We all adore our children, but let’s be honest, sometimes they behave in a way that just makes you want to tear your hair out. Screaming, whining, flailing on the ground when they don’t get their way… these are probably familiar to all of us.

But, what to do about changing these behaviors??

Here is a three-step process on how to decrease instances of this behavior and even eradicate it all together!

Note: These suggestions are for behaviors that are inappropriate, not behaviors that are developmentally typical, such as refusing to share a toy they are playing with before they are done with it. Reacting with screaming to that situation makes sense, but that’s another topic to cover in a later blog.

Step 1: Be explicit with what behavior you will not pay attention to.

I will not listen to you when you are whining.”

This sends a clear message that whining is not an acceptable or effective way to get what they want.

What does this look like?

Simply make the statement, and then go about your business. No eye contact, no response. You may be mortified in public spaces but, trust me, everyone with children has been there. Stay calm, make the refusal statement, and disengage. Of course, if they are acting unsafe, remove them from the situation and then proceed.

Step 2: Be explicit about how to gain your attention back.

If you talk to me like a big boy/girl without whining, I will listen to anything you have to say! When you are ready, I will be ready too.” Exemplify what you mean for younger children still developing basic language skills.

This gives children a way out of the situation, particularly if you demonstrate the tone you expect. This may require seemingly endless repetition, but it will pay off in the end because consistency is key. The moment they comply, even in part, give them your undivided attention and praise for working it out.

Step 3: Align your expectations with your family values so it is authentic and consistent.

We speak to one another in this family with respect. This means you tell me in a regular tone when you want something.” (Respect is an abstract concept that would need simplification, but continue to use the word so they learn that it is valuable to your family and effective for communication and getting what they desire.)

When your discipline strategy aligns with your family values, such as respect in the example above, it will naturally be authentic and consistent. This is important so that the culture of your family transfers over to your children, reflected in your shared value system and behaviors.

Dr. Masek
VP of Education