Drawing lines…

Yesterday, I posted this on my Facebook page: “There’s nothing worse than a whiny 14-year-old.” When there were 31 comments within minutes, I realized immediately that a) I’m not alone, and b) that my comment posted in frustration definitely struck a nerve with other moms.

So what do we do when our kids start whining?  Whether they are 4 or 14?

I don’t have all the answers on this one, but I’ll share with you what I did yesterday.  I drew a line.  A boundary line.  And I clearly communicated expectations for the future.

Everyone was gone yesterday except me and said child.  So I told him we were taking a ride.  I had two coupons for a free frozen drink at a fast food restaurant that we cashed in. Sitting in the restaurant, I took out a pen and paper and together we brainstormed almost 20 activities he can do when he is bored.

Now I won’t let you think he was excited about this conversation.  He was reluctantly participating.

After discussing his activity options when he is bored, I stated clearly to him that I would not tolerate the words, “I’m bored,” or a whiny tone, and if I heard them again there would be a consequence.   I mean that…100%.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that parenting reactively is quite ineffective. Parenting proactively is far more effective.  Removing ourselves from the home setting and establishing boundaries outside of conflict was part of my effort at being more proactive than reactive.

Dealing with this took me back to when my kids were little.  I found that if I clearly set expectations for my kids, they were more likely to rise to them.  If I didn’t set expectations, I dealt with more misbehavior.  For instance, when we pulled in the grocery store parking lot and I informed my kids–before they were ever out of their car seats–where I expected them to ride in the shopping cart and whether this was a “candy or no-candy in the check-out aisle” shopping trip, made all the difference in how they behaved in the store.  When the expectations were clearly communicated, I had better behaved kids.  And even if they misbehaved after setting the expectation, then I didn’t hesitate doling out a consequence because I knew that they knew what was expected.

When we parent proactively we lead our kids, setting the standards we expect them to rise to.   If you think about it, parenting is all about leadership, really.

How about you?  How do you lead your kids proactively, rather than respond reactively?


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7 thoughts on “Drawing lines…

  1. Yesterday was first day of summer vacation and I already heard “I’m bored” too (ages 8 & 9). I told them that bored would not be an option all summer, they had to use their brain and figure out things they could do this summer. I suggested they make a list of ideas then make a ‘spinner’ with all the ideas on it. They used an old beatup school folder to cut out circle for the spinner board – they had a lot of fun making them and now they now have like 30 ideas of things to do this summer. I agree – clear expectations up front makes a huge difference!

  2. Thanks for being real with us. But what consequences can we employ? Five kids and fifteen years of parenting, and i’m outta ideas (but do need to up the ante around here — my kids are getting lazy about obedience among other things). Help!

  3. OMGosh!! Love it!!! After raising 7 other teens I have to agree! They are all adults now with children of their own and I love to see them meeting up to our values and expectations of them. However, I have one daughter left…the 8th child…(she’s 14 as of yesterday). A friend sent me your link after I posted, “I have several teen girls and they’re screaming” Thanks for the reminder that boundaries are important and no matter what age your child is…if you give them boundaries and expectations they will appreciate it when they are raising your grandchildren! God bless! Diana Joy

  4. Great post! What do you do to be proactive with an almost 4 year old. Whining is so constant right now and so is the disrespectful tone. How much would she understand at this point?? I’d love to sit her down and make up a list etc. Any suggestions? I have none!! It would also help when her 3 triplet siblings begin this behavior!


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