Totally lost my days and Thursday slipped through my fingers, sorry for skipping Thankful Anyway Thursday!
Anyway, whiiiiiiiniiiing...... Man, doesn't it go through a person!
So after our few days of whining last week, I took some time, inbetween the whining and naps, to ponder what it's all about.
Now, as usual for me, I haven't read anything on this yet, to give my intuition a chance. So if you feel my thinking is skewed or you have your own insights, by all means jump in on this.
My first question was, what is whining?
Well, it seems obvious that it's a form of expression, just as crying, screaming and tantrums are ways for children to express themselves.
So I separated these. Briefly....
Crying is the first expression. Nature has built that one in for babies to get results. In older children, crying is sadness and upset.
Tantrums are frustration, anger (based in a fear).
Both are expressing a specific emotion stemming from an immediate need.
Whining isn't and doesn't. It seems that whining is somewhere inbetween crying and tantrums. The child isn't exactly sad and isn't quite angry. And the need isn't so immediate.
Whining in words might sound like this:
'I sort of/kind of feel anxious/bored/floundering/a bit sleepy/slightly 'off'/annoyed/impatient/combination but I'm not entirely sure how I feel either'
'I sort of/kind of want boob/food/toy/entertainment/cuddles/carry/something but I'm not entirely sure either'
As adults we all have off days. Sometimes even we can't identify so easily why we are off. We might feel a little cranky, irritable, sluggish, apathetic, blue, and so on, for 'no apparent reason'. We either let these moods pass, or if they persist we spend a little time in self-reflection to get to the root of the matter.
Of course, children can't do that. And I think that we have a tendency to demand that children have clear and definable needs and wants when even adults don't always have that clarity.
What do you waaaaaant?! Tell me what you want! we whine back.
What if we changed that question? What if we asked a child under 3, What do you feeeeel!? Tell me what you feel!
*chuckle* Doesn't it make us sound ridiculous?
I also think that whining has possibly the strongest potential to spiral down into a big relationship mess. The parent keeps asking and desperately trying to meet the need, and the child feeling the parent's floundering and stress whines even more.
And if we flounder and fluster around the child, doesn't the child also begin to believe that there's the possibility of a solution? They wait for us to find that solution. So more whining makes the parent search harder and as the parent searches harder but doesn't find a solution the child whines more to help out. Very kind of them really.
So if whining is a sorta-kinda expression, then expecting a clear response to what do you want is misguided. And expecting a clear response to what do you feel is nuts. No?
Why do we ask what do you want anyway?
a) to meet the child's needs
b) to stop the whining
For the first reason, I've considered that already. The want/need is not specific. So the solution can't be specific.
For the second reason, oh boy, we need it to stop for our sanity's sake. But with a young child, we can't explain and discuss yet. I can't say to the Wildflower (13.5 mths old) - sweetie, that voice makes it difficult for mama to hear you, use your normal voice please.
With older children, we can start to direct whining that indicates something specific for the moment, like whining for their juice.
So yes, I can try to meet her needs, and I might succeed to varying degrees. But if the need is not specific, then it's impossble to meet it!
Personally, I think her recent whining has been a combination of tiredness, but not tired enough for a nap, and earliest teething symptoms, so not actually coming through yet.
So how am I dealing with it? Here's what I've got so far.
1) For her: Give her words.
The more words and signs she has for communicating the more whining is reduced.
She whined to be picked up this last week and I told her 'say up', and now, that's what she does. She's whined for almost everything else but hey, one less is one less!
2) For me: Disconnect from the whining
Because I can't meet all the needs, because I can't stop all the whining, then I have to find a way to cope with it. What helped was disconnecting.
This is a tricky one. I'm so focused on being there for her that I'm a little surprised I thought of it and did it.
Disconnect doesn't mean ignore the child. And it doesn't mean disconnect from the child either, that's why it's tricky.
It means accept that I don't and can't have a solution every time.
It means that she owns her whining.
It means understand that the whining is neither personal nor an indication of my parenting.
It means rather than allow the noise to encompass me, overwhelm me, ring through every fibre and cell of my body, recognise that it is a noise 'out there'.
Very similar to the allowing to cry theory, once all her basic needs are met, then I allow her to whine while remaining available if she needs me. For now, that's how she's expressing her undefinable emotions. She has a right to them all.
3) For us: be a place of calm and certainty
Instead of flustering around her, I've let go that I can find a solution. So now I am there for her in my presence. I am uncertain of what she wants, but I am certain that I love her and that I am okay with her undefinable emotions.
Afterall, she is uncertain. Surely I'm not helping by flaffing around being uncertain too?!
This had the effect of shortening her whining! She continued whining throughut the day, but when I sat on the floor and hugged her and picked her up as she requested it, but didn't offer her anything else, she had her whine and then diverted her own attention.
You know what it felt like? Like she was thinking - right, ok, who the heck knows why I feel off, but it's ok, mama thinks it's ok, let's see what that toy does for a bit.
When do children need us to be the most strong and certain?
When they are upset (crying), when they are fearful (tantrums), and when they are uncertain (whining).
Warning: take me too seriously at your own risk.
"There are no facts, only interpretations."