What’s more annoying than a kid’s whine?

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 ….An adult whining at their kid! At least to my ears.

I see other parents expend so much energy trying to convince their kids why what they (the parent) want is so much better than what they (the kid) want in a million little decisions everyday. And it’s assaulting my ears.

I think most people (kids and adults) whine because they have an emotional attachment to a certain outcome coupled with thinking they don’t have the power to get it.  The best way I’ve found to suppress my own whining tendencies is keeping my emotional attachment to my daughter as a person, not the decisions she makes in choices which should be hers.

Of course, much of life is NOT a choice for my almost 4-year old.  Bedtime, when we leave a place, how much screen time she gets, when I need her in her carseat – these are all limits set by me.  Since I know I have the power in this situation, I don’t need to whine.  Set the limit calmly and firmly, and my daughter can respond any way she wants while I hold the limit. (Thanks Janet Lansbury!) It’s actually much easier to listen to my daughter whine at me when I’m not whining back.

But those things that can be her choice I try to treat as sacred: What clothes she wears everyday.  If she tries one more time on the monkey bars (which she is so close to doing my husband and I can almost taste it), or gives up and does something else at the playground.  Which toy she wants to get at the store when we’ve told her we can pick one. And life is actually easier without wasting energy trying to convince my child that she actually wanted what I wanted instead of what she wanted.

This one is so much prettier, are you sure, look how twirly it is, you’re not going to like that one for long, this one is better, you could do xyz with toy a I want you to want instead of toy b.  And my favorite: Are you sure? in a sad, slightly pathetic “you’re making the wrong choice” sing-song voice.

Every single comment smacking more and more of desperation in that high pitched whiny pleading voice (you know the one). Just agree with me damn it!  Not just that the kid should pick what the parents like best b/c the parent likes it best, but that the kid should agree that it IS the best.  Not only do I want you to do what I want, I want you to validate me by changing your mind and convince you that you actually wanted what I wanted you to want.

The other day at Target I listened to about 20 minutes of a dad convincing his son he wanted a ball instead of a shovel in the toy aisle – thankfully I had enough self-regulation that I didn’t explode and scream “Just get him the damned shovel and get yourself a ball if it’s so important to you – he doesn’t have to like what you like!!!”

But since I am human, there are times when I AM emotionally invested in something that would/should normally be my kid’s choice.  Much like the dad at Target (though I’d love to indulge myself that I’m NOTHING like that, it’s patently untrue).  In these cases, I just try to own it – “A”, this is important to me this one time. That involves explaining that something is very important to me this once and requesting her consideration of my request, and being prepared to let it go graciously if it’s a no.

It doesn’t involve changing her own opinions, taste or preference.  And it is a request, not something I should or would want to force compliance over.

A recent example – I wanted her to wear a particular dress to the Daddy Daughter Father’s Day Princess Ball because I knew there would be pictures taken and I wanted her to wear the fancy dress.  Every other day of the year she chooses whatever she wants to wear, and this day she wanted to wear a everyday play dress. But I knew I wanted the pictures to be in this other adorable dress. I caught myself starting to go down the whiny pleading persuasion path, and changed course.The successful road did involve (mild) bribery – let’s just call it negotiation.  I leveled with her in a matter of fact voice, similar to how I’d ask a friend for a favor.  ” ‘A’, I would really like you to wear this dress because I want to have a picture of you in this fancy dress for the ball. I know that you’d rather wear the other dress, but it’s important to me this one time – I know it’s not the first choice dress you want to wear.  Is there something I can do that will make it ok with you to wear this dress instead?” She thought a minute, tapped her lips thoughtfully, and said “Hmmm – I will wear this dress ONLY if I have a potpie for dinner.”

A potpie for dinner? The frozen Marie Callendar’s potpie that I was going to make you for dinner anyway? Done and done.  We both won.But I was emotionally prepared to let it go completely if her response had been “No, I really don’t want to wear this dress no matter what.”  Or if what she wanted from me was something completely out of my power to give or want to give. And I didn’t need to convince her that my dress choice was better, just that it was important to me and I appreciated her final authority in this matter, but would she do me a solid?  In this case, she did.

In conclusion, yes, the toy your kid picked is probably crap and going to break as soon as you get home. Yes, maybe they would actually be happier with the one you picked.  Just please don’t whine about it, understand that you and your kid are different people with different opinions, and handle it like an adult.

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