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Livingston Families

Why Kids Whine

10/18/2013 13:53 ● By Rick McGarry
While she’s a modern-day princess, Princess Ivana comes from modest means and 
met her Italian Prince Charming (if you’re curious, he’s Adriano Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) while on scholarship at Pepperdine. She didn’t wait for his kiss to save her, though. Using her master’s degree in education, she forged a career of her own as a digital strategy consultant.
Ivana and her husband have two fabulous kids (ages four and two) who are the latest additions to a 1,000-year lineage that includes kings of Sicily and Spain, Catherine of Aragon, a pope, and a saint. Ivana is wild about kids and motherhood. For the past twenty years, she has worked with children, from designing learning toys to tutoring homeless kids.

Here are some of her consulting strategies for dealing with whining.
If you’re like most parents, you probably wish your children came equipped with a “mute” button you could push each time a whining session began. They don't, but there are other potential remedies with which you could experiment.

Help them find the right words. 
Gently guide your little one through the whining storm with phrases like: “Are you mad because…?” As your kids learn how to communicate, you’ll find that whining is less likely to be their communication method, because finding the words to describe how they’re feeling becomes easier.

Help them find the right tone.
Another tactic I use is to imitate the droning plea in a comical way, then ask “What if Mommy talked like that? What would work better?” Then, I’ll suggest a better way to make the request. “Now you try.” This type of playful interchange gets kids’ attention and allows them to look at their behavior from a safe and positive vantage point. 

When the pity party starts, practice patience. 
When whining reaches a fever pitch, it’s tempting to shout, “Stop whining RIGHT NOW!” Take a deep breath, though, and resist the urge. The truth is this command rarely works; instead, it usually upsets your child more. After all, your daughter is whining because she wants something. When you only address what you want—silence and a little peace—you’re not offering your child a real solution.  

Don't be so imperative.
Believe it or not, children hear 400 commands a day! (If you’re a parent, however, this statistic probably isn’t that difficult to believe.) And the truth is, youngsters get just as tired of hearing commands as you do of giving them. Especially toward the end of the day, it’s not surprising that a “Do this; don’t do that” direction triggers frustrated, rebellious whining. 

I love this advice from to forestall whining: Instead of ordering, ask a question and give direction and information. For example: “Do you know what we need to do? Right! It’s time to brush our teeth! Do you know what happens when you don’t brush? You have stinky breath.” When kids feel that they’re a part of the decision-making process instead of being told that they “have to” to do something, they’ll be much more willing to cooperate. 

Discuss listening proactively
 In a moment of calm (not in the midst of Whine-Fest 2013, when the odds of a reasonable discussion happening are similar to your odds of winning the lottery), talk with your child about the joys of listening to what others ask you to do. 

When you have this discussion, you may find it helpful to hypothetically reverse roles, with your child asking you to do something, and you granting her request. For example: “When you ask, ‘Mommy can I please have some juice?’ isn’t it nice when I go get you the juice? I expect the same from you. We have a much better time when we listen to each other, don’t we?”

If these tips don't work, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Ivana’s Super Mom juggling act between life, love, kids, and career inspired her new book. She believes that life is more about attitude than money, and her goal is to help mothers live well on any budget. Consider her “Dear Abby” with a tiara and a baby sling! She blogs with her mom and sister at Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. She is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.
For more information, please visit
A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (Don’t Sweat It Media, Inc., April 2013, ISBN: 978-0-9888712-0-5, $15.95,
Princess Ivana offers more tips about whining in the November issue.

Princess Ivana talks about whining on her vlog.

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