In my vast experience in parenting, 21 years and 8 months today, I have endured a great amount of whining, fussing, complaining, begging, demanding and pleading from my six children. To combat their weapons of self-interest and self-absorption, I established a few simple rules. I did have their higher interests in mind, but also my sanity was at stake. Like fingernails to a chalkboard, whining can drive a parent into a state comparable to their child’s. While child training, I had to maintain my maturity so they would live long enough to achieve theirs.
1. NO means NO. I do not change my mind. Sometimes this was as much to remind myself as my children. I knew I had to carefully examine the question before me and make a wise, firm decision, then stick to it. Giving in only once weakens your credibility and your own resolve. If they win once, they will continue to badger, knowing that you might change your mind.
3. My ears didn’t hear words that were accompanied with whining or without proper manners. I would gently cup my hand to my ear to remind them that my ears weren’t hearing and they needed to repeat correctly.
By diligently following these simple rules, I tried to be a consistant parent who didn’t train a child to whine by conceding to their antics.
Imagine my surprise when a whining session interrupted a lovely Mother/Daughter Expedition to downtown Seattle. I had treated all four daughters, ages 6 to 21, to a treat at Starbucks because I WANTED to, not because they asked, and we were sipping and chatting in a very should-be-blogged-about moment.
Our tranquility was shattered with an unthankful, whining beg.
“M-aw-aw-aw-aw-aw-m, can I please have a cupcake?” (Don’t they know yet that the longer it takes for them to say your name, the higher the likelihood that you will deny their request?)
“No.” I said it firmly and confidently.
“Please, I need one. They look so good. Look at them, all full of frosting, don’t YOU think they look delicious?” (Don’t they know that a mother knows the difference between a need and a want, and their inability to discern the difference further increases their chances of denial?)
“No.” I was NOT going to change my mind.
“Please, please, PLEASE!” Folded hands, poochy lips were starting to be dramatically added to the request, but my backbone was like steel. By now, the six-year old was warmed up. She sat forward on her chair a little, leaning forward, totally engaged.
She continued watching, smugly knowing her older sister was NEVER going to get that cupcake. I refused to answer. I allowed a dramatic pause, then gave the perfect mother lecture.
“You know that we are cutting down on sugar in this family. Because I have had cancer, your chances of getting cancer are increased. You know cancer feeds on sugar, and I am trying very hard to cut it out of my diet and decrease your intake.” With barrels blazing, I continued on, mistaking the glint in her eye for wise acquiescence. “I need you to support me in this. I need to have the family behind me.”
My soliloquy of wisdom only fed her desire, like sugar to cancer.
“But, M-AW-AW-AW-AW-AW-AW-AW-M, my cancer really, really, really needs that cupcake!”
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