Calvin is outside whining in his little outdoor tent today. He was so eager to go out there, and now he spotted me and is whining to get back in the house. (Even pets benefit from The Purposeful Parent!) Using my special ‘firm but loving tone,’ I call to him, “Hey buddy, you asked to be out there, now stay out there and relax; go ni-night for a while!”
Calvin, our cat, then relaxes and eventually lies down. I don’t pretend to think he understands all that I say, but he does recognize a couple of words (relax and ni-night), but more importantly, he hears that familiar tone of voice introduced to him as a kitten that signals: She’s not open to a discussion right now, and she’s not changing her mind!
Anyone who knows cats, knows that they can be notorious for whining until they get what they want—but are there exceptions? Well, in my experience, whether it is a cat, a dog, or a human, if you say what you mean and follow-through, you can, in fact, decrease instances of being tested with whining and begging.
When it comes to children, follow-through is especially important. Setting conditions and requiring that family procedures be followed at a young age is key to managing a home with greater ease.
Once you have decided that a boundary is reasonable and appropriate, use a firm but loving voice to signal that you are requiring something of your child. And if you plan to implement a new boundary you may want to give your child a heads up.
Here are some examples of both new and established boundaries shared by parents:
- I want you to know that we will not be getting any candy in the checkout line at the grocery store. We’re not here for that. I have a list and I’m sticking to it.
- We all sit at the table together for supper. (You can start modeling this at a young age which is enough to demonstrate a procedural expectation.)
- Remember: TV/Live streaming/gaming, etc., turned off by 8:00 pm.
- All phones on the kitchen counter before bedtime. (Boundaries regarding technology are best established prior to purchase)
- We didn’t come here to buy toys today.
- Mom is going to have quiet time at 2:00 every day for 20 minutes. I am going to my room to read/meditate/rest; I will leave the door open, but I need you to play by yourself.
These are simply examples that may or may not align with your values. The important thing is that YOU set your own reasonable boundaries that both reflect YOUR family values and honor your child’s needs.
If/when your child attempts to ‘change your mind’ by crying and acting out, you can feel confident to stand firm with your decision.
A simple reminder using that same firm but loving voice will serve you well. You want your child to recognize and associate the tone to mean, “This is in our best interest, and in this moment—it’s non-negotiable.”
Be matter-of-fact, be confident, be real—Both you and your child deserve this.
Setting and being consistent with reasonable, value-oriented, family boundaries reduces arguments and stress, provides a feeling of security for the child, and demonstrates a parental commitment to family culture — “It’s what we DO and DON’T do.”
And YOU deserve to be free of constant whining and begging and from ever having to hear that cringeworthy plea of, “Pretty pleeeeease?”
Even Calvin the Cat knows that won’t fly in our house!
All the Best to You,
The Purposeful Parent
The Purposeful Parent reminds you:
There is no “one size fits all” approach to parenting. Age and cognitive ability must be taken into consideration when developing family boundaries. The Purposeful Parent does not endorse allowing an infant to be left alone in a crib to cry themselves to sleep as a healthy boundary. Infants and young children need additional nurturing to become accustomed to new boundaries. Likewise, if a child is actually experiencing real physical or emotional stress, we need to recheck and revamp our boundaries. We must also be considerate of special needs and possible cognitive/emotional differences where specific behavioral expectations are not appropriate.