How to intervene when a child whines
Children can cry and whine when they are hurt, sad or can't have a toy they desperately want. Crying and whining in these circumstances is perfectly normal behavior. After all, children learn to express their needs through crying at a very young age, when crying is their main method of communication.
However, when this type of behavior persists, it can disrupt group activities and daycare life. For some, crying becomes an automatic reflex. Unfortunately, these children do not develop other means to express their needs. Crying and whining remains their primary form of communication.
Why do these children choose to act this way? Searching for the underlying reason is important, since it will represent your priority in terms of intervention. Targeting the source of a problem generally leads to quick results.
Here is a list of things to consider.
- The child has difficulty managing his emotions. The words required to express what he is feeling are not part of his vocabulary. Whining is therefore his chosen mechanism.
- The child is unable to do things on his own.
- The child is sick, more irritable than usual. In this case, whining will most likely be temporary. His mood should improve as he gets better.
- The child is going through something difficult at home. Any family event can impact a child. In this case, whining represents his way of informing you that something isn't right.
- The child is imitating another child, a brother, a sister... Children are constantly observing others. If the child sees another child gets what he/she wants because of whining, he will give it a try. However, children sometimes imitate others for no reason too, simply to experiment different behaviors.
- Whining represents learned behavior. The child understands that whining gets him what he wants.
How must we react when a child whines? Once we have identified the source of the behavior, how can we intervene to replace it with more positive behavior? As I often say, when we are trying to change a certain type of behavior, we must provide the child with a specific tool. In this case, since whining becomes a method of communication, which tools can we provide to replace this type of behavior? Here are a few suggestions.
- Spontaneously shower the child with love, affection, and attention whenever you catch him being good or feel he needs to be encouraged. A big dose of love is always welcome.
- When a child is communicating adequately, listen very closely. Reward his good behavior with positive attention to see it appear more frequently.
- Ignore the child when he whines for no reason. If you feel he is simply whining to get your attention, ignoring him is the best intervention.
- Never give in to a whining child. If a child whines because you said "no" to one of his requests, stand your ground. This will teach him that whining is not the way to get what he wants.
- Explain the right way to do things and provide the child with positive communication skills.
- A whining child can be exasperating. Remain calm and ignore him.
- Comfort the child if necessary. A sick child or a child who is going through a difficult situation at home can need reassurance. Watch closely for signs this type of situation may be behind a child's whining and do not hesitate to play a comforting role if you feel this type of action is required.
As is the case with all types of negative behavior, keep in mind that you must take things one tiny step at a time. Making certain behaviors disappear will require a great deal of effort and consistency. Stay positive!