I remember watching Alfie Kohn, a parenting coach, talk about the fact that we often ignore kids when they’re doing something to get “attention”. He reminded his audience that this is a human basic need, and that is indeed the case. However, there are positive, and negative ways to get attention. Whining and crying is often used by kids as a way to ensure that they are being payed attention to by their parents, and thankfully, this often works, ensuring that kids feel safe with mom and dad.
Mentors, on the other hand, play a different role in a child’s development. Indeed, it is important for us to push our students over their perceived edge of ability, in order to show them that they can do much more than they ever thought possible. I believe that this is also the case with whining and crying for attention.
In a group setting, it may not always be possible to attend to the child who is constantly having a meltdown. So, I often walk up to the child, and let them know that its okay to cry. I also attend to their basic needs; making sure that they are well fed, watered, and rested. If this is an isolated incident, I will try to figure out what is happening at home. Often times, crying about a game is really just a means to get out frustrations about dad going away on a business trip, or a new brother or sister coming into the world.
But sometimes, we find the case of chronic whiners. These may take time to work on, but with consistency, I’ve had amazing success. The steps are simple.
1. let them know that it is okay for them to cry/whine
2. remind them that you want to help them, but that the way they are asking for help is challenging to connect to
3. let them know that when they are done crying, they can come ask you for help in a good way
4. walk away. This is an important step. Providing a child with much attention for such a behaviour will not help the situation
5. If they are distracting the whole group, gently ask them to find a spot under a tree, a little distance away, where they can regroup
And there you have it! With time, the negative behaviour will subside, and you will find a more resilient, and confident child beneath, who knows how to ask for help in a good way.