Lately Ian’s first response to anything—bath, bed, green beans, global warming—is to whine. It’s like watching The View or listening to NPR.
Depending upon the perceived level of annoyance and/or inconvenience, his whining covers the spectrum from a dejected ‘Aww!’ to a piercing, face-crumpling, foot-stomping cry that sometimes makes me thankful we don’t own a gun.
As a father, I’m supposed to be patient and understanding. I’m expected to remember that he’s only four or that he’s missed his nap or had a long day. An expanding list of variables meant to temper my response to his behavior.
Which is a wonderful theory, and has helped me learn (some) patience. But sometimes the kid is wrong.
Last week Ian was in the car, holding a balloon and complaining that it was round. Or something. (When I get a flu shot I don’t notice what’s in the syringe.) He was whining, clutching the balloon and making that awful, squeaky sound.
Kelly said from the side of her mouth, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the balloon popped?’
You don’t really have to put up with that, you know. Make sure it’s a losing strategy for him. When he whines, he loses. Take away the balloon, send him to bed, whatever. Don’t make a big deal out of it, but let him know explicitly that this kind of behaviour is never going to work for him. You can even make a comment like, “I would have said yes if you had asked nicely, but because you whined, the answer is no.” Never, never allow his whining to be a winning strategy for him.
Four years old is not too young to understand this, not by a long shot. I’m afraid I started this even younger, before they could even talk. Whiny crying or temper tantrums were a quick one-way ticket to the crib. It worked. They quickly learned they didn’t get attention or whatever it was they wanted and they gave up. It’s all about positive and negative reinforcement.
End of unsolicited advice.