How Do I Get My Kids to Stop Whining and Arguing?

by | Oct 2, 2012

Do our kids need limits? Yes!  Do they thank us when we set them? No!

Parenting a Child - Get Kids to Stop Whining and ArguingWhat do they do instead? They whine and argue. They negotiate and beg.  They apologize and promise they won’t do it again.
Parents who give in, engage, or try to reason with the child will lose the battle. Let’s instead, take a step back and learn a new approach to setting and enforcing loving limits.

How do parents set limits? 
Successful parents set the limit once and use a strong dose of empathy to deliver the consequence.  For example, if the limit is no hitting, and your child hits his sibling or playmate with a toy, your response would be, “This is so sad (empathy), looks like you won’t be playing with that toy today (consequence.)”

How does every strong willed child respond to that? 
“It’s unfair.” “I won’t do it again.” “You don’t take toys away from my sister.” And so on.

How to parents respond to the whining and arguing?
Go “Brain Dead.”  Parents pick a one-line phrase that they repeat over and over again.  It almost becomes a mantra to help parents stay calm and not engage.  It could be a one line phrase like “I know,” or “Probably so,” or even “Love you to much to argue.” Parents should use a soft, calm, sing-songy voice so it comes across empathetically and not sarcastically.  Let’s see how this would work.

Child: It’s unfair
Parent: I know
Child: But I really like the toy
Parent: I know
Child: But I won’t do it again
Parent: I know
Child: I won’t be your friend anymore
Parent: Nice try

How long can parents keep this up?
Who is using the energy in this exchange? While this child may throw an escalated fit to test Mom or Dad’s new skill in the short term, it won’t take long for him or her to learn that arguing with Mom or Dad will bring no results.

What do parents experience after going “Brain Dead?”
Parents find it easier to stay calm, and keep firm limits. They also find they have more energy because they aren’t using it all up arguing with their kids.

What do kids experience?
Kids are frustrated in the short term because their old techniques of arguing, whining, and negotiating to get their parents to react, to lecture, and eventually get them to change their minds are no longer working.  In the long term, they will learn that their parent’s words are gold. Their parents can enforce the loving limits without breaking a sweat and that sends this message, “My parents are strong enough to keep me safe.”


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

+++++
Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

+++++

Visit Kerry’s extensive collection of articles on parenting…a treasure trove of tips and insights.

Calm Parenting

Before I had kids, I always pictured myself as a calm, loving, happy, and nurturing mother. I was sometimes. I still am sometimes. I didn’t realize how hard I would have to work sometimes just to avoid coming completely unglued and falling apart right there on the...

That was then…This is now

As I watch, walk, read and listen, I am horrified and heartbroken about the systemic pervasiveness of disrespect and destruction of Black people’s lives that is rooted in racism.

One Way to Start Mother’s Day 2020

I think the sweetest gift I could receive would be WORDS. Words that in spite of my imperfections, my humanity, my annoying idiosyncrasies, and my mistakes along the way … that they’ll take me the way I am. That I am enough.

Raising Boys Made Me Braver

I have had to call up the intrepid, courageous, and active parts of me that, up until motherhood, had laid somewhat dormant.

The Car Sanctuary

So often while driving, my kids would fall asleep and I found that to be a quiet peaceful time. So, I decided to make my car my sanctuary.

Instead of M&M’s, Kids Need More N&Ns – AKA: My Kid Hates When I Say “No”

One day when I took my young son to Burger King, he wanted something he couldn’t have and I said no. It didn’t work out well for either of us.  What he wanted was “white pop” (known to older kids as Sprite). I was OK with that. I held the cup to the Sprite label on...

Popsicle vs. Poopsicle: your ticket to better dinner conversation

It's possible that dinner conversation is not quite what you had dreamed of. I had fantasies of a happy family gathered around, politely eating a meal that they appreciated and each person happily chatting about their day, one at a time. If you have that,...

How Do We Parent in Ways We Weren’t Parented?

Make lasting changes in behavior that last a lifetime and span multiple generations. In some ways, it's easy to parent our children in ways we weren't parented, right?  I was a latch-key kid with a working mom who was gone a lot. When it came time for me to be a mom,...

What Is Head and Heart Parents About?

Hi! I’m Kerry Stutzman. At Head and Heart Parents, we care about all things related to parenting.  I, and the other therapists I work with, think about the entire system of a family, from the well-being of the kids to the sanity and sense of humor of the parents....

My Favorite New Year’s Resolution

I loved this resolution because it helped bring to life a piece of me that I longed for: the part that can pause long enough to truly see and hear my children’s words and respond with a smile