Does your child use whining, crying and yelling to get what he wants?
Follow these 5 steps to help transform your child’s communication so that he becomes clearer and happier.
1st Step: Appreciate your child’s intention
Your child is communicating. He is doing his best to get what he wants. This is terrific. As he grows and develops you want him to communicate more and more. And you want him to be persistent in going after what he wants. This will help him to achieve more. So he is demonstrating two admirable qualities. Now you simply want to encourage a calmer and clearer communication style.
2nd Step: Show him it does not work
If you have a big reaction and respond quickly when your child whines / cries / yells then he is going to continue to communicate this way. Instead of giving it this power, take the power away from it by acting a little confused. Be calm and have a low key reaction and neutral face expression. Slow down your movements. Tell your child that it is difficult to understand. Explain that whining / crying / yelling does not work to get you to move more quickly nor does it get you to change your mind about a decision you have made. It no longer has that kind of power. He will need to see this in action to believe that it is true.
3rd Step: Tell him and show him what communication style works.
Model the communication you would like him to use. For some non verbal children this might be taking you by the hand or pointing toward what he wants. For children who are using single words or sentences you could model the word or phrase that you would like your child to say. Do so in a calm and easygoing way.
For example when your child is whining you might say in a calm and easy voice, “If you want me to get more of the snack, you could just bring the plate to daddy, or you could say, ‘apple’, or say, ‘I want more apple’.” If your child is yelling because he wants his sister to move away from his toys you might say, “If you want her to move away, you can just hold your hand up, or say, ‘move’, or say, ‘move away please’.” (what you model depends upon your child’s communication level).
4th Step: Give him the opportunity to practice the desired communication
Ask your child to repeat the action or the phrase that you have modeled. For instance, if your child is whining for you to pick him up, first explain that he could lift his arms up or use his gentle voice and say, “Up Daddy,” then pause and ask him to do so in the moment in order for you to pick him up. If he does so, respond immediately and quickly. If he doesn’t, try modeling the action or phrase again and give him another opportunity (or two) to repeat the desired communication. Even if he doesn’t switch to an easygoing voice and you eventually respond slowly 20 or 30 seconds later, he sees that using his whining / crying / yelling voice no longer gets you to move so quickly. If he is a more flexible child there may be some instances where you explain that the whining / crying / yelling voice does not work to get you to respond at all (in those instances).
5th Step: It’s ok to not always get what he wants. It’s not the end of the world.
There will of course be examples where your child is whining / crying / yelling because he wants something that you will not be giving him no matter how sweetly he communicates. For example, it might be something in the shop that you won’t be buying him or perhaps he wants more candy or treats. The best way to teach him that it is ok to not always get what he wants is to model feeling ok with him not getting what he wants even when he is whining / crying / yelling. When you feel ok with him not getting something (such as extra computer time, extra sweets, etc) then it sends him the message that it is not such a big deal. Then help him to learn it’s ok by sticking with your decision. This will allow him the opportunity to (eventually) get over his whining / crying / yelling. Each time he does emotionally self regulate and return to a calm and easy place within himeself he will have had some valuable practice learning to be ok with not getting what he wants.
And, as always, best wishes to both you and your child.