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Your Child Today: 3 to 5 years

Whine, Whine, Whine: How to put a stop to persistent pleading

Children can whine at any age, but preschoolers are the world champions. Child development experts attribute this to the child's lack of maturity. He's relatively new at expressing discomfort and insecurity. He craves your exclusive attention, and sometimes he whines just to let off steam.

Identify the source. Your child may not be tuned in to the sensation or emotion behind her whining, so help her discern the source of her discomfort. The other day, my 5-year-old daughter whimpered pathetically, "My tummy hurts." I quizzed her: "Are you going to throw up?

Do you need to visit the bathroom?"

"I don't know," she whined, clutching at her stomach. I considered calling the doctor. But suddenly she bounced to her feet and said, "I think I'm hungry."

Teach positive communication. As your child becomes more astute at recognizing his needs, teach him to communicate them in a positive, direct manner. When he's tired, say, "Your eyelids feel heavy. You feel like rubbing your eyes. You don't feel like playing. It's time to rest."

Invite your child to describe his feelings. A child who has the vocabulary to put his needs into words is equipped to describe, not whine. And once you've discovered the source of the problem, help your child solve it, if possible.

Just ignore it. Some psychologists believe a child who whines will interpret any response?even scolding?as rewarding. They advocate informing your child ahead of time that you plan to ignore all whining. Explain that you will not acknowledge requests unless they are pleasantly voiced.

I admit that I've never been able to ignore my child's pleas consistently enough to know if this method works. I prefer to mention the inappropriate voice, saying, "Whining bugs me. Please ask again in a pleasant voice."

I know one mother who sends her preschoolers to their room for five minutes. When the timer buzzes, they are allowed to rephrase their request appropriately. Whatever method you choose, be consistent.

Pay attention. Any stressful situation will drive a child to your side for soothing. If you notice your child whining for attention, be sure to spend time one-on-one with him. Make it clear, however, that your attentiveness is not a result of his whining.

?Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Mother and former school teacher

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