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4 Strategies to Reduce Whining

My mother rarely baked. There was no need to do so as she was blessed with her own mother nearby who happily delivered mouth-watering birthday cakes, challahs and holiday specialties. We even had a great kosher bakery only a few blocks away from our house. Between Grandma and Mottel’s Bakery, our home was well stocked.

Baking was not an easy activity to do in my mother’s  kitchen. The necessary utensils were kept either high up or low down. Mom stored roasting pans in the oven. This meant they needed to be moved elsewhere before you could bake. Making cookies or a cake meant spending a fair bit of time and energy just pulling the necessary items together and clearing space. Did my mother not bake because it was so much trouble or did she organize her kitchen in this way because she didn’t plan to bake? I do not know.

I do know that we can make many of the things that drain our energy much easier by organizing things differently. Whining and nagging children are a prime example. If we are at the end of our rope because of our children’s incessant demands, the good news is that the problem most likely lies with us, not them. While this may be a bitter pill to swallow, it means that the solution is in our hands. Even if we are willing to live with unpleasant brats, we owe it to our children to help them become individuals who others will also want to be around.

Children nag because it works. Every single time we say no and then change our minds after hearing a request repeated a few times, we teach our children to bug us. Every single time our “no” is met with sulking or aggression or tears and we respond with an emotional outburst of our own, we send the message that our children can control us. Whenever we agree to a an appeal that was delivered in a whiny or impolite tone we provide positive reinforcement for that method of communication, regardless of whether we are happy to say yes to the particular request.

Here are four steps that worked in our home. Obviously, it is easier to set up a relationship this way from the start and it takes longer and much more patience to break established bad habits. As with any new skill, these steps may feel unnatural at first and require intense concentration. When we make a mistake, we need to try over and over again, just as we do when learning a new sport or how to play a musical instrument. Eventually, we begin to do things instinctively and that is when we reap the benefits.

The happiest families I know are those where the parents really enjoy spending time with their children. No one that I know looks forward to stomach flu or lice infestations or some of the other accompaniments of family life. But there is every reason to expect to take pleasure in the majority of our time with our children. We are in charge of making that happen.      

1) Don’t respond to your children instinctively or with your attention focused elsewhere. From a very young age children can learn not to interrupt a telephone call or conversation. From a slightly older age, we parents can learn not to answer the phone, or respond to other attention-diverting technology, or to try to have an intense adult conversation at times when we know that our focus should be on our children. We need to be present in more than a physical sense when interacting with our children. 

2) It is completely appropriate to remind a two-year-old to say please. It is completely absurd to remind a seven-year-old of these same words. If they are missing, or if your child’s tone of voice is unpleasant or rude explain (softly and matter-of-factly) that you aren’t able to listen to a request presented in such a way and your child can try again in five minutes. Then set a timer so you both know when the time is up. Depending on the age, there might be an “X strikes and you’re out” rule.

3) When everyone knows the rules, life is simpler. If sugary snacks or computer time or messy arts and crafts are limited to certain times and occasions, then no one will expect them to be available around the clock. Very few children in Vermont beg to go to the beach in February. If you never allow the glitter to come out within an hour of bedtime, no one will ask for it. 

4) Some of the whiniest children I know are the children of complaining, less-than-grateful adults. Monitor your interactions with your spouse, parents, siblings and children. Do you speak to each other respectfully and in a pleasant tone of voice? Are you rude to other people in your life? Do you model gratitude or entitlement as you go through your day? We can’t expect young children to behave better than we do.

We spend a great deal of time with our children. Let’s not let whining ruin those special hours.   

But Everyone Else Does

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

When school starts, fads tend to pick up.  Remember fidget spinners?  Deuteronomy 17:14 gives mothers a perspective on trends and fads that we may find helpful.  It says, “When you come to the land that Hashem, your God, is giving you, and you inhabit it and settle in it, and you will say, ‘I will place upon myself a king like all the nations around me…’” 

Sure enough, this is what happened.  When the prophet Samuel was nearing the end of his life, the Jewish people came to him and said,  “Make for us a king to judge us like all the other nations.”  (1Samuel 8:5) Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that the concept to appoint a king is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. (Deut. 17:15)  We were supposed to have a king once we were settled in Israel. 

But, the line, “just like all the nations that surround us,” was not part of the original idea. That is included in Deuteronomy as a prophecy, describing what will happen—and it was not a good thing.  We were supposed to ask for a king because it was the right thing for us, but not because  any other nations had monarchies.  Right request, wrong reason.

I don’t know if you have kids at all similar to mine, but pretty much as soon as I give something or permission to do something to one of them, someone else is bound to come to me and say, “Since you said so and so can do this, can I also do it?”  Probably, just as you do, I respond, “What your sibling does has no bearing on what you do.  Ask me again for what you want, but this time don’t tell me what someone else has, just focus on yourself.” 

This is the message we can learn from the way the Jewish people ended up asking for a king.  Monarchy may be the right choice, but not for the wrong reasons.  We were supposed to ask for a king because we were commanded to do so, not because the neighboring countries did.

This is an important message for us to give to our children. Life is not fair, and we are not given equivalent gifts in this world.  Our children will be in situations their whole lives long where they see other people having things and doing things which they won’t be able to, or shouldn’t, have or do.  If we can help them learn from a young age that we should each focus on what is right for us, regardless of what anyone else has or does, we are giving them a valuable tool for life.  Yes, everyone else in your class may have a fidget spinner, but even if you should have one, the fact that others have it is not the reason for you to get one.

Love Yourself – Forget the Neighbor

The impetus for this Musing came from two disturbing clips I heard on National Public Radio’s This American Life program.  Each on its own is minor, but I wonder if, together, they do represent a larger issue.

A little background. My preferred exercise class is a twenty minute drive from our house. This travel time is perfect for listening to podcasts and This American Life is in my rotation. Each week’s episode has a specific focus and listening for few minutes usually tells me if it will be a worthwhile investment of my time. The show gives me insight into the lives of Americans I might not otherwise meet and topics  I might not encounter.

Two of the shows I recently heard revealed a common problem. It didn’t have to do with the topic of either show, but each show included a throw-away statement that caused me to gasp. Both shows were repeats having first run a few years ago, but I doubt that the troublesome attitude has improved over the intervening years.

The problem was insufferable self-centeredness. Most troublesome was that the hosts interviewing each of the individuals involved didn’t seem in the least bit troubled. They seemed to accept their subjects’ words as perfectly reasonable and possibly even amusing.

Show #1: The idea here was to place reporters at a rest stop on the New York State Thruway and have them interview drivers utilizing the rest stop as well as employees of the various franchises. At the time of the taping, the franchises brought in foreign students to work. While they weren’t paid much, they were provided with housing and their visas allowed them time for a month of travel after working for the summer, making it an appealing deal for these young adults.

In the specific portion that troubled me, one of these employees was talking about wild parties taking place in the lodgings. He seemed completely unfazed by the neighbor’s complaints. His interviewer asked him if he was worried that the apartment complex where he and his peers were being housed might not accept temporary workers the next year. His casual response? Why should it worry him since he isn’t planning on coming back?

Show #2: The next extract that bothered me came from a show about Americans living in Paris. A very articulate and professional-sounding lawyer was interviewed who expressed shock at how people in Paris objected when she jumped to the front of the line at a movie theatre. Why did this shock her? Because, she explained, as a Black woman in America, she regularly intimidated white people in line when she jumped to the front and they hesitated to call out her bad behavior. She went on to say how she appreciated the lack of racism in Paris, sounding completely unaware that her behavior back in the States  relied on and exasperated dissension between the races. Having used her race to unfair advantage and specifically to cause fear among those of other races, she seemed blithely oblivious to the idea that she was among those causing others of her race to be viewed negatively. The interviewer chuckled at her story.

What do these two snippets have in common? Utter self-absorption. Not caring that your behavior is going to make things more difficult for other people. Not caring that rowdy late-night party behavior interferes with neighbors who depend on getting to sleep or that students just like you who hope to come to the United States on a similar arrangement will be less welcome. Not caring that people waiting in line will need to stand around longer if you jump the line and not caring that others who share your skin color might be viewed with suspicion and distaste because of your behavior. Other people are irrelevant; only you matter.  And in neither case did the interviewer express the slightest bit of discomfort with these stories.

I am quite sure that traveling students and African-American readers of this Musing might be squirming with discomfort. These stories do not represent them. They probably feel the way my husband and I felt reading the article about Americans of Jewish descent advocating abortion and  that led to our writing this week’s Ask the Rabbi column. Wouldn’t it be better to ignore this bad behavior by those with whom we are instinctively identified and hope that no one notices? That is one approach and it has a lot in common with the proverbial ostrich whose head is in the sand. I’m choosing to point it out because without awareness there can be no change.

Apathy to “the other” is not commendable but it is understandable. Refusing to recognize that our behavior affects those with whom our lives intersect is unfortunate, but it is human nature. Having it pointed out to you and simply not caring, or boasting about it, seems to be another level entirely.  In a world that has excised, “Love your neighbor as yourself” from the education of our youth, what can we do so that self-absorption doesn’t reach a new low?

What essential messages emerge from the Hebrew word for:
Love
Wealth
Family
?

ON SALE

 

No Memory; No Future

Not even 20 years have passed since our country was viciously attacked on September 11.  I think it safe to say that 18 years after Pearl Harbor, the date of December 7 meant something on college campuses, in Hollywood and in all corners of the United States.  Wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that September 11th evokes unanimous sentiments of patriotism, support for our troops and feelings of gratitude for being an American throughout this great land?

Follow up: Someone shared the following NY Times tweet: “18 years have passed since airplanes took aim and brought down the World Trade Center. Today, families will once again gather and grieve at the site where more than 2,000 people died.”

Disgusting. Who is the bad guy? Airplanes. People died, they weren’t murdered. Families will grieve, so the rest of America should tune out.

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • They Give Me the Creeps September 9, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Prawns, shrimp, lobster and crab; as a long-time underwater diving enthusiast, I’ve seen them all in their natural habitat and they give me the shudders.  Even while wearing rubber gloves I’ve never liked handling them.  From once living in Africa, I remember the huge Goliath beetle—not at all fondly.  I know children who keep large… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Is what I read about abortion and Judaism correct? September 10, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - Hello! Please comment on a USA Today article claiming the Jewish faith teaches that abortion is permitted.  The article was published on July 27, 2019.  Are they accurately quoting the teachings of the faith? From: Carole P. Dear Carole, Thank you for bringing this shameful,  painful and misleading article to our attention. The short answer… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Love Yourself – Forget the Neighbor September 12, 2019 by Susan Lapin - The impetus for this Musing came from two disturbing clips I heard on National Public Radio’s This American Life program.  Each on its own is minor, but I wonder if, together, they do represent a larger issue. A little background. My preferred exercise class is a twenty minute drive from our house. This travel time… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • No Memory; No Future September 11, 2019 by Susan Lapin - Not even 20 years have passed since our country was viciously attacked on September 11.  I think it safe to say that 18 years after Pearl Harbor, the date of December 7 meant something on college campuses, in Hollywood and in all corners of the United States.  Wouldn't it be reassuring to know that September… Read More

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About Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America’s Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, popular international speaker and best-selling author. He hosts the Rabbi Daniel Lapin podcast as well as co-hosting the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on the TCT network with his wife, Susan. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner, thus improving peoples’ finances, family and community life  has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths.

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