Every parent knows the familiar cadence and tone of a child begging for something, even after a parent says "no" because every parent has had to deal with whining and pleading that becomes a tantrum in their lives.
But not every parent realizes that you can stop your child's whining — and it's not even that hard.
I always feel bad for the parents who give in to whining and begging. They don't realize that they're setting themselves up for a lifetime of tantrums and attempted manipulations by their little sweeties.
Sometimes I'm even tempted to step in and help.
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For instance, I was in the grocery store last week, listening to a multitude of beeps from scanners, when a new sound caught my ears. It was a kid, a preschooler, whining and begging for one of those baby bottle suckers with the sugar inside. She wanted the cherry flavor.
"Mommy, can I have this?" the little girl asked.
"No, honey," the mother smiled.
"But mom, I don't have one."
"We have plenty of sweets at home," the mom reminded.
"But I don't have this one."
"I said no," the mother replied while looking through a magazine.
With no luck breaking her mother down with verbal whining, the little girl upped her ante. Her face turned red and words about unfairness and meanness erupted from her mouth.
And then her next strategy: crying. In between her cries and words, she delivered gasps of air, purely for effect.
"Just put it in the cart," the mom replied. "But you can't have it until after dinner."
"Can I just have one bite in the car?" the little girl asked.
"We'll talk about it when we get in the car."
The little girl's tears turned to smiles within less than one minute of her setting eyes on what she wanted.
Now, I'm far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded — which was basically her soul.
She traded a nasty temper tantrum for a life of bargaining between her and her little sweet pea. And the sad thing is, it doesn't have to be that way, nor should it.
In fact, it's not just annoying to parents when our kids continue having tantrums and manipulating us into giving in. According to advice from The CDC's Essentials For Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers website, responding in any sort of dramatic way to a child's tantrums, begging, pleading, or whining only makes the behavior worse.
"Ignoring is usually most effective for behaviors like whining, crying when nothing is physically wrong or hurting, and tantrums," the CDC writes. "These misbehaviors are often done for attention. If parents, friends, family, or other caregivers consistently ignore these behaviors, they will eventually stop."
But you don't want to just completely pretend a child isn't there. That doesn't feel right to me, either. Instead, you need some effective phrases that stop your child from whining while still ... you know ... acknowledging their existence.
Luckily, I have five phrases I use to stop my kids from whining, and I wanted to hand the mom a laminated card with these sayings burned into the paper.
They've worked for me for years and remind me of chocolate. Every single one of them is good and I pick which "flavor" depending on my mood.
Next time your mini cross-examiner is giving you the run-down, take charge, be a parent, and above all, be consistent.
If you say no, you better mean it. By changing your mind, your child has gained more than a piece of candy; they've gained the knowledge you can be broken down easier than a cardboard box.
This is the mother lode and works like a charm. Although I use the four below, I use this one 10 more times than I use anything else. Let's replay the scenario from above.
Child: "Mommy, can I have this?"
Child: "But mom, I don't have one."
Child: "You never get me anything."
If the child keeps at it, you become a robot, saying the same three most blissful words over and over and over again.
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Child: "Can Ashlyn spend the night?"
Mother: "No, she just spent the night here last week."
Mother: "I'm not discussing this again."
Then, from the mother, all action, no words. Smile pleasantly, tilt your head to the right, give the best devil eyes you can, and then simply walk away.
Child: "Can I ride my bike?"
Mother: "No, it's raining outside."
Child: "But I'll wear my raincoat and it's only sprinkling."
Mother: "This conversation is over."
Become your usual robotic self. Remember, you're a rock.
Child: "I want these shoes."
Mother: "No, those cost too much."
Child: "But I don't like those."
Mother: "You're getting the shoes in the cart and that's final. Don't bring it up again."
Mother: "You brought it up again. There went your dessert for tonight."
Yes, you're going to get more crying with that response, but remember: getting your child to understand you mean business is a marathon, not a sprint.
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Child: "Can I watch the iPad?"
Mother: "No, you know you're not allowed to have technology at the table."
Child: "I won't get food on it."
Mother: "The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence."
Mother: "I told you not to bring it up again. No iPad for the rest of the day."
Prepare for a few tantrums until your child learns they're not going to get anywhere. This is part of their normal testing stage.
Your child will eventually realize nothing changes your mind. This is how you will earn your child's respect and set up a relationship where your child accepts your decisions the first time.
Don't forget: their best friend, Timeout, is only a few short steps away.
Here's a success story: After years of using these phrases with my 4-year-old, I'm reaping the benefits every day with no tears or fighting back.
Here's the conversation I had with my daughter, Charlotte, while writing this article.
Charlotte: "Can I have a cookie?"
Me: "Yes, you may have one."
Charlotte: "Can I have three?"
Me: "This conversation is over."
Charlotte: "OK, I'll just break it in half so I can have two."
Sure, I see some passive-aggressiveness in that last comment, but I still won the battle. She happily ate her one cookie and I happily continued typing at my computer.
You can have these blissful conversations, too. Laminate a card or start memorizing, but trust me, they're almost better than chocolate.
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Heather Steiger is an elementary school teacher, writer, mother of three, and wife. She has been published in Guideposts, Yahoo Parenting, Fox News Magazine, CNN.com, Something Special Magazine, Psych Central, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, and Popsugar,
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