Putting Up with Whining in Order to Avoid a Tantrum?

I often meet with parents who are caught “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”  They ask for help with their children who are begging for something (a toy in a store, a little more television time).  I usually suggest that parents tell children that the conversation is over and then ignore further requests on the topic.  The parent then says plaintively, “But then he’ll cry,” or tantrum or some such difficult behavior.

Lately I’ve met a number of parents in this situation.  They wish (rightly) that their child would just listen and accept no, but they have a hard time ending the conversation.  Often these good parents are struck with guilt.  They don’t want to be mean.  They don’t want their child to be unhappy.  And they really don’t want to deal with a tantrum. 

I am not talking here about the child who would become physically out of control and tantrum for an hour over a simple “No.”  The garden variety, “You never give me what I want,” accompanied by stamping away and kicking a toy is plenty challenging. 

What to do?

  1.  Tell your child that starting now, no means no.  (Then you need to be careful to say no only when you want to follow through.)
  2. When the situation arises, say no and explain why if necessary.  Do this once.
  3. Then turn a deaf ear to the complaining.  Walk away if needed. 

It takes two to have an argument.   If you are not doing your part, it is quite likely that the argument will end more quickly.  Probably the first time or two will be a little hairy, but then it should get better.  Try not to be involved in an argument you don’t want. 

This sounds simple, but I know that it isn’t.  In a newsletter to come, I’ll talk more about the difference between being mean to your child and being firm and consistent.

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