Monday, August 12, 2013

When You Whine, You Get Nothing

Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about how the behavior of our children (and sometimes other people's) can affect our mental state and feeling of life balance.

The reality-laced joke is that they all send their kids to my house to experience what they call, "Auntie Charlene's Boot Camp." 

Consider me the sarcastic, overworked, intolerant version of SuperNanny.  I get results, even without an interesting accent.  I swear you can get anyone to do anything in America with proper English diction.

In my domain, manners are non-negotiable. When one of my children says something like, "I'm thirsty," they are likely to get a response from me such as, "That sounds like a big problem."

Child: "I want a drink."   Me: "Good luck with that."

Child: "Can I have a drink."    Me: "No, thank you."

I keep my demeanor calm and dismissive.  I don't explain, "You need to use your magic words."  Certainly you'll never hear a sing-song voice come out of me chiding, "What do you saaaayyyy???"  Just typing it makes me want to throw up a little.

My kids know the rules and there are no second chances. It's a simple formula that any child will learn remarkably quickly as long as you're steadfast and consistent.

Lack of "please" = request denied.  Period. 

I took one of my Spidey's school friends to an amusement park a few days ago. Though I tried to keep it fun, I insisted on the required P's & Q's. My young guest expressed a fair amount of resistance and incredulity for the first couple of hours. There was one point when I thought for sure the kid was going to tell me to go screw myself. Gosh, I wish I had taken an Instagram picture of the wide-eyed look on Spidey's face while his friend "poked the bear."  Ever since then, I've been worrying about what the friend told his mom about me when he got home. I don't know what the eight-year old translation is for "crazy b*tch," but I'm imagining something along those lines.

Okay, so I'm a little mean.  Don't tell my own kids; they have no idea.

Healthy life balance includes setting boundaries.  Funnily enough, kids prefer to have boundaries. Most people do actually. Oh, they won't admit it but it's true.

Positive reinforcement is also really important. Even though they must say "please" and "thank you," I'm sure to give praise every single time they do.

Lots of energy to the behavior I want and as little as possible for the behavior I don't want.  (Yes, it works with romantic partners too.)
Along those lines, we have another rule in my house which is, "When you whine, you get nothing."  

My kids know without a shadow of a doubt that they will never get what they want (i.e. wear me down) by whining.   If they lose their minds for a minute and start whining, they know at best they will be ignored. 

At worst, especially if we're in public, I will start singing.  I've said it before and it's true. Amazing how just a few bars of "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" in WalMart will make even the crankiest kids clam right up.

I'm counting on this being even more effective the closer my daughter gets to the teenage years.   I may have to resort to the theme song from Barney for optimal results.

The axiom "when you whine, you get nothing" works for adults too.  Life is so much more rewarding from the perspective of gratitude.  

 It's not always easy to live in a perpetual "no whining zone."  Trust me, I know.  But it's worth the effort.

Anytime you catch yourself being a Negative Nancy, just start singing "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandeeeee...".  Or, call me. I will sing to you anytime. That has to make you smile!


PS:  The countdown is ON for the official launch of my new "Charlene Ignites" website next month. Particularly if you are following me through Google Friend Connect, please be sure to follow me in one of the following alternative ways so that I don't lose you in the transition:
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Naqvee said...

damn true! even i just cant tolerate "those" kids who have never learned those so-called boring a.k.a courteous words like please and thank you! gosh.. i feel like they must be chided every now n then if they cant talk properly! loved you "no whining zone"
love Naqvee

La Jenno said...

Yet another awesome post! It drives me up the wall when my friends with children give in to their whining and settle for mannerless communications. They usually just laugh at me when this comes up:

kid: "I'm thirrrrstyy."
me: "There's water and milk, which one would you like?"
kid: "I don't want water or milk."
me: "Then you really aren't thirsty."

I was a nanny for two families once upon a time, and the introduction of manners coupled with a "no whining zone" improved their behavior by the end of my run tenfold... nevermind the wonders it did for my own patience.


Anonymous said...

Hello Charlene,

I just got this email from Emerson, and saw you there and thought, hey, I remember her from Emerson. You look great, babe. Sounds like you are doing well, just wanted to say hi.


Tracy Smith Vachon
class of 1990

Bruce Coltin said...

Too bad. I really thought I could I whine to you. I'd like to think you'd make an exception for me.

Tami G said...

my son just entered the teenage years and (pat on the back) he's turned out to be a pretty good young man! I parent just like that!
Just the other day my son says to me (after being grounded from laptop AND Xbox for the week... oh the horror) that I should learn to ground like his friends' parents. To which I replied "and how's that?"
He said "well when they get grounded, they still get to get on the laptop or game for just ONE hour a day!" LOL
told him....."NOT in my house - grounded is grounded, there are no exceptions to the rule" ;)

As tough of a pill as that is to swallow - and sometimes hard for me to even stick to, I KNOW in the long run, kids really respect parents MORE for setting boundaries!


Hunter said...

I've heard it said that both children and pets need love and discipline, in equal measure.

I think of discipline as something akin to setting the kinds of boundaries that you're talking about.

Keep singing. ;)

Charlene said...

Thanks for the comments all and welcome fellow Emersonians!

And Bruce -- you are absolutely welcome to whine anytime. Same for any of my friends at the coffee shop. :-)

Lorenza said...

I really have to agree with you Charlene! I am also "committed" in the Good Manners Campaign with my 4 kids; sometimes they wait for me to be busy to try to kill each other, but always with good manners: mum I said sorry you did not hear it, the other one on the floor accusing the punch...Vibrant life with lots of children ...I'll try the public singing and let you know if it works with Italian kids living in South Africa XXX

Sarah said...

sure. you'll just ignore us right? :)

i absolutely agree. kids need discipline. too bad i didn't know the singing trick!


Hmmm... Now I know why I don't get anything ^_^

Lora said...

Oh, thank goodness there are still parents like you...

Visiting you from SITS--have a great day!

tales from an oc cottage said...

HA! The last line is classic!

m ^..^

TreasureHunter said...

Great post!!

I work in a bank and it seems like every kid that comes into the bank runs around like a wild animals while their parents just laugh and say "Isn't he/she cute?" Drives me crazy!

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

I LOVE this post. You are a parent after my own heart and I think we are amazingly rare. I wish more people parented their kids this way. I figure I'm going to be living with them for 18+ years, so I might as well make sure they are decent to live with.

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest.

TC said...

I did the singing but just to annoy the kids. My motto was "in this house the squeaky wheel doesn't get the grease, it gets hit with a hammer." Come to your own conclusions. The kids are all grown and the ones we raised did much better than we expected?

Emi said...

Stopping by from SITS to say Happy Sunday. Excellent post. As a therapist I quickly learned about the positive effect of boundaries especially with children, but people in general. And keeping the boundaries consistently actually make life easier, because it's not a question or conflict each time. I just hope I am successful at is as my DD grows!

Jennifer said...

This is a great philosophy! I am going to try it on my Basil and see if he will stop whining about the.....well, about almost everything. :)

Bruce Coltin said...

Have a great Christmas, Charlene. I have a feeling that it will be chock full of subject matter for you.

Jenny said...

just blogged hopped over from Blog Frog. I love your post! I feel pretty much the same way about whining and about manners.

M's Mama said...

Oh, I can NOT stand the whining it drives me crazy!!

Great post btw!!

Crystal Escobar said...

Ugh, I hate whining! I try not to let my daughter get away with it, she's knows it's not allowed and she knows how to politely ask for things, she's not always that great at it though :)
Great post! Thank you for the reminders.

Crystal Escobar said...

OH, and I love your new profile layout. Very cute!

Mary Walewski said...

Hi Charlene,

Would you be interested in participating in a virtual blog tour for a memoir? I'm looking for women's blogs - and I love what you're doing here. The book is called Storm of the i, by Tina Collen. If you're interested, please email me at for details. Thanks!

jordan @ mean mommy academy said...

You are singing my song!! Amen to everything you just said- what a great post!!

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