For many parents it’s a trigger issue. At the first sign of a less than truthful statement from their child, the panic sets in.
Uh oh… my kid is lying! On purpose! I must fix this immediately!
All kids play around with lying, or half-truths, or omissions, or alternate versions of reality. It’s part of growing up, and entirely normal. Some children just play around with truth a bit more than others. And that’s ok too.
From my perspective children’s untruths tend to be split into two general categories:
2) Avoiding getting in trouble
Many parents have expressed to me a desire to be more patient. They wonder how the other parents at the park seem to have it so “together” and I’m sure they never “lose it” when their child won’t get in the car seat. Other parents just seem to know “how to handle things like that” with more patience.
That’s when I kindly reassure them that they are nuts. We’re all a bit of a mess sometimes (or often). This parenting gig is rough. What might look like patience to you from a distance is often times lava-boiling, gut-churning, silent fury….being held at bay with every ounce of strength and self-control available at the moment.
True, there are some folks who are quicker to anger than others….and they earn that reactivity honestly…for many reasons. But it might be helpful for us to ask ourselves if our “patience” is actually patient…or if it’s silent anger being withheld and leaking out in other ways…. Read More
If there’s one thing all parents agree on, it’s that they find their child’s whining to be unpleasant. Our feelings about whining range from finding it uncomfortable and frustrating, to incredibly painful….worse than nails on a chalkboard.
I’ve never once heard a parent say,
“She is just so sweet when she whines…just melts my heart.”
It’s much more likely I’ll hear,
“When he whines I feel like my face is melting off and my ears are bleeding…I just want it to STOP!”
Here are a few reasons why whining is so hard on us:
2) We think it’s manipulative – Often times we think our child is manipulating us…trying to get what they want. They’re acting “spoiled” or “demanding” when they whine about something. This often triggers “THE HAMMER” to come out:
“Uh oh, I might be screwing something up…I might be raising a brat. No more mister nice parent, I better crack down on this right away!”
3) We think it’s regression – Whining looks and feels like regression. It seems like our competent and capable 5 year old crumbles into their 3 year old self. What the heck? You’re 5 now! Didn’t we agree the whining stage was over? Whenever we think we’re seeing regression, we get tense and upset….like we’re right back where we started. All our hard work is down the toilet.
But here’s the truth. When kids whine they are not manipulating us, there’s a real feeling there.
WHINING is the result of a REAL FEELING….
When parents are working on supporting their children through a rough patch, an important part of the solution is making sure to connect with them. Along with other strategies, I always make sure to include this important piece. If you’re asking your child to try hard to manage or erase a behavior, it’s important they are all “fueled up” for the job. And our kids’ fuel is rest, food, and CONNECTION.
Often times parents come back and say that they’ve tried…but it’s no fun at all. They tried to play, they tried to have a one-on-one date…and it was miserable. Their child whined, was bossy, threw a fit about the smallest things….it all felt like a waste of time. You’re even more frustrated with your child than when you started!
I remind parents and teachers (and myself) all the time that when a child is the MOST frustrating….the HARDEST to please….when you want to run far, FAR away from her….this is the time she needs you the most.
When a child is the hardest to be around, he is the most in need of connection. He is lonely, or stressed, or sad…..he is the hungriest for us.
All of us have heard the idea, or experienced it ourselves, that when your stomach is completely empty…whether because of illness or malnutrition… one must take care when eating that first time. If you binge on a starving stomach, you’ll often get sick. Your body is so depleted, and stomach so tender, that you need to take little bites.
This is how I think about connecting with our emotionally hungry child. When a child is in disequilibrium and is simply “a mess,” our gestures of connection are hitting an empty stomach. Whatever she is going through is depleting her reserves and she needs those hugs so desperately….he needs that play time….she longs for that one-on-one date. But because he’s depleted, it can be rocky like that first meal.
I believe that even if the connection time you designed didn’t seem to go well because he was whining and hard to be around…and even ended in a tantrum….that doesn’t mean it didn’t count. It just means it hit an empty stomach…and he’ll need another snack soon.
This usually means we wish they would make something easier for us; like putting their shoes on without fuss, diving into homework without hassle, or going to bed without needing to be re-settled again and again.
But what does “acting their age” really mean? There is loads of science on child development, and there are widely-recognized milestones that we all use. These milestones help parents and teachers know what to expect, and when to expect it, from the little people they love.
But as we all are learning as parents, just because our child has reached a milestone doesn’t mean “we’re never going back THERE again. Thank goodness THAT stage has passed forever and ever.”
When it comes to emotional development, children often re-visit old stages, skip a stage, lurch forward to a new stage, then run back to a previous stage….all in a week. Or in an afternoon.
The truth is, kids change all the time. Every day while they play….every night while they sleep….their little bodies and minds are growing in magnificently invisible ways. The art of meeting a child where he is developmentally is really a wild dance with equal parts observation and guesswork. Read More