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How to Deal with Whining Woes in Young Children

Photo By Marcel Jancovic via Shutterstock


Whining is the children’s form of expressing their feelings and intentions, which can be irritating to parents. However, the said childhood behavior can be managed by several techniques without the need to yell or impose corporate punishment.

"Whining gets the parent's attention. A high-pitched whine is effective because a parent can't not attend to it,” said Dr. Laurel Schultz, a pediatrician in San Francisco Bay Area.

Children whine for different reasons and the most common ones point at their immaturity:

1. Lack of control over things: Children do not have the same control level like what adults have. They find it difficult to get a grip about their environment and daily tasks. These stressors can overwhelm them easily, depending on their personality. When the stressors successfully overwhelm them, the whining woes begin as the form of their defeat over the task. The task can be as simple as solving a jigsaw puzzle. Once defeated, parents need to address the source of the whining to let their children gain control over the situation.

"It's important to respond to that first bid for attention if you can. If you are on the phone or in the middle of a conversation, make eye contact with your child and put a finger up, so she knows you'll be with her in a minute. Then give your child your attention as soon as you can politely do so,” said Dr. Schultz.

2. Lack of communication skills: Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers still lack the ability to communicate properly. The language they know does not match what they feel, leading to inappropriate behavior and expression. The whining is a collective result of sadness, anger, anxiety or tiredness in a form of frustrated vocalization due to the lack of mature communication skills. Parents can create a pattern that is easy for kids to understand.

“Say something like, 'I don't like it when you whine. If you want a glass of milk, say it like this.' Then model the exact words and tone you want the child to use,” said Dr. Becky Bailey, a developmental psychologist.

3. Lack of proper emotional regulator: Brain development in a child is only partly complete so it means their frontal cortex is still young. The frontal cortex of the brain controls numerous functions, such as memory, language, judgment, impulse control, and social behavior. An immature frontal cortex can result in complaining, whining, and tantrums, and the inability to stop doing so until someone helps them control their feelings.

4. The other reasons why children whine include being overwhelmed by stimuli from their surroundings and new people, exhaustion due to the lack of sleep, and being ignored by their caregivers. Lack or little recognition in children tend to make them feel disconnected to household members, which often results into kids growing up with lack of control in their lives.

"Ask yourself, 'Have I been busier than usual? Has my child's routine changed? Has a sibling required more attention for some reason?' Often, whining is a signal it's time to reconnect with your child," said Dr. Bailey.

Building connection with children is important to create a simple form of communication. It can easily be done by listening intently to what they are trying to say. When listening to them, make eye contact and communicate at their level physically. After listening, they expect to get something out of it so, reply by repeating what they said. This affirms recognition for them and confirms what they are trying to express for the parents, making sure both parties are on the same boat. As much as possible, never compare the level of issues they express on your problems. Their issues about the cups they use when drinking matter as badly as the next monthly dues you are thinking about.

In case the children struggle with verbal communication, do not give up and ignore them. Parents and caregivers can use visual aids like flashcards and gestures like squeezing their hands. These methods can be very helpful for children who are exceptionally quiet and shy in public.

It is worth mentioning that ignoring their whining woes often lead to crying, and excessive crying can be unhealthy. About 95 percent of the time, crying is caused by stress, hunger, discomfort, pain or intense emotion. However, the other five percent usually indicates some type of disorder characterized by discomfort. Children can whine about physical discomforts, such as gastroesophageal reflux or an ear infection, and caregivers should check if they really have a problem.

However certain disorders, such as intussusception or sliding of one intestinal segment into another and volvulus or twisting of the intestines, are considered severe that often characterized by excessive crying. When your child cries, evaluate it to determine a possible health problem:

- Breathing difficulty.

- Bruising or swelling over the head or other parts of their body.

- Abnormalities in their movement, including the twitching of body parts.

- Presence of fever.

- Vomiting or lack of appetite.

These warning signs indicate that caregivers must bring their children to a doctor for evaluation.

Whining is a natural process in children that can be resolved with understanding, discipline, and a huge amount of patience.

[메디컬리포트=Ralph Chen 기자]

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