“Muuuuuuuuuum I want….”, “Muuuuuuuum I want…..“, “Daaaaaaaad pleasssssse”, “eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh (if they are non-verbal” or an outright cry till the cows come home! Sound like your household? Exhausted from the constant asking, crying or whining? Tried all the ‘gentle parenting techniques’ that expect you to stay calm and peaceful after the 10th time your child has asked for something in the space of 30 seconds? It’s understandable that yes we, as an adult, have to stay composed and calm all the time but reality check...we are only human!
One thing I want to say is you’re not alone! Children are trying to express themselves, make their requests heard, communicate and test boundaries. Another reason could be because of emotional transitions, so a lot of the time when they are feeling a bit uneasy or uncomfortable about a situation or thought and they seek attachment and to reconnect with you. Sometimes they are just needing extra attention, they may feel jealous you are with another sibling, feel like they haven’t spent enough time with you or just needing some validation.
So how do you navigate the constant asking and whining/crying of a child that essentially is trying to communicate something to you, without losing it? Here’s some practical tools that will help you:
Acknowledge feelings (at their eye level if possible): I will tell you now that A LOT of the whining and crying actually comes from the fact that you haven’t acknowledged what it is that they want or are feeling. So before the negotiation & expectations starts you HAVE TO acknowledge what they want or are feeling or they won't stop until they know you’ve heard them (this goes for crying and non-verbal children too, you may have to state a few things before they calm down as you may not be too sure exactly what’s causing it). “You just want my attention”, “You really want that chocolate”, “You’d like me to pick you up” or “You are so angry!”
Then state your expectations: “You just have to ask me once,” “It’s time for dinner”, “My body is not for hitting”, “As soon as I’m done I can pick you up” (whatever the expectation is in that moment).
Offer a choice or problem solve: The last step is to offer a choice in how your child can then fulfill whatever it is they are feeling or needing. For example with the hitting: “If you are angry you can squeeze a ball or stomp your feet you choose”. If your child is old enough say 4 or 5 years + they can problem solve with you (so come up with a list on how they can get your attention without repeating mum constantly).
Don’t be afraid to express your feelings: A lot of the time we are afraid or don’t actually express ourselves to our children. It is really important not only to do this but to also teach and model to them how to express their feelings. “You really need me right now I can see that, but…(express yourself without attacking the child ie. “it’s frustrating to have to repeat myself all the time” or “I’m feeling tired today can you help me…).
Remember you are only human so next time you are in this situation, remember to try and connect with your little one and yes stay calm. It is also essential to acknowledge what it is that they are needing and to follow through with these steps to navigate the situation.