Sunday, October 7, 2012

When "Ask Me in a Nice Voice" Isn't Working

Here's a conversation that went down over the summer between Bug (age four and a half) and his grandpa:

Bug (in a demanding voice): "I want milk!"
Grandpa: "Well, you're not getting anything if you ask like that."
Bug: "I don't wanna ask in a nice voice!"
Grandpa: "Well, then you're not getting any milk."
Bug: "If you make me ask in a nice voice, I'm not coming to visit you anymore."
Grandpa: " I supposed to be scared?"

(Is my dad awesome, or what?)

The whining and disrespectful behavior from both of my kids has really been bugging me since the summer (it's all finally coming to a head for some reason). I'm the type of person who cannot bear the sound of whining, and I know I've created the monsters by giving in to it too much. The time has come, however, to buckle down and extinguish. The conversation above, coupled with an impromptu mini-intervention by my sister, dad, and mom ("the boys are too old to be acting like this") has given me a little resolve.

We had a little jump start on "Operation Stop Whining" in August when the boys and I went camping with the above-mentioned family members. Prickly Aunt and Grandpa were the most adamant about the kids' behavior: they stuck to their guns and wouldn't give in to the boys' rudeness and whining. What I admired most, aside from their ability to ride through the most ridiculous hissy-fits, was how they approached the "teaching" with dry humor (I heard my sister ask each kid sarcastically, "what are you, two?").

Now that's my style of parenting.

The problem I've had with the standard parenting advice is that it's just not me. Good or bad, I tend to approach everything with some amount of wit, and playing the sing-song-y "I'll listen to you when you ask me in a nice voice" broken record has just ended up being too inauthentic in the context of the way we run our family.

Now, I know I can't use this "Sarcastic Supernanny" method all the time...but if I can throw it in the parenting toolbox along with some other authentic-to-me options (like the power of a bluntly-worded suggestion: "A better way to ask would be, 'Mommy, can you come in the bathroom and wipe me?'"), I might actually have the beginning of an actual plan.

Ask me for some milk now, Bug. I dare you!


  1. That's a great story! I like the "What are you, two?" Hmmm... I wonder if social pressure would work: "What would your classmates say if they heard you whine like that?" LOL.

  2. I read this a couple of days ago, but didn't have time to respond! Your family sounds like mine a bit... We can be sarcastic with the best of them. My only caution would be, sometimes sarcasm is totally lost on kids and their tender feelings can get hurt. Especially if they know you are frustrated with them already... But enough about my childhood... :-P

    I'm a fan of turning things into a joke to break up the whining or the tension. Like if my middle daughter is being a pain with whining or whatever, I'll make a ridiculous threat, generally in an English accent (why not?) and say, "Oh no! Charlotte must want Mummy to pick her up by her toes and shake her until all the fluff falls out!" It just sorta kills the "mood" of whaawhaawhaawhaa... Another favorite shared with me by a mom of three, but who's kids are older than mine, is, "C'mon kid! You're making my life harder here!"

    I'm all for filling that "toolbox," because when it's depleted, and especially when I'm depleted, I can be quite a yeller... the loud kind... It's not pretty... :-/

    Love ya Prickly!

  3. Sarcasm runs rampant around here too. We've also noticed J's whining is getting a big out of control. However, he is two, so I'm pretty sure sarcasm won't work very well yet. I am totally going to remember this though for when he's a bit older.

    I love your (and your family's) ability to come up with such creative ideas on tackling a problem. Thanks again for linking up to The Sunday Parenting Party...I look forward to your posts every week!

  4. Love this. The problem is my son is 2! So while I hate giving in to the fits sometimes I just have to admit defeat and repeat "he's only two, he's only two," while hoping he outgrows it some day.