Getting Attention: When Your Child Whines, Nags, And Clings
By FisherPrice Parenting Guide CDROM

Whining, nagging, and clinging may all be attempts to get your attention. And they may drive you crazy. But there are different approaches to take to each of them if you want your child to stop.

Turning Off The Whine

Your toddler may whine because she's tired, hungry, or bored. The obvious solution is to take care of her problem. Let her rest, feed her, or distract her. If possible, head off whininess before it occurs. Schedule a break before your child gets overtired. Carry a snack in case she gets hungry. Be prepared with a book or small toy when you have to wait in line at the grocery store. Whenever possible, try not to let her get to the point of whining.

Your older child may whine for more complicated reasons. She may have developed the habit as a toddler. She may have learned to deal with discomfort by complaining about it. If her whining is very annoying to you, she has probably learned that she can get a great deal of (negative) attention by whining.

Make it clear to your child that you will no longer listen to her whine. If she keeps it up, ask her to leave the room until she can speak in a normal voice. You may realize you've fallen into the habit of trying to solve her problems when she whines. If so, stop. Let her solve her problem herself, or offer to discuss it with her when she's no longer whining.

Putting An End To Nagging

The reason your child keeps asking for something even when you say no is simple. She knows that eventually you will give in. It's only human to want the nagging to stop. But if you cave in, it will only make the nagging worse the next time. Suppose your child asks to stay up for one more television show. If you hold out for five minutes and then give in, your child learns to keep nagging for at least five minutes. No matter how long you refuse, if you eventually give in, you're teaching her that nagging works. (She also gets your attention as long as the debate lasts.) There are two ways to stop a child from nagging. First, when you say no, stick to it. Don't give in and don't argue. Once you begin debating the issue, you've lost half the battle. (That doesn't mean you can't change your mind from time to time if you decide you were wrong. But don't do it just to buy yourself some peace.)

Secondly, give your child your full attention when she asks you something. Whether you say yes or no, it's important to be attentive. Sometimes children get into the habit of nagging because they aren't being heard the first few times they speak. If your child realizes you're not tuned in to her, she may ask several times until she gets a loud, annoyed No! or a defeated All right, already!

Getting A Clinging Child To Let Go

If your child clings to you, it's because she feels insecure being away from you. If you try to push her away, she will probably only tighten her grip.

The way to get a clinging child to let go is to stay close to her. If she knows she can depend on your being there, she won't feel the need to hold on quite so tightly. If a situation makes her uncomfortable, try to get her used to it gradually.

If your child is reluctant to join other children in a play group, have just one child over to play. If she has a good friend, make sure that child is there when you introduce your child to a group. Help her get over her initial shyness by sitting near her and suggesting things to do. If another child is playing with something that can be shared easily, like blocks or toy figures, see if you can get her engaged in playing too.

Clinginess is perfectly normal. Don't be embarrassed or outwardly bothered by her behavior. You don't want to add to her shyness or difficulty separating by making her feel you're ashamed of her.

When she does take a step away from you, don't remark on it or call attention to it. And don't take the opportunity to flee. She needs to learn that you'll still be there, even if she takes a few independent steps. Later on, when you're alone, you can praise her and comment on what a good time she had.