Welcome to my last “official” post for the summer’s Challenging Behaviors Book Study. For this series, I decided to focus on the top 3 problematic behaviors I’d heard about from Fun-A-Day readers and teaching colleagues. I’ve already touched on tattling and exclusion in the classroom, and today I’d like to share some tips about how to stop whining.
What is whining?
According to Merriam-Webster, to whine is “to complain in an annoying way”. To me, it’s any kind of talking in a high-pitched voice. Oftentimes, whining includes a stretching of words (again, this is my definition of it) — so instead of saying “Miss Mary Catherine” it comes out as “Miss Mary Caaaaaaaatheriiiiiiiine.”
Why do children whine?
Before delving into how to stop whining in the classroom, we need to look at WHY kiddos whine. As with all behaviors (those of kids and adults, alike), there are many reasons for whining. Some children need help learning how to regulate their tone of voice. Others use a whining voice because it gets them what they want, and in a faster manner. Still others are interested in getting adult attention in any way possible. In Positive Discipline: A Teacher’s A-Z Guide, Nelsen points out it could simply be a phase, and “once they find better ways to belong, it disappears.”
How to stop whining
For me, I like to address this problem head on. I usually say something along the lines of “I don’t understand what you’re saying when you whine. Please take the whine out of your voice and say that again.” If the student doesn’t hear the whine in her own voice, I try to model what a normal speaking voice is.
Modeling and practicing appropriate communication is also a must. Get the children to role play, with both peers and adults, how to speak in a normal tone of voice. Explain that, even when we’re frustrated, tired, or want attention we need to speak clearly and respectfully. Point out that children are MORE likely to receive attention when they aren’t whining. Positive Discipline suggests modeling and practicing during class meetings. Just remember that young children need meetings that aren’t too long, that cover topics meaningful to them, and that let them actively participate.
If a student is whining as a way to get attention and feel a sense of belonging, other steps should also be taken. In a one-on-one conversation, remind him that he’ll get more attention without the whining. Then be sure to put that into action! Find ways for the child to be a part of the classroom community. Then explicitly point out what he’s doing to help. For example, “Thanks for pushing the chairs in after lunch. Your friends might have tripped over the chairs otherwise.” This seems like a small step to take, but it is incredibly effective with young children.
An anecdote in Positive Discipline suggests ignoring the whining entirely, while responding right away to non-whining tones of voices. I think this would work well, as long as the child gets a reminder about it at the beginning of the day. Something along the lines of, “Remember, I’m not going to respond to whining today. But I’m looking forward to talking with you in a normal tone of voice.”
On top of all this, I have to remember to check on myself when it comes to whining. As with tattling and exclusion, whining can really rattle my nerves (as both a parent and a teacher). Because of this, my first reaction is sometimes one of frustration. I have to constantly redirect myself! If I react in frustration, it only exacerbates the problem. It’s better to take a moment, breath, and refocus on how best to help the child. I know my reactions go a long way towards building appropriate choices in the classroom (and at home).
What are some suggestions you have for how to stop whining in the classroom? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
The book study
If you’re interested in earning graduate credits for participating in this summers’ book study, please click here for more information. Additionally, here’s a FAQ link if you have any questions about the graduate credits.
PreKinders has all of the summer book studies on one convenient page here. This year’s books are located on that page, along with posts from each previous book study. Pre-K Pages has compiled a FAQ page if you have any more questions about this book study.
Every post from the 2014 summer book study
As each post goes live, the authors will link them up below. This way you can reference all of the information in one spot! By the end of the summer, this will be an awesome resource when you’re facing challenging behaviors in the classroom.