Ways to stop the whining on outings with kids
So you bought Nutcracker tickets for you and your daughter. Spent a lot of money. Even got your daughter a new velvet dress. She's super-excited and dancing around like a ballerina weeks before. And then the big day comes, you hop in the car, and she starts to whine. "I'm hungry," "My feet hurt," "The show is too long," "I'm bored," "I want a cookie." You end up leaving in the middle of the performance and declare the day a great failure.
The holidays are filled with family outings and how do you get kids to stop whining and actually enjoy themselves (so you can have some fun)? Here are some tips:
Put them to bed early. If your kids are tired, they will whine. The night before a big outing it's crucial to get them to sleep early. In fact, they need good rest several night's before. Also, if you skip a nap, expect a cranky kid.
Feed them well. How do you act when you're starving? Probably not well, so you shouldn't expect your kids to be on their best behavior when their tummies are growling. When you're out and about, stop for healthy meals and pack lots of snacks. Dried fruits, nuts, and peanut-butter sandwiches will keep them happy. Don't forget water.
Plan age-appropriate outings. If you take a 4-year-old to a two-hour holiday performance, you're asking for trouble. Try to pick age-appropriate outings and keep in mind that most kids like to run, jump, wiggle, and scream. Also remember that they need time at home and wear out when you lug them around day after day.
Launch your outing with "whining time." As soon as you leave the house, let the kids spend five minutes whining to get it out of their systems. You might need to whine with them to encourage them. After five minutes, explain to your kids that you're not going to put up with any whining during your day. This is a good time to set other guidelines for the day: "I'm not going to buy you any toys" or "I'll buy you one thing."
Snap them out of it. As soon as your child starts to say, "I don't like…,"clap your hands and sing something catchy such as, "1, 2, 3, eyes on me." And then teach them to respond "1, 2, 3, eyes on you," while clapping. You can also use snapping and jumping. Often a simple distraction does the trick.
Be silly. A great way to distract children is with humor. "Do I hear a cranky? Oh, I see one! Right there! I'm going to put it in my pocket! There I got it! Now the cranky is trapped." Hopefully, this makes your child laugh and forget about whining. Another approach that works for elementary kids who think everything is disgusting: "Do you have your grumpy hat on? I see your grumpy hat and it has three eyes! Ooo, it has slime coming out of its mouth. Yucky! You better take off that grump hat. "
Keep it positive. Rather than say to your child, "Stop whining!" try, "Please use your big boy (or girl) voice." Rather than saying, "You're ruining this day," try "I have so much fun with you when you're cheerful."
Ignore it. This approach doesn't work with most children but when you're at wit's end, it's worth a try. As you're trying to tune your child out, occupy yourself in your own head by counting or thinking of the lyrics to a song.
Reward, only when expectations are high. If you set up a reward system every time you step out the door, you're headed for trouble because then your child will always expect something from you and they won't learn to behave just because they should behave. But when dragging your child along on an adult outing-for example, a five-hour shopping spree to find a gift for Auntie Sue-you might need to resort to a reward system. I like to use the penny game. When your child is patient, you give her a penny. If she whines, you take one of her pennies away. Once she gets 10 pennies she receives a treat. Usually, it takes a full day for a child to get to 10 pennies. But again, use sort of approach sparingly and in general it's not wise to drag kids along on long, grueling adult-oriented days. Get a sitter or call grandma!
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Amy Graff Bio:
Amy Graff is the community manager for SFGate's Bay Area Moms, a place where moms from around the Bay can seek advice, trade tips, brag (and kvetch) about their kids, and catch up on the latest news from the parenting world. A true Bay Area gal, Amy grew up in Los Gatos, went to college at Berkeley, and now lives in San Francisco with her husband, Anthony, and her two kids, 5-year-old Paris and 4-year-old Dante. A longtime magazine writer and editor, Amy made her blogging debut with the launch of The SF K Files, the story of her search for a kindergarten for Paris.
Thanks to the polar opposite natures of her kids, Amy's first-hand experiences as a mom have run the gamut: Paris was two weeks late and finally extracted with a vacuum; Dante was two weeks early and popped out in an hour. Paris was colicky; Dante slept through the first year of his life. Paris craves sugar all of the time; Dante can take one bite of a cookie and set it down. Paris is terrified of dogs; Dante crawls around woofing. Luckily, opposites attract and at night they fall asleep holding hands, leaving Amy free to share her latest local discoveries and head-scratching dilemmas with you.