Q: My 4-year-old daughter is whiny. How can I stop this annoying habit?
-- A Mother in Durham, N.C.
A: Whining wins out when parents cave in.
"Children will give it up if it gets them nowhere," says Carolyn Crowder, co-author of "Whining," (Fireside, 2000).
Instead of giving in or getting irritated, Crowder suggests, take time for training. No matter how inconvenient it is, no matter how tired you are, teach your child that whining doesn't work.
"The way parents react heavily influences what children will continue to do over and over again," she says. "There are a lot of parents who are saps when it comes to their kids."
Look at your own parenting style. Are you calm, self-confident and self-respecting? Or inconsistent, irritable and easily worn down by pestering?
Here's how a child learns that if she whines enough, she'll get her way: She clutches a little doll throughout a store, and her mom sticks with "no, no, no" -- until giving in at the checkout counter. Voila! Once again, whining magically turns a "no" into a "yes."
Withdraw from the power struggles, ignore the whining, and commit to a discipline plan that uses logical consequences, says Crowder, a psychologist and parent educator in Tucson, Ariz.
Before a shopping trip, explain what kind of behavior you expect and the consequence if your child misbehaves.
Plan on it being a "training trip," where consistent follow-through makes all the difference. If she whines for a toy, immediately take her home. Don't give her a second chance in the store, but tell her she will get another chance on your next shopping trip, Crowder suggests.
Don't get into negotiations, and no further punishment at home such as isolation is necessary.
"You don't have to drive the point home in an autocratic way," she says.
Indeed, it's inconvenient to interrupt a shopping trip, but as Crowder says, "Parenting is about the most inconvenient thing you can do."
Can you help?
My 5-year-old son is in full-day pre-K, and his school's director has concerns about him moving to kindergarten. She thinks he's excitable, has trouble listening, and lacks the patience to follow through on the projects that will be required in kindergarten. My son says his brain races sometimes, and that's why he can't settle down. What should we do?
-- A Mother in Tacoma, Wash.
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