Stop Your Kids from Whining in 3 Easy Steps

17 Jul
no_whining

no_whining (Photo credit: frotzed2)

In my last post, I wrote about an amazingly resilient student of mine. I also mentioned a student who would complain about anything (literally: she once stopped class to announce to me, sniffling, “My nose itches!”)

This sparked a great discussion in the comments section, and I thought that I would share some tactics that I’ve recently discovered for preventing whining in the classroom, and for bringing out the resilient, adorable darling within every kid:

Step 1. Clearly define “whining” with your kids. In my book, whining is:

  • Asking me to solve a problem that you could have solved yourself. (For example: the floor is sticky here! Well, go get a napkin and clean it up. I am not your maid.)
  • Complaining about a problem that cannot be solved. (For example: Maria doesn’t like me! I’m sorry that’s the case, hon, but I can’t make her like you, and you have to learn to accept the fact that not everybody will always like you. Other examples: I’m tired, I’m hungry, it’s hot. I can’t give you a bed, feed you, or change the weather in the middle of class. Sorry.)
  • Comparing yourself to another kid. For example: But you let Billy do a special project yesterday–so I should get to do one, too!  or You got me in trouble for this, but you didn’t get mad at Anthony! This is the toughest one to swallow, especially with younger kids who are obsessed with fairnessbut I can’t always catch every classroom misdemeanor, and to be a good teacher, you sometimes have to accommodate individual needs. This means that kids who are falling behind might get more attention than kids who are doing fine. Kids who are ahead of the game might get to do special enrichment projects. Sometimes, kids get away with breaking a rule because I don’t see the infraction. Is this fair? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Your students need to accept this. 
  • Pouting because you didn’t get what you wanted. (For example: our team lost the game because Lucy wasn’t fast enough! or I don’t want to practice multiplication today!) Too bad, kiddo. Unless it is either physically injuring you or seriously hindering your ability to learn, you’ve got to learn how to handle being in situations that you don’t like, sometimes. It’s a valuable life skill.

Step 2. Outlaw whining–and have consequences to back it up. This worked wonders with my itchy-nosed student–I told her that the next time she pouted and stopped participating in class, I would ask her to leave. She tested the waters once, but when I pointed out that she was pouting, and that this meant she would have to leave the class if she kept it up, she pulled herself together and joined right in. We haven’t had a problem with her since, and it’s been great to watch her apply her newly discovered energy to some really wonderful, creative work!

Step 3.  Offer constructive ways for students to share their needs and opinions. Whining is about attention–kids who are whiners just want you to listen to them. So give them attention for creating solutions and offering suggestions! Here are some tools that work well:

  • Class Comment Box. Offer students a place to put complaints and suggestions after class is over; this way, it doesn’t disrupt your work, but you still get to see what kids are thinking and adjust to their needs.
  • Individual Conferences. If you check in with your students individually, it will help clear the air of any serious problems and develop the trust that will allow them to accept your decisions even when they don’t like them.

Do you have any tactics for preventing whining? Please share them!

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4 Responses to “Stop Your Kids from Whining in 3 Easy Steps”

  1. IntownWriter July 21, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    Gently, mockingly singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a technique I’ve found useful with the children in my life. Not sure how it worked out for them, but I felt better.

  2. tchistorygal August 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    I love your site. You have great advice! I will refer teacher to your site in the future. In the meantime I wanted to thank you for visiting my site a while back. You gave me a great idea for my next article. I don’t know if you ever came back, but I wanted to thank you for the great word, soporific, and give you a link to the article, http://bit.ly/PvbaUs. Thanks again 🙂

    • thatwritinglady August 6, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      Thanks so much for the feedback, and for the link! I really appreciate you taking the time to visit the blog, and I look forward to reading yours, too!

      • tchistorygal August 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

        Thanks, please feel free to offer any suggestions. You won’t hurt my feelings. I really like what you are doing on your site, and it sounds so wonderful for Atlanta students as well. How lucky they are to have someone with your enthusiasm, ability and training to give them writing lessons. YEAH!

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