I read your blog all the time, and as a mother, I really value your insight and wisdom. I have a slight behavior problem and was wondering if you had any advice. Recently my four-year old daughter has begun whining.
She whines about everything and anything. On occasion, I have a hard time getting her to eat because it's not to her liking or she wants sprinkles or something else. I have set limits, I will give her say two options for breakfast and if she picks something else, well that's not an option.
I try to not give in to her every whim. We have let her know that whining isn't pleasant to hear, but lately it feels like it is getting a lot worse. Yesterday, she actually sat down on the floor and threw a tantrum, kicking and screaming!
I struggle with picking up toys, I struggle with getting her dressed. Everything is an issue.
Do you have any suggestions??
Thanks so much for keeping up with our blog and for your sweet note. I can tell you this- you are not alone. We all face whining. If it's not us, it's the kids.
Whining- and fits- can indicate a number of things, but quite often it simply means that our children don't like our answer. For that moment in time, their hearts are not submitted to what we are saying and they are rebelling against our will.
And while our goal is to gain the trust and respect of these little hearts we must, at the same time, teach them to exhibit self control when they do not agree. As adults, we may not always like the answer of the authorities over us, but we must exercise self control in our responses. How wonderful to learn that at a young age.
Here is what I would look to first:
1. How are the Heartstrings? As a family size grows, it can be difficult to connect with each of our children in a meaningful way. In cases where heart strings have been severed or never connected it can be very difficult for a child to want to comply with a parent's requests. One thing that helps a wide range of children is simply keeping your child with you. We have spoken with several friends that have adoptive children that suffer- in some cases- with extreme attachment issues. All the experts recommend the same thing- keep your child with you. That means that if you are in the kitchen cooking, your child is also in the kitchen either cooking or "helping" in some other way. This type of training, also called Tomato Staking, is a fantastic way to tie heartstrings in a busy home. You may also want to carve out fifteen minutes to read aloud, build a puzzle or something else to connect one on one. These will go a long way to help your little one want to obey.
2. How are sleep and diet going? One thing we cannot ignore is the effect of proper sleep and healthful food on attitudes- ours and theirs! We need to be aware of the things that make it harder and easier for our children to do well. Some children have severe allergic reactions to food colorings or other additives. Could this be the case for your little one? Be on the look out for this type of thing and just try to keep in mind what is going to be expected from them in the next hour when they ask for that cookie or cinnamon roll. We want to do all we can to help our children and not hinder them. In keeping with the goal of gaining trust, you may want to explain that she can have treats on a specific day, but because they are not good for her body (and you love her) they need to be limited to keep her healthy and happy.
3. How easy is it to disobey? The Lord has warned us in Proverbs 13:15 that: "The way of the transgressor is hard." As adults we have likely learned that principle. It is easier to obey than to transgress, right? Even unbelievers don't speed because they don't want the ticket, fine and traffic school- not because they wouldn't like to drive a little faster on the road.
Are you making it too easy to disobey? Does she get several warnings if she disobeys or is her consequence swift and sure?
Is she required to repeat and repeat a positive action until it builds a new pattern or is the old pattern intact (see training)?
4. How is your training going? Sometimes we wait to deal with issues- like whining- because we wonder if our child is really old enough to demonstrate self control or to "get" what we are attempting to teach them. One indicator that I use to determine if I have a training issue on my hands is whether or not I am beginning to feel frustrated with a behavior. Frustration is an internal flag that indicates that we know a particular child is capable of better behavior than what we are seeing demonstrated.
While I would never recommend demonstrating your frustration (James 1:20 reminds us that the righteousness of God does not come about by the wrath of man) these feelings may be a flag to let us know we need to carve out some special time with our little one.
Plan to have training sessions and tackle something that you can control. I would not start with food. (As an aside, in your note you mentioned giving options. For now, you might want to plan to eliminate choices and adopt a sweet, but firm 'take it or leave it' policy.)
Have a cheerful attitude yourself and be ready to praise positives. Make sure that your daughter is not hungry, over tired or has just had a dose of sugar (soda, juice, candy etc.) and that you are not in a hurry to get somewhere else.
Look her in the eyes and smile at her. Let her know sweetly that things have not been going so well. God wants her to learn to obey cheerfully so that He can bless her and that you are going to help her to learn how to do that! Pray together, then work on something she can succeed at-- like coming cheerfully or picking up toys to a song you can sing together.
You can call these sessions by some sweet name, like Blessing Practice, because you are practicing good behavior so that she can be blessed! Have her repeat and repeat the behavior until you have created a pattern (maybe ten times). If the command is to come cheerfully, then place her across the room from you and call her. Put her back in that same place again and again to practice. Reward negative choices (when done in rebellion) with a training swat and positive ones hugs and lots of praise. Make sure to win at least three times before you finish with the training session.
As she succeeds, add more things to the training. Prepare her and plan little rewards, for example you might say something like: "It's time to dressed. Let's practice getting dressed cheerfully so that Mommy can give you a star for your Blessing chart!" Of course, whatever you chose to tackle, you need to handle. If she begins to fuss, you start over. Take her outfit back off and say, let's try that again. Tell her what type of response you are looking for and be ready to spend the day cheerfully working until it happens. Stay calm. She has likely developed a strong will by now. Just start over- and over- until she gets her cheerful face on.
Training always sounds daunting, but she will soon realize it is a lot easier to obey and it will be much easier on you in the long run!
Give her lots of compliments in front of daddy whenever she chooses to do something positive. Let him know (when she is in ear shot) how well she did in her Blessing Practice that day!
From personal experience, I know the feeling of dealing with a little strong willed little girl. In those moments we can be instantly transformed from the manager of our husband's home to a deer in headlights! But sister, my hearts desire would be to encourage you not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9)! Move forward in love, kindness and firm boundaries. Seek the Lord and He will reward you.
It is so hard for us to see why certain things are such a struggle for a particular child, but God knows and He can transform the heart. It may be that God will use this to transform you into the most valuable prayer warrior she could ever hope to have on her side! Stay on the same team. You have an enemy, but it is not one another.
Blessings to you!