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How To Keep Calm (And Stop Yelling!) In The Face Of Whining And Demanding Kids
  • For most parents, raising and disciplining toddlers is the hardest stage of parenting. This is especially true now that you’re with them 24/7 — their constant whining, repeated “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” and then following you from room to room can get overwhelming.

    For exhausted moms, this toddler behavior can be draining. It will make you want to scream. It will make you angry. But after all the yelling has been done, no doubt guilt will set in. So, the question is, how do you react in the face of whining and demanding kids without having an outburst?

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    How to handle whining and demanding kids

    Janet Lansbury, an early childhood expert, author, and host of the podcast Respectful Parenting, reminds parents to have self-compassion. “We need to love ourselves and have patience with ourselves,” she writes in a blog post. “There’s no such thing as a perfect parent or anything close to a perfect parent, I truly believe that. And attachment experts will tell you that even the most attuned parent will mis-respond to a child something like 50% of the time.”

    You might think that you’re failing as a parent if your child is becoming too demanding. Don’t blame yourself — whining is perfectly normal toddler behavior and it’s considered typical of a child’s development between ages 2 and 4 years old.

    “This isn’t about wrong or right, it’s about a pattern that we may be a little stuck in or a child is stuck in that isn’t serving us, that’s making our lives harder,’ Lansbury says.

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    Here are some things you can do when your toddler whines and constantly calls for “mommy.”

    1. Avoid reacting to everything your child does.

    Parents are naturally attuned to their children, but now that you’re constantly around your kids, you might actually be “over-attuned,” which means you feel responsible to respond to your child’s every demand. “’Every time they call Mommy, I need to react. I’ve got to do something,’” Lansbury notes.

    This kind of thinking is why we’re prone to getting frustrated and angry. “What children are doing right there, it’s almost like they’re moving with us as one being. They’re reacting off of us, reacting off of them, reacting off of us. They’re feeling this irritation and it’s feeding their irritation. So, it can become a cycle,” Lansbury says.

    2. No need to respond right away.

    Lansbury shares that while it might seem like the little ones need their parents to respond to their calls right away, “they’re actually not ready to take in an immediate response.” You feel as if things are urgent and react as if your kids are facing an emergency, but there are very few actual emergencies when it comes to children.

    Most of the time, a slower response is better. Imagine there is a buffer or padding between you and your child. “When we hear this ‘Mommy’, instead of it penetrating into our being, it gets slowed down in the padding, it softly lands there. And so, we can hold our own,” Lansbury says. “We’re not feeling battered. We’re not feeling shaken and rattled by everything. We’re hearing it. It’s going into the padding and we’re going to respond, while staying centered in ourselves, not being prey to whatever our child does that seems needy, or wanting us or demanding of us.”

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    She adds, “It’s something we have to work on and practice so that we’re not reactive in a way that’s going to wear us out and affect our mood and again, draw children into the cycle.”

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    3. Let them come to you.

    Every parent will be familiar with this scenario: Your kids are in the bedroom and you head to the bathroom for a quick pee. Suddenly, the kids are calling, “Mommy, where are you going? Why are you leaving? Mommy, I’ll come with you!”

    Lansbury reminds that if your children are looking for you, you don’t need to answer your them right away. Instead of responding with, “I’m here,” try saying, “Oh, I’m over here actually.”

    Remember that you are the parent. Take on a leadership role and let some of the demands and “Mommys” pass by. “Let them call from where they are. It’s okay. It’s safe for them to do that. If we don’t respond in a way that makes that work for them, then they’ll come over,” Lansbury says.

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    “It’s going to take a while for my children to notice something that will release them from being caught up with me in this pattern because they see that I’m okay, and that this behavior they have doesn’t have power with me and I’m not escalating in my frustration and it will lose interest for them,” she adds.

    When they ask a question, pause and think of a response before answering. Yes, even if they get angry and have more repetitive behavior. “It’s not my responsibility to fix them or to get caught up in them. In fact, I want to do everything I can to not get caught up,” Lansbury says.


    Our toddlers can easily drain us, but we are also in control of how we will handle them. Start with self-compassion and embrace your leadership role. Love yourself, love your kids, and be more patient. You can do this!

    How to discipline without yelling? Click here for more expert tips.

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