Whining is driving me crazy

Our three-year-old son, who has always been a fairly easygoing child, is now starting to exhibit some displeasing behaviors. He whines and acts up -- especially at the end of the day when my husband comes home. In the past six months, we have moved to a new town and also have a new baby. I understand how both these things can dramatically effect his world. I try very hard to give him one-on-one time with me, but his annoying behavior is starting to make me just plain angry with him. Could this be a phase?

Question:

Moving to a new home in a new town and having a sibling born are two of the most anxiety-provoking events in a young child's life. And your son is dealing with both at the same time. It is no wonder that he is acting out. In all seriousness, I would be a great deal more worried to hear that he was perfectly well behaved. This way, at least the angry and resentful feelings are emerging, and won't be left inside your son to do damage later on in his life. I think you need to congratulate yourselves. Clearly, your son feels safe or he wouldn't have the courage to act out!

Yes, whining is indeed part of the normal behavior of a child who is approaching four. So is testing, making a big fuss over something very minor, and throwing tantrums. Regardless of the changes in your son's life, you would be seeing some of these behaviors anyway.

The question is how to keep this behavior to a minimum. First, let's talk about the easiest behavior to eliminate -- whining. Each and every time your child whines, you should stop whatever you are doing and say in a matter-of-fact tone, "You know, I can't understand you when you whine." The action stops until your son can repeat his sentence in a normal tone. In the beginning you may have to repeat it first and then have him say it back to you, just so that he can hear the way you want him to speak. Very quickly, however, he will be able to say it by himself. The trick to this method is to make him repeat his words each and every time he whines. Believe me, he will tire of whining when he never gets what he wants. Don't forget to praise your son when you notice that he is asking for things in a pleasant tone.

As for the other issues, it is very good to hear that you are spending time alone with your son. That is certainly very important for him right now. But, when you are together, tell him how happy you are that it is just the two of you -- just mommy and her big boy. Also, make sure that he gets private time with his father. He may be better behaved when his dad gets home if he knows he will have special time with him.

Finally, make sure that you are validating his feelings. He should be told that having a new baby in the house and moving to a new place are big changes and you understand that it may not always be easy for him. You can tell him that babies are not always a lot of fun, and being a newborn isn't that exciting either. The more he understands that his "bad feelings" are okay to have, the better he will feel. Finally, don't forget a parent's best friends -- patience and a sense of humor. They will help carry you through this rocky time.

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