Rage, Rage Against The Whining Of The Child

June 2, 2010

may skateboards etc 092Emilia is not a morning person. I am also not a morning person, but as an adult I recognize that I don’t have any choice in the matter of whether or not I get out of bed, and also I have coffee. Emilia is a child, and she doesn’t drink coffee, so she’s oftentimes – and read ‘oftentimes’ as ‘pretty much almost always’ – cranky in the morning. I would be sympathetic about this – as I said, I’m not a morning person myself, so I get it – except that her way of coping with mornings is to whine like a banshee. A sugar-jacked freak-banshee with no off button.

Mommmmeeee! I want toast! But no butter! NO BUTTER MOMMY! NO BUTTER! And don’t make it warm! It’s TOO WARM MOMMMEEEE! IT’S TOO WARRMMMM! OOOOH! WHY DO I NEVER GET TOAST THE WAY I LIKE IT?!?

She whimpers, heartbroken by the lack of unwarm, unbuttered toast in our house. WHYYYY, MOMMY? WHYYYY? I grip the counter and resist tossing the bread in the sink and/or hollering something about starving children in Africa.

Why can’t I eat my toast with the television, Mommy? WHY? Why do I have to sit here? Where’s Daddy? I’m cold. I want socks. You said it was summer, Mommy! WHY ISN’T IT SUMMER MOMMMMY?!?! OOOOH! YOU SAID IT WAS SUMMER!

And then:


I don’t have a temper. I’m as mild-mannered as they come. There are kittens who get angrier than I do. There are kittens on Xanax that get angrier than I do. But five minutes of my four year old whining about unwarm toast and missing socks and I’m pressing my fingernails into the beds of my palms and sucking in my cheeks and willing myself to just not yell oh god don’t be the mom who yells DO NOT YELL DO NOT YELL -


And then, if I’m really undercaffeinated, I stomp my foot.

And I feel ashamed. I yelled, and I became that mom. That mom who yells, for no good reason, just because the whining hurts her head and she hasn’t had enough coffee and it’s too early and where are my manservants and GOD, Husband, WILL YOU JUST GET OUT OF THE SHOWER ALREADY. And I know that when the whining starts up again, I might do it again. And then I will feel ashamed, again.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s not the yelling that unnerves and shames me. I’m raising my voice, but as I said, I’m an extremely mild-mannered person and anything more than a fractional decibel above friendly conversation feels like yelling. And I know this. I know that in the category of displays of anger’ my children aren’t seeing much. It’s that I feel the anger. I feel angry at my children. Viscerally, irrationally angry. And that feeling? I hate that feeling. I am made uncomfortable by that feeling. Every fiber of my being screams out against that feeling. Not because I fear it – I mean, do fear it, in the sense that it feels so unfamiliar and foreign and wrong, but I don’t fear losing control of it, inasmuch as ‘losing control of temper,’ for me, would mean crying and stomping one foot, lightly, and then only if I was really, really pushed. No, I hate it because I am so used to not feeling it, that deeply visceral experience of anger or frustration – or, if I do feel it, pushing it almost immediately away – and because the idea of being angry, really angry, really unreasonably angry, with my children horrifies me.

I grew up in a household wherein nobody got angry, not really. Or, I should say, nobody expressed their anger. My parents would get mad, at times, but they always expressed those feelings clearly and more or less calmly and they always apologized if they raised their voices. I can remember, with perfect clarity, the only time that my dad ever yelled, really yelled, at me – I can still hear the break in his voice, the catch in his words, as clearly as if it were just moments ago; it so obviously upset him more than it did me that the memory still breaks my heart – and that was during the period of one of his breakdowns. My parents never raged, never stormed, never screamed. And they were adept at diffusing my upsets – my dad would hug me; my mom would try to make me laugh – and so I never had to confront rage, never had to tackle it and defeat it and – here’s the rub – understand it. So. It confuses me, upsets me. And I wonder whether I mightn’t have been better off if I’d been exposed to it a little more. If I’d felt it a little more.

So should I let my kids see when I’m angry? I don’t know. They’re well in touch with their tempers, and I roll with that and let them have those tempers and encourage them to express their feelings in whatever (harmless) way feels right to them. Which makes me wonder whether I need to get more comfortable with my own anger, to find ways to feel less anxious about expressing it, to accept it as part of the landscape of my emotions and let it have its place. And to recognize that when something – like, say, incessant whining – triggers it, it’s okay to let it rumble through me and even work its way down to a foot stomp or two.

Or maybe someone just needs to come up with some kind of kid-safe whine-repellent and send me a case. I don’t know. What do you think?

(And, since we’re all friends here, answer me this: I’m not the only one who sometimes gets driven batshit by the whining, right? I can’t be, right? RIGHT? How do you cope? It’s like a thousand fingernails running down a thousand blackboards with the soundtrack to Monkey ScreechFest 2000 – complete with monkey guitar feedback – blaring in the background at full volume, isn’t it? Maybe I just need earplugs.)

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    Jessica June 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Between this and your “Ten things I hate about motherhood (and one I love)” post, it reminds me of the best parenting advice I ever heard…

    At a babyshower for a friend, the attendees – all at various stages of the parenting continuum – jotted our “advice” down for the first time mother-to-be. While comments varied from, “Choose your battles” and “Remember, it’s only hair”, the winning words of wisdom were – - “It’s okay to occasionally think motherhood sucks.”

    Michelle June 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    The whine is completely normal yet utterly irritating. I completely understand and sympathize. The whine (or in the case of me teenager-the nag) is the only thing that will cause me to loose my cool. Usually I’m pretty mellow. The best answer I’ve had is to just tell my sweet-faced little toddler boy is I cannot understand you unless you use your big boy words/I cannot understand whineese please use regular words…and then I do not respond until he starts to talk normal again. Usually works (I will stress usually as it is no gaurantee).

    Ali June 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I yell. From the moment he gets up to the moment he goes to bed I yell. I HATE IT. But if I speak he just does not listen, does not react. If you stand behind him and whisper when he’s not stroppy he can hear. I’ve tried, he has no hearing problems. When he’s whining it’s like he switches his ears off. I’m so at the end of my tether with it that I leave the room and punch a pillow because he p*sses me off so much. Then he starts with “I don’t love you. I want to live at daddy’s house ‘cos daddy is better than you are.” and I just want to yell back “yeah well your daddy doesn’t want you. Don’t think I haven’t asked if he wants custody you ungrateful little brat.” But I don’t, I breathe and remind myself that he isn’t five til next month and I’m a grown up.

    He went through a phase of punching and kicking me when he was whining which I think we’ve got rid off (famous last words). But God, if he’s like this at four, what the hell is he going to be like at fourteen? I’m leaving home…

    Julie @ The Mom Slant June 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Starting Monday, I’m going to bribe Catherine not to cry. If she makes it through the day without crying, she gets ice cream.

    I fully expect her to blow the deal by 9am every day. The girl loses her shit at the drop of a hat, over the most minor affronts.

    It does comfort me to know that you, as calm as you are, get upset. Because I do have a temper and I do yell. Even in the summer when the windows are open.
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Young enough to be in the baby pool, young enough to require supervision =-.

    anymommy June 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    @Julie @ The Mom Slant, I loved this comment. (The post was great and whining sucks and I always enjoy your writing, C, but this comment kind of saved me because – for! the! love! of! god! woman. You stamp your foot softly? You raise your voice slightly? Um. Apparently, the buggy-eyed she-devil yell is considered child abuse in Canada? I’m not saying often, or that I’m proud of it, but I show anger and I have lost my freaking shit (yelling wise) over whining. You are my heroine if raising your voice slightly and stamping your feet is the anger you show your kids.

    Whew. I feel better. That said, I do think its important to discuss strong emotions after the fact. We’ve talked about how their whining made me feel (angry) and how my yelling made them feel and how we can all handle things differently.
    .-= anymommy´s last blog ..Coffee Wars =-.

    laura June 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    you aren’t alone.
    i am in the middle of a whine-a-palooza right now. how long is summer vacation again, i wonder?
    how do i cope? i whine myself, so says my husband. i blog. i distract the whiner. i drink wine.
    hang in there. just knowing that we aren’t alone drowning in all of this whine somehow makes it a little bit better.
    .-= laura´s last blog ..laps: non-swimmer’s style =-.

    threeundertwo June 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Hold on to your hat. When the hormones hit her at age 12 you will wish the girl who shows up at the breakfast table is that cute little whining preschooler again.

    I’m sorry, it never gets easier, but we can get more accepting of our own reaction to it. And anger? My 3 teens left the house an utter disaster area this morning. I’m mad. At them. But I don’t think I’m a bad parent for it.
    .-= threeundertwo´s last blog ..That Parenting Moment We Hate =-.

    Lisa June 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    My mom’s been watching my kids a lot lately while my husband’s in the hospital. She commented one day to my 4 year old about how he whines so much at home, but not at her place. I can’t remember what his exact reply was, but it was basically that he chooses to whine here & not there. Lucky me.

    Rebecca (Playground Confidential) June 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Every morning and many afternoons. I’m REALLY not a morning person and tend to wake up in a near-rage-filled states on most mornings anyway. So the whining and picky breakfast demands when you’re trying to get the day going tip the scale for me. I yell. I feel bad. I apologize. I do it again. Sucks.
    .-= Rebecca (Playground Confidential)´s last blog ..A Half-finished Life =-.

    MamaMonster June 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I SO FEEL YOU. I’m going to scroll through your comments for help b/c the whining drives me batshit.

    Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I try the “I can’t hear you when you whine” gambit. Sometimes whining = time out. Sometimes, too often, I yell and then I feel crappy. Sometimes, when it’s all just too much, it makes me cry and THAT frightens and upsets the kid.
    .-= MamaMonster´s last blog ..Living Breathing Birth Control Ad =-.

    Jen June 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    You are so NOT the only one. My children’s whining drives me to wish that I had all the Ativan in the world – but then, that still wouldn’t help.

    I also hate mornings and the I WANT BREAKFAST NOW and MILK and I WANT THE PINK PLATE and I WANTED BUTTER WITH MY PEANUT BUTTER and WHY DID YOU GET HER BREAKFAST FIRST and coffee does bad things to my body so I rarely drink it and that just makes it EVEN WORSE.

    I’m right there with you. Except I came from a family of yellers so yelling comes naturally to me except I HATE it. I also HATE the anger that I feel toward my children. One day, there will be a cure. And you know what that cure is? Boarding school.

    Redneck Mommy June 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Aunty Tanis needs to come and visit. If only to laugh and snicker at you while E whines for unwarm toast. (Because I’m thoughtful and supportive like that.)
    .-= Redneck Mommy´s last blog ..Chewing Off My Gag Order =-.

    Catherine June 3, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    @Redneck Mommy, when *IS* Aunty Tanis coming to visit? Because being laughed at by Aunty Tanis would help a little.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Rage, Rage Against The Whining Of The Child =-.

    norm June 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Hard and fast rule around this house: if you whine for it, you don’t get it. Doesn’t stop’em, but on the other hand it doesn’t encourage’em. I knew we were winning the war when the older ones started saying that to the younger ones … ;)

    jodifur June 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    My own 5 year old was in time out 3 times before 8 am this morning for whining. You know how I stopped the yelling, whining is an automatic sit on the stairs offense. it normally stops the whining. This morning it didn’t.

    You know what is worse than toddlers who whine? ADULTS WHO WHINE. And you can’t yell at them.

    Wendy Rairdan June 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    We have implemented the “whiny room”. When my son starts whining I point to the guest bath and say “you can’t whine out here you have to go in there”. He HATES it in there as, of course, there is nothing to do and nobody to hear him so that usually stops him. Usually….
    I cannot stand the sound of whining. It completely takes anything rational about me and turns me into a ticked off pit viper. I cannot think or speak or function when this beautiful child whines and whining as a result of something I did that HE ASKED ME TO DO feels like someone jabbing a ice in my ear.
    ….. just saying.
    .-= Wendy Rairdan´s last blog ..Adults =-.

    Wendy Rairdan June 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    We have implemented the “whiny room”. When my son starts whining I point to the guest bath and say “you can’t whine out here you have to go in there”. He HATES it in there as, of course, there is nothing to do and nobody to hear him so that usually stops him. Usually….
    I cannot stand the sound of whining. It completely takes anything rational about me and turns me into a ticked off pit viper. I cannot think or speak or function when this beautiful child whines and whining as a result of something I did that HE ASKED ME TO DO feels like someone jabbing an ice pick in my ear.
    ….. just saying.
    .-= Wendy Rairdan´s last blog ..Adults =-.

    Tasha June 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Whining shall be the thing that kills me in the end, I just know it. We have begun the ol’ “I’d be happy to talk with you when your voice is calm and quiet like mine” routine and then they have to leave the room if the whining continues because “it hurts our ears too bad” and also, “My ears only listen to kids who use non-whining voices, let me know if you see one of those around here.” They get it if you are consistent and do not respond to the whiny voice and send them away when it’s ridiculously bad. It’s worked for us anyway, and I think showing your kids your anger and how you deal with it in a rational way is perfectly fine, even if it does involve a stomped foot. :) You could also say, “that whining makes me feel sooooo angry that I need to leave the room so I can calm down.” GOOD LUCK!
    .-= Tasha´s last blog ..You Have Reached My Homemade Happiness =-.

    Tina C. June 3, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    oh boy do i hate the sound of whining in the morning! you are not the only one who yells back at that nonsense. also i state, while yelling, that i don’t like it when people yell at me! doesn’t make sense i guess but it stops it for a while.

    sometimes, when i’m really patient and i’ve had a lot of sleep, i answer quietly to the “yes/no breakfast dance” that i guess you won’t eat anything and you’ll probably be very hungry until snack time. sometimes that gets me a kid who shut up and decided to start eating.

    Karen L June 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    The whining hasn’t ramped up too much yet (my older kid is 3) but I feel you on the anger. The thing though that get me is when the older one, 3, is physically aggressive with the younger one, 1. I totally turn into mama bear.

    Kairos June 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one driven to anger by the whining. My 4 year old drives me more crazy than she should with the whining, especially asking for something specific and then complaining that it wasn’t what she wanted once she gets it. We’ve been attempting to tell her to say things politely, which sort of works. Rarely the first time though.
    .-= Kairos´s last blog ..Monday memory: The Lumpy Steps =-.

    rebecca @ altared spaces June 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I never yell and barely am bothered by whining when I’m well rested and well fed.

    Problem is motherhood makes those two conditions difficult. I too often feed other people first and go to bed too late or get up too early to get everything done I want to in order to make my family life the memory-making-treasure-trove I want it to be.

    So, I too yell.

    My daughter does not. Never has. My son and I get into it with some regularity.

    About a year ago my daughter mentioned to me that my yelling was improving. I didn’t know if I should take this as a compliment or condemnation for the early years.

    I think it’s just that now they are able to feed themselves with more ability. So I can, and sometimes do, eat first. They are also capable of putting themselves to bed.

    This, then, might be the end of yelling: when they can feed themselves and stay up later than me.

    But probably not. We just know how to push the yell-worthy button in each other. I don’t want to do it. Neither do they. But sometimes it happens.

    Your post makes me feel better about it: like maybe it’s an education in emotion handling. We can yell AND love. So thanks.
    .-= rebecca @ altared spaces´s last blog ..hide and seek with a kitten finds a sister =-.

    Barbara from Dorchester MA June 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    When I was a kid I used to tell my mother that I wanted “toast but I don’t want it cooked!” so Emilia’s not the only one. :-)

    statia June 5, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Some days I can handle it with ease and other days I want to staple them to their bed and just walk away. And my son? He’s a whiner. It’s unnerving.
    .-= statia´s last blog ..I’m convinced he’s trying to make me crazy. Or kill me. Possibly both. =-.

    roo June 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Unfortunately, most people don’t cotton well to whining, so I’d say showing her it’s upsetting and annoying might actually be doing her a service– particularly since you go to such pains to shield her from the full blast of your emotions.

    mom101 June 6, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    The whining can definitely drive a mom to drink. Or at least, to yell. I always try to stop and think about why I’m angry – usually it’s not actually something the kids are doing wrong. Usually it’s me wishing I were doing something else or having some other responsibility, and feeling frustration. Which is totally not fair right?

    That starving children in Africa thing hasn’t worked for us yet either; maybe a few more years.

    Hang in there mama.
    .-= mom101´s last blog ..Confession =-.

    Adrianscrazylife June 7, 2010 at 2:23 am

    I think just reading through your comments is kind of like a tutorial for dealing with whining. I need it too because I volunteered (gulp) to watch my 3 grandkids for an entire week and #2 is a world-class whiner! The good news is that now he doesn’t have Mama & Dad to let him get away with it. I have zero tolerance for whining.

    My tactic is to concentrate on what I DO want rather than what I DON’T want. So I’ve set up a point system. When they behave nicely and do what I want, they will get points. When they whine and don’t do what I ask, I take points away. At the end of the day, the one with the most points gets to choose a “bonus slip” out of a jar. The bonus slips are just quick easy things that kids like – extra game time, stay up a little late, go on a flashlight walk, get ice cream, etc. Cross your fingers and hope it works!

    Dana - Your Inspired Coach June 8, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Ah, I finally found the comment option on a post! :)

    Harriet Lerner’s book, “The Dance of Anger” is a great book for women to read about learning to recognize and allow your anger to guide you in a way that is constructive.

    Nobody is really raised to deal with anger, are they? Most of us are taught to stuff it or be punished for our anger…which is just our emotional GPS telling us this is something we are not wanting. The obvious next question, if we are present enough of mind, is what are we wanting in that moment? What is the anger telling us?

    Obviously, in this scenario, you were wanting Emilia to stop whining, but anger is not a bad thing and can be used constructively. I’m sure at 4 years old she can understand, “Mommy is angry. She hasn’t had coffee or breakfast yet and you are whining. Mommy would like you to use big girl language and ask for what you want without whining or ______. It would make Mommy happy if you would talk like a big girl about how you want your toast.” (I don’t know if it’s go back to bed, a time out, whatever you use for discipline, fill in the blank.)

    I know I’m one of the not-yet-mothers, but I have been 4 and my parents were pretty clear with me at that age and usually didn’t have to even speak to get that point across by that age. An eyebrow did the trick.
    .-= Dana – Your Inspired Coach´s last blog ..The Work on Corporate America and Women (read: Me) =-.

    Dana - Your Inspired Coach June 8, 2010 at 1:10 am

    BTW – my parents’ version would not have gone like that. The eyebrow would have been raised. Then if I did not stop whining, I’d have been given my options in a much swifter and more concise version of eat your toast and stop whining or go back to bed hungry. I’d have not liked the go back to bed hungry option, so I’d have stopped the whining.
    .-= Dana – Your Inspired Coach´s last blog ..The Work on Corporate America and Women (read: Me) =-.

    althea June 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I remember pre-kids, asking my best friend about whining. I love her children, but when they would whine it would drive me a little batty. She told me , “Well, its different when they’re yours.”
    My two year old boy is not a talker yet. He is a whiner. I try to get him to use his words, and he DOES try, but I cannot for the LIFE of me understand him sometimes. I do not want to overwhelm him with choices, so sometimes I yell…I yell stupid things. Like, “STOP F*CKING YELLING WHAT THE F*UCK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?!?!”
    Sometimes I put myself in time out and go ask God for help to be a nice mommy.
    I love the idea of the whiney room. I will try that out.
    Thank you for making me feel less alone in this battle.
    .-= althea´s last blog ..Day Four-ish =-.

    Her Bad Mother June 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

    We’re none of us alone – or, we don’t need to be. Glad that this helped a little :)

    Bree @ The Mom with Moxie June 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I could’ve written this post about my 4-year-old son. His whining is getting out of control. Would it be bad, if I just ignored him until he spoke in a less annoying tone?

    Major Bedhead June 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I have three kids and I think they’re in some sort of competition, either to see who can whine the most or who can drive me into the psych ward fastest.

    The 15 year old whines because she’s, well, 15. The 5 year old and the 4 year old whine because it seems that’s what they all do at this age. In addition to the near-constant whining, they fight. They push, they shove, they bite, they snatch things away from each other and they yell. I am ALWAYS on edge. Always. It doesn’t help that my husband decided about 6 weeks ago that he was going to do a legger and took off for parts unknown. Before he left, they were just normal-whiny. Now they’re insecure, clingy, angry whiny. And while I get it, I get their emotions and their anger and I try to be as patient as I can be, I am, most days, barely clinging to my sanity.

    It’s weird how my brain can be simultaneously processing the hugging and comforting and trying to discuss things with my kids while at the same time screaming inside “OHMYGODWILLYOUJUSTSHUTUPFORFIVEFUCKINGMINUTESSOICANTHINK???? PLEASE!!!!!”
    .-= Major Bedhead´s last blog ..When Is A Book Club More Than A Book Club? =-.

    Lawanda Albelo June 17, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Hello, also like the Shrek movies, very good animation!

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