My kids whine, and I’m starting to think its my fault

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This guy. Oh, this little guy!

Alasdair is such a sweet little boy. It’s funny because when he was born, I felt a very special bond with him. Different than with the girls. I keep wondering if there’s just a special something between mamas and their boys. He was a bit of a surprise. Nothing about my pregnancy with him seemed different than when I was pregnant with the girls. So I was convinced that we were having another girl (we have not ever found out via ultrasound).

So when he was born, and Michael said that we had a boy, I couldn’t believe it! And I couldn’t get over his big brown eyes.

Alasdair

Well, all of these thoughts disappear the first moment I see him every morning. He wakes up whining. The first sound I hear in the morning is a whine. “Cereal!” Pause. “Ceeerreeallllllll!” First I tell him not yet. The sun is not up, so it’s not time yet. Then he begins to cry. I’ll settle him down, and then he just repeats quietly and pitifully, while patting me on my trying-to-sleep face: “Cereal, mama. Cereal!”

So we move on: “Alasdair, if you want cereal, you have to ask the right way.” He responds to this by whining a “cereal pleeeeaaaseee!” and then he whines constantly until cereal is in his mouth.

Here’s his “cereal face.”

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I know the exact time when he started this whole whining thing. There was one day I was working in the kitchen. He and Penelope came in asking for a snack or something. I said that they would have to wait until I was finished with what I was doing. Penny immediately whined, “But I’m hungry!” And I watched as Alasdair watched her. Then very consciously turned and looked at me, threw his head back and started whining too. And he’s barely stopped for air since.

Usually I just tune it out. I’ve gotten so good at this, that sometimes Michael will suddenly ask me, exasperated, “Can you please just answer him!?” My reactions to his whining are varied. Sometimes I cry, and sometimes I throw temper tantrums, sometimes I try ultimatums: “If you don’t stop whining, you can’t have a banana!” For several weeks (it seems) we have been sending him to time out or back to his bed if he is whining, but negative consequences do not seem to have any effect on his whining, except to intensify it. I keep wanting to blame all of this whining on someone else, or a “phase,” but as I think about the things that help keep him calm, I start to wonder if he whines because of what kind of mom I am.

Here are a few of those things that seem to help sometimes:

First, is getting down on his level. Instead of proclaiming the law from on high, if I kneel down, hold his hand and look him in the eye while I tell him to wait or to say please, or just to please please please stop whining, he’ll calm himself down a bit.

Second, distraction is key to keeping him happy. Something I’ve been trying out for a few days is giving him little jobs to do to help get the cereal ready, for instance. He’s able to get spoons and bowls out, so that keeps him distracted from the constant nagging.

Third, putting down my phone. I have the hardest time with this. It seems like he’s always asking for something right while I’m in the middle of e-mailing someone about something, or reading some very interesting research on BPA, or trying to search Pinterest for something to make for dinner (just kidding, I don’t do that anymore). As annoying as the whining is, my kids’ pet peeve is when I’m staring at my phone and keep getting distracted from the task at hand. I’m trying to be better at tearing myself away. Anyone else have this problem?

Fourth, nap time. If the kid can’t cope, give him a nap. Of course, this hardly applies if he just woke up from a nap. Although I’m starting to wonder if he’s waking too early, and if I just snuggled him a bit he’d go back to sleep and be more rested. Sleep solves so many problems.

I know that just giving in to the whining is just positive reinforcement of a bad behavior. But I’m also realizing that my kids are not always fully to blame for losing patience and resorting to whining. While whining is not allowed, I have to admit that my way of responding or sometimes lack of response is actually making the problem worse.

I guess mama isn’t perfect.

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