Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How to Cope with a Member of Mumble-Whiners Unanimous

The thing about that last post is that I sound pretty whiney. I mean, come on, right? So I took some kids on a little road trip for a couple of days. Big deal!

But still. I think that one of the main issues is that it is hard to please four kids at once. Someone is always having to be disappointed, and if they are named Mary Liz, they tend to mumble-whine when they get disappointed. And then at the end of the day, they mumble-whine that they have not gone to the bathroom all day long, and of course it is all my fault because I do not heed mumble-whining, particularly when it is directed away from me because a certain little someone knows how well I tolerate whining, which is to say that I do not tolerate it at all. If you want to say you are disappointed about something, that's okay. We all get disappointed. If you'd like to go on and on about it in the most irritating manner possible, my ears will turn away from your cries. And if you mumble-whine to tell me you need to go to the bathroom? And your mouth is directed away from me so that it sounds like mmnnmwwhhhnnnnn? I will not understand you. And then we both won't be very happy.

We both weren't very happy. But as much as I wanted to go into a very long lecture about how to communicate effectively and not make everyone else crazy with the sounds emanating from your mouth, Mary Liz does not take advice about how to be a better communicator when she is busy mumble-whining about not getting to use the bathroom, so here's my free advice for you for today:

Don't make that sort of thing a power struggle with your kids. Save the explanation for later, when the kid is in a good mood. State the facts ("I didn't know you needed to go to the bathroom because I cannot understand you when you are mumbling and whining at the same time.") and then tell the kid that's enough of the whining. If the whining continues, give a consequence. But save the discussion for later. You will get absolutely nowhere right then; the kid is more interested in winning the battle than listening to reason, so don't trouble yourself. Later, when they are in a good mood, tell them you'd like to talk about how to get what you need. Tell them you need them to ask for what they need in a clear voice and look you in the eye. Give ridiculously exaggerated examples of what you mean so as to make a point and also keep it a little bit funny.

For all my whining, I would probably take the kids again if they wanted to go. It is good fun for them, and a good time to learn the ever-valuable lesson of compromise and getting over small disappointments without drama. Of course it will not be 100% successful on the lesson front or 100% fun for me, but it will be worth it. I might not remember just why while I'm in the thick of disappointing every kid at once, but I'll remember later, when I am folding laundry in the next room and the mumble-whiner brings up the ever-important topic of ants. What if one was as big as the sky? What's your favorite kind of ant? What if the biggest ant was the nicest one?

Then I realize, "Oh, man, I sure do love this kid." And all that inconvenience, all the whining, all the lost sleep will be worth it.

So totally worth it.

No comments: