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  • Over-Attuned Parenting May Be The Reason You're Yelling At Your Child A Lot

    How to protect yourself from the self-loathing that your child's whining sparks
    by Thumby Server-Veloso .
Over-Attuned Parenting May Be The Reason You're Yelling At Your Child A Lot
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Odua Images
  • We often talk about proud mommy moments when we do things that make us feel like "supermom." But we can’t possibly be supermom all the time.

    In our whispered conversations, we confess about hiding in the bathroom just to get a few minutes to ourselves or staying up way past bedtime to watch our favorite shows in complete silence (they even have a name for this: revenge bedtime procrastination).

    Only a few of us will outwardly admit crawling into any tiny space just to have a good cry out of sheer frustration or exhaustion.

    Mom guilt

    One of the biggest guilt trips we find ourselves on is being annoyed at the sound of our own children’s voices calling out, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” How awful do I need to be to want to scream whenever I hear that whining?

    Listen to one of the podcast episodes of author and parent education expert Janet Lansbury (the episode’s title is "Calming Our Reactivity to Children’s Irritating, Demanding Behaviors"). You will find a voice of reason that gives sage advice and effectively whittles down mom guilt.


    Lansbury teaches parents about self-compassion, which is forgiving and caring for yourself. It also requires developing an awareness of where the self-anger comes from.

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    We think it's the sound of the whining (or the kakulitan) that makes you angry, but it is most likely from not being able to attend to your child’s needs fast enough. Or you need help from someone else (hint: Dad), but you're unable to communicate it properly.

    Becoming an over-attuned mom

    Take a look at your relationship with your child. What is your usual response to your child's whining behavior? What message does your answer send to your child?

    According to Lansbury, being attuned to your child’s needs is almost natural to parents. The way I see it, being attuned is like a well-played game of tennis. You and your child feel in sync with each other — the ball just keeps rhythmically bouncing back and forth.


    But many moms fall into a state of being over-attuned where everything is heightened to unhealthy expectations. They feel each cry needs an immediate response, which leads to a frustrated parent. The child picks up on it and he whines some more, and it just goes around and around.

    Being over-attuned is like a ball bouncing around in a pinball machine — hitting places that elicit noises all over the place until there is no sense or reason. An over-attuned parent often can’t unplug herself from her child, which is problematic because you lose your sense of self and lose sight of your child’s individuality.

    How to stop reacting to your child's irritating and demanding behavior 

    Since Lansbury follows Magda Gerber’s teachings, the force behind the Educaring approach, she tells parents to step back and observe their children. By doing so, you learn how to see them as separate individuals and learn about their capabilities (what they can do on their own) and goals (what are some skills or things they are ready to learn to do).


    Waiting before reacting gives you information that can help you identify when cries for help are real or attention-seeking or whether they are urgent or not.

    Parents usually respond to whining by rushing quickly, ignoring, or yelling. When the whining starts, Lansbury mentioned protecting yourself by putting buffers — it’s like softening the blows from whining.

    Give yourself time to calm down and allow a few seconds to pass between the child’s calls and your reaction. Find your center - that quiet place within yourself where you gain a sense of peace and control. Then, create the imagery - envision how you want your relationship and interactions to look like.

    Try to practice doing the following the next time your child whines:

    Wait. Calmly breathe and give yourself a few seconds before replying.

    Direct. Guide your child:

    • How to approach you to get the help he needs (Come over to the living room and tell me what you need?)
    • Give directions on how he can do the task on his own (You can look at the pictures of the book on your own. I’ll read it to you when I’m done folding the laundry.)
    • Coax him to find someone else to help (See if Papa can get your toy box for you).

    Re-direct. Give your child something else to do.

    Choose the pace of your interactions, model it, and take charge. I love that Lansbury has such a gentle tone and elicits a positive and tender way of helping parents come to terms with their struggles.

    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby in her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby in her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center in Jupiter Street, Makati, where she teaches the Baby and Me Class. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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