help a child communicate in an acceptable way.

4 Steps to Better Communication
Here are four steps to help your child develop more mature communication.

  1. Step away from your feelings. Dealing with a sulking, pouting child is frustrating. When you feel frustrated, step back from the situation. Many parents sense a power struggle when one was never intended. It's hard to have a tug-of-war when only one side is pulling a rope.
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