… from the bungalow

Operation Stop Whining Followup

18 Comments

On Friday, I wrote about my plan to have a whine-free outing with L called Operation Stop Whining. I think it’s the bane of any parent’s existence, and I can’t handle it for years to come. So I’m trying to figure out how to make it stop.

The morning started out like any other Saturday morning: home-cooked breakfast, a bit of cartoons, grumpy attitude. But this time I was absolutely determined to be patient, kind and caring, hoping that it would somehow make a difference. According to the plan laid out on Friday, I asked him to tell me a few things that he’d like to do that day, and explained that we’d pick one or two things and do them in the afternoon. He said he’d like to go bowling and play a video game with me. Sounds good; let’s try to do those things. I tried very hard not to let things escalate during the morning hours. When it became unavoidable, we did send him to his room until he could calm himself down.

There was lots of whining, yelling, stomping and door-slamming coming from his room. He’d start to calm down a little bit, revisit his anger, say incredibly disrespectful things, melt down, get sent back to his room, we’d give hugs, he’d flop onto the floor and say, “no one will even give me hugs!”, get sent back to his room, etc.

This went on for about three hours.

At one point during all of this, he was smashing toys together to get a response out of me. I told him that he may not break toys just because he’s angry, to which he responded (complete with his little side-to-side head tilt), “They’re my toys; I can break them  if I want.” So I wiped them off of his dresser onto the floor, took out a  garbage bag and started to fill it. Well, this seemed to reach him because the snot face he was sporting suddenly shifted to one of devastation.

I'm a regular Mike Brady.

I took the dad stance: “when you buy your own toys, you can do whatever you want with them, but Mom and I paid for these things, and if you don’t want them, I’ll give them to kids who do!”

Dad of the Year Award material, right there. Ugh.

He eventually calmed down by early afternoon with the help of what I would call his lovey (a lullaby toy from when he was a baby) and Mom. I congratulated him on doing an awesome job of using his lovey to calm himself down while giving him big squeezes.

We then revisited our afternoon bowling plans. Going from what you guys suggested on the Facebook page, I proceeded confidently with the plan to stop whining in its tracks. L and I discussed expectations from the very beginning: how we’d rent shoes and find a ball, how we’d try to get at least one strike because strikes are difficult to get, how we’d get two turns each unless we got a strike and, most of all, how he’d be in charge of fun. I made it clear that I would be responsible for having my own fun, but that he was in charge of making sure he was having fun.

L Cosmic BowlingAnd, by God, while we were bowling, we had a great time. I’d ask him periodically how the fun was going and if he was still OK with being in charge of fun, and he’d answer yes, he was having fun. There were a few moments when he required encouragement and reassurance, but he did really well. I’d like to say that we also did a really good job of staying patient and positive while trying not to hold high expectations. It’s a balancing act.

We headed home for some dinner, then decided to take the boy to McDonald’s as a treat and so he could play with some other kids. He put up a little resistance when it was time to leave, but it was easily handled.

When we got back home, he wanted to play a video game with me (Rayman for the original PlayStation). So we sat together and played Rayman for the better part of an hour or so. (He mostly let me play while he watched because I’m “the expert at Rayman.”) But when I failed to make it past the Allegro Presto area of Band Land and it was getting to be bedtime anyway, we decided to turn off the game and pick up again from the last save point at another time…

Melt-effing-down.

There were honest-to-God tears streaming from the boy’s eyes and a look of sadness and anger accompanied shouts of “now we’re gonna have to start over at Band Land!” He was so angry at me for dying too many times in the game and was devastated that we’d lost so much progress. He was giving Mom such a hard time (again with the nasty, disrespectful, ungrateful attitude after bowling, McDonald’s and video games) that he lost video video game privileges for 2-3 days, depending on his behavior on Sunday. We’ve explained many times that if he continues to melt down after playing–or just watching–video games, he would not be allowed to play them. Gotta follow through on that stuff.

He also told me (again, with the bobble head thing), “fine, take all of my toys, Chris!” So I did. I left him a handful of stuffed animals that were on his bed and took everything else to the basement. Will it have any effect? Probably not, but I can at least show him that I don’t take that stuff lightly.

IKEA Smaland signIncidentally, he didn’t make it Sunday, but it’s not entirely his fault. We decided to go to IKEA, which is always really difficult for him since that place is like the dang Bermuda triangle to me and Mom. We lose all sense of time there. He was good for the first 90 minutes, then he wanted to eat. So we ate lunch then let him play at Småland for an hour, which seemed to go by in all of 15 minutes. As soon as he had to leave Småland he was ready to go home. But we still had shopping to do, so we bribed him with ice cream. Well, that lasted all of 30 seconds. We did what we needed to do, which somehow took another three and a half hours. So, yeah, it was a nightmare, but it’s our fault. We didn’t respect his limitations.

So, did any of this actually work? Was it all worth it? Considering the fact that the 90 minutes or so we spent at the bowling alley was virtually whine- and meltdown-free–regardless of the morning and bedtime fiascoes–I’d say yes. Having expectations for a successful outing are OK as long as you’re prepared to shift gears if/when things don’t go as planned. Lots of prepping helped, and I think putting him in charge of his own fun made some difference.

We can’t always do what L wants to do, but we can try prepping for everyday activities now and see if that helps with trips to Target and the like. And maybe–just maybe–one day…

The whining will stop.

~ Chris

P.S. Yesterday, without thinking, I called L “Honey” like I do my biological kids. I’m getting there. 🙂

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Author: Chris

A dad with a self-evaluation complex. Also a music therapist, college enrollment administrator, and hippie-nerd.

18 thoughts on “Operation Stop Whining Followup

  1. One day, maybe.
    For the record, he hasn’t whined at all today, and has expressed that he “hates when Chris has to go to work”.
    You’re definitely getting there, baby. I love you.

  2. Great post, Chris. Good luck. One strategy that you may want to consider is having L earn back his toys. This could create a pattern of positive reinforcement and help the cause. Good luck!

  3. Lots of prepping helped

    This is so intrinsic to my job that I’m stunned to realize I haven’t applied it to parenting. At all. Thanks for stating this so succinctly here!

    Seriously. I get a lot of coaching requests before people have important meetings, send important emails, etc. and always advise folks to prepare for all possible outcomes. Being prepared means none of it will be too surprising, which means in turn . . . better, less caught-off-guard responses!

    As to why I wouldn’t apply this to parenting? A beautiful example of me not taking my own advice. 😉

    • Haha, too right, Deb. We all do it. I think we expect parenting to be natural, and take a “whatever” stance when it comes to cognizant, active parenting. Glad you made that connection here. 🙂

  4. Glad that you guys had fun. No, he can’t be in charge all the time, but giving him opportunities and listening to and valuing his opinions is huge. I don’t know what the area you live in is like, but I have realized with my very spirited 4 year old that physical activity and sleep make a huge difference in the whine factor on a day to day basis. I try to get him to a park or on a walk as much as I can in the warmer months, and he seriously needs a minimum of 10 hours of sleep or there is sure to be a meltdown. If not 10, then I do shoot for him taking a catnap early in the day and that makes a big difference.
    The video game battle is a very familiar scenario and one my husband and I don’t agree on. I think he is too young to handle the time limits, hence the meltdowns and should not be playing them, while his Dad (who won this small battle, btw) goes with what I call the bribery. If he is good, he can play for one hour when Dad gets home from work. Good being defined as no time-outs.
    And now, I am off to “back to school” shop with my brood of 4, and I am sure to be the one whining 😉

    • Thanks, Sam. We’re in Michigan. He plays outside more when his stepbrother is around, but he’s with his mom at the moment, so L tends to shadow us aimlessly. And when he gets bored, he wants to sit and watch movies or play video games. The problem is that he is a very active kid who gets sucked into things. I think any kind of sitting/concentration activity sets him up for meltdown because his fiery little body requires movement. So when an hour or half and hour of video games is up, he’s ready to pop.

      Good luck with the back to school shopping. I guess we should do that with L soon. I actually don’t mind shopping for school supplies. I’m a nerd that way. 🙂

  5. I don’t mind the shopping part, it’s the 4 kids… 15, 10, 4 and 1 all pulling in different directions. I feel like that OctopusMom in the air freshener commercial, Ha!
    Funny thing is, this past week has been pretty calm, because whenever my 4 year old needed a break from life, we had Shark Week to keep him entertained. He would watch an episode of whatever Shark show was on and then move on to his regularly scheduled life. 🙂

  6. This is a very interesting kid. Good luck with all your efforts. I’m sure they will pay off. Patience and wisdom are two things you could really use these days.

  7. Way to go! I’d say the day was a success. You accomplished the bowling whine-free. Now, you know the limits, both time, and attitude, and can start what I call “building up resistance.” It is a never-ending battle, but well worth the time and effort. It’s hard not to fall into our routine parenting habits too though. It is as much about their attitudes changing as it is about ours. Kayleigh and I often talk about our day when she is calm at night, but not too sleepy, and that’s usually when I tell her how proud I am of how well she behaved today, or how disappointed I was when I had to put her in time-out (because mommy really doesn’t like putting you in time out and making you sad.) Stay strong, and one day at a time you’ll reach the finish line. It’s like running a marathon though!

  8. I find Candy Land to be the bane of every parent’s existence. But that’s just me.

    Seriously, though…on the whining…when the peanut starts, we tell her she needs to ask/say it nicely. If she continues, we tell her we’re not going to talk to her until she does. Sometimes it causes a tantrum. Most times she settles down and realizes she’s not getting what she wants until she talks like a normal person. But I hear you… whining is The. Worst.

    • Seriously. We try to give him every opportunity to ask nicely, and when he can’t do it, we give him the option to spend some time alone in his room until he can. That’s usually a battle in itself. It’s pretty rare that he settles down and realizes there’s a better way.

      He did do that last Sunday after a three-hour tantrum. I’m hoping to get that down to 10 minutes. But, baby steps…

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