How to Keep Your Kid from Whining to Get Something

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I need some help with my 8-year-old. I dread taking her into stores because she constantly asks for her mother and I to buy her things. If we say “no,” she whines and begs. While sometimes we give in and buy her things once she has begged for a while, and we do have the occasional tantrum. The whining is what is driving us crazy. How do we avoid the whining and tantrums altogether?

— Patrick, Columbus


You cannot avoid behaviors. And whether you know it yet or not, you don’t want to.

Kids have to try out behaviors to see if they work. That’s their job. Kids are constantly figuring out what they are in charge of and what they can control. You have shown your daughter that she is at least sometimes in control of whether or not you buy her things at stores, and she is also in charge of whether or not her parents get angry while at stores. Human beings have a biological need to control their environment, so this is normal. Your daughter is using the behaviors that work for her to control what she can control. Instead of avoiding these behaviors, which is impossible and hurtful, you are simply not going to give her what she wants (an emotional parent and a Monster High doll) when she exhibits those behaviors (whining, throwing tantrums).

sad girlFirst, you need to clear up some confusion and set a clear limit about when you buy things for your daughter. This is how I would do it.

Kid Whisperer: Honey, I need to apologize to you. Your mother and I have been unclear about when and where we will buy gifts for you. I think this has caused some confusion. Here’s the deal. Every Sunday I am going to give money. You are 8 years old, so I will give you $8 each week. You can buy anything you want with that money, as long as it’s something that doesn’t hurt you. That way you are in charge of what you buy instead of me and your mom. You can save it or spend it. It’s all up to you! Here’s the thing though: I will only be buying you presents for your birthday and for (enter religious holiday here if applicable: Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, etc.). We may surprise you with a gift from time to time, but we will never buy you present while at a store. Ever.

From then on, you buy her nothing besides food, clothing (that you want to buy) and holiday gifts as previously outlined. If she asks for if she can have something for her birthday or for a religious holiday, we simply say “We’ll see.” If she asks for anything while at a store, it goes like this:

Kid: Ooh, can I get Beanie Boos!?!

Kid Whisperer: Did you bring your money?

Kid: No, I already spent it.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. I don’t know what to tell you.

piggy bank

That’s it. Of course, if she wants to buy something and has the money, great!

What she is allowed to buy (anything that doesn’t hurt her) depends on your value system.

How often you surprise your daughter with a gift or whether you do so at all is up to you. By following this simple plan, however, you are drastically increasing the odds that she might actually appreciate the gift.

How to Respond to ‘Why? Why? Why?’ Questions

My 3-year-old is driving me crazy. I don’t really know if you can call this a “behavioral problem.” He is doing something that I know is typical, but knowing this hasn’t saved me from losing my mind. He keeps asking me “Why?” about every single little thing that happens! “Why are you doing that?” “Why? Why? Why?” I notice that he’s not even listening to my answer. Do I ignore him? Do I run away? What do I do? — Phil, Omaha, Neb.

I’m right there with you on this one. My wife and I are going through this with our 2-year-old right now. Let’s call her the Evildoer. The Evildoer acts like an insane reporter on speed. She asks questions constantly, and, like your child, sometimes doesn’t even care about the answer. I have your solution.why

But before we use our new tactic we need to be able to distinguish between two kinds of questions that our kids can ask. One kind of question is information-seeking (I.S.). These are the questions that you don’t mind answering because your child legitimately is asking you help him make sense of the world. Good signs that a child is asking an I.S. question is that it is thoughtful on some level and that they listen to the answer and perhaps ask a follow-up I.S. question. What to do with an I.S. question is simple: Answer it.

Children seek to see what they can control. This is healthy, but so is teaching kids exactly what they should and shouldn’t be in control of. One way a kid can get control is to have your attention whenever they want it. This includes trying to lock you into an argument with questions. Showing them that they are not in charge of this is an important limit to set.upside down

This leads us to attention-seeking (A.S.) questions. While I.S. questions can be exhausting to answer, A.S. questions are the ones that really drive you nuts. These are the mindless, staring off into space “Why? Why? Why?” questions.

So here are two ways to manage the A.S. questions so that you can keep your stress level low and make your kid less likely to ask these questions. I did both of these today. Let’s call the first tactic “Question Ricochet” and the second “The Question Stomper.”

The Evildoer: Why we eating wunch now?

The Kid Whisperer: Why do you think?

The Evildoer: Because it’s wunch time.

The Kid Whisperer: Yep.

Or …

The Evildoer: Why we have to get ready?

Kid Whisperer: You’ll see.

The Evildoer: Why?

Kid Whisperer: You’ll see.

… and repeat as necessary.

The key is to answer all A.S. questions with exactly the same words in exactly the same boring way. This will cause your kid to be less interested in trying to lead you around on a leash using questions.

Warning: This will make the behavior worse in the short term as your kid is going to attempt to regain control by asking A.S. questions louder and more frequently. Weather the storm and you will have a less stressful relationship with your son when the storm clears. Good luck experimenting with this new strategy.

How to Get Your Teen to Keep a Clean Room

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have been having a power struggle with my 16 year old for the last 10 years about the mess in his room. I am exhausted from it. I am embarrassed at how long I have been fighting this battle and how long he has been winning it. I have grounded him, taken away privileges, you name it. Sometimes when I really threaten and yell, he will pick up most of his things. He leaves his stuff around the rest of the house as well. He will be going to college the year after next. Should I just give up on this one and just pick my battles? I’m not sure what to do.

— Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Ugh. This sounds exhausting. I wish you would have found me 10 years ago. Congratulations, Sarah. Your battle, let’s call it the Ten Year Underwear on the Floor War, is about to end with you as the victor. I guarantee it. The question is not whether this plan will work. The question is whether you have the emotional fortitude to let your child suffer the consequences of being irresponsible.

Kid Whisperer adults don’t pick their battles. Adults who pick their battles with kids have far more battles to fight. Kid Whisperer adults win their battles without even having to fight them. Here’s the Love and Logic® way of winning your war. Notice that it allows you to be calm and strict. Notice the absence of anger, lectures, warnings, or threats. This is the way I would handle the situation. Here we go.

Kid Whisperer walks into Kid’s bedroom to see what looks like a room that has been ransacked by government agents. Kid is happily playing video games in his pit of filth.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. Yikes. I’m glad I wasn’t in here when the bomb went off.

Kid (not looking up): Real funny.

Kid Whisperer: Alrighty. Feel free to keep all of your possessions that are off the floor by the time you go to the waterpark tomorrow morning. This includes your XBOX and the games in the living game kid

Kid (still not looking up): What do you mean?

Kid Whisperer: Well, what did I say?

Kid: Whatever.

Kid Whisperer: (walking out of the door) Goodnight. Love you.

Kid: Gross.

As soon as Kid leaves for the waterpark the next day, Kid Whisperer enters Kid’s room to see that it is, amazingly, somehow worse than it had been a mere 10 hours prior. Kid Whisperer grabs a nearby chair to brace for the shock. Kid Whisperer takes out two trash bags and puts every single thing that is on the floor in the bags. He then drives the bags to the local pawn shop and Goodwill Store. He gives the clothes (which he washed, mercifully) to Goodwill and sells the other possessions to the pawn shop. Later that evening, Kid is quite surprised when he enters his room.

Kid: What happened to my room?!?

Kid Whisperer: I know, right? It’s clean.

Kid: No, I mean what happened to my STUFF?!?

Kid Whisperer: I gave your clothes to Goodwill and I pawned your other stuff.

Kid: No, seriously.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. I am serious. Here are the receipts from Goodwill and the pawn shop. You are more than welcome to buy your stuff back. You’ll have to talk to them about that.


Kid Whisperer: Love you too much to argue. I’ll be in my room where it’s quieter. Love you.

Please note that this is not designed to make your child happy in the short term. In fact, if your kid doesn’t get really mad about this, there may be something wrong with him. If he becomes so belligerent that you feel there should be a consequence for his actions, feel free to administer one, but not right away. Please go to my website for advice on logical consequences.

Do you suppose the next time you say “Feel free to keep all of your possessions that are off the floor by such and such a time,” your son may be a bit more likely to clean up his mess? You have trained your son to keep his room clean. While your son won’t thank you for this, his future wife probably will.

How to Make Students, Not Parents, Responsible for Homework

Dear Kid Whisperer,

OK, maybe you can help. I’m dealing with middle school kids who refuse to do their homework. Aside from making 50 phone calls a day, do you know a way to make THEM accountable? Calling home isn’t working.


Dear Tina,

It has also been my experience that talking to parents about their children not doing their homework tends to be a complete waste of time. Doing this says to the child that doing homework is the teacher’s problem and the parent’s problem, but not the child’s problem. I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to solve my own problems than I am to solve someone else’s problems.

So the question is, how do you express to the kid the reality that doing homework is their problem? I have a great, simple, and easy Love and Logic® answer for that. There are no lectures, warnings, punishments, rewards, or threats involved. There are no calls home. I am going to suggest that you deal with homework for your middle school students the same way that I deal with it with my third graders. Here’s a conversation that I had at last year’s open house talking to kids and their parents about homework:letters homework

Kid Whisperer: I give credit for all homework that is turned in on time.

Parent: What is the scale for the amount of credit they get for late homework?

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. There is no scale. I give credit for homework that is turned in on time.

Parent: Why?

Kid Whisperer: I care far too much about your kid to trick them into thinking that the world is one way when it really is another. This is a theme that you will notice over and over in my classroom. I care too much about your child to trick them into thinking that, in life, deadlines aren’t really deadlines. I don’t want them to think that when someone in authority says to do something that it is optional. I’d rather they learn this life truth now when the relative cost is low, rather than later when the cost is failing a college class or losing a job. I don’t want that for your kid.

Parent: What if the homework is worth a huge part of their grade?homework

Kid Whisperer: All the more reason to turn it in on time. I give credit for homework that is turned in on time.

There is another reason for having this homework policy that is even more important than the kids learning a valuable lesson about responsibility. As teachers, we have enough difficulty solving our own problems. These problems, for you non-teachers out there, may include such concerns as how to find time to go the bathroom and figuring out what to pack for lunch that can be eaten while running down the hallway with 100 copies of standardized tests in the other hand. When in the world do we have time to make a call to all of the parents whose kids were unable to be responsible enough to turn in their homework? As teachers, it is an essential part of our job to only solve our own problems so that we are able to teach effectively and keep our sanity.

How to Know When Your Kid is Ready For Love and Logic

Dear Kid Whisperer,
I love your blog and am looking forward to seeing you in person. I am a teacher, but my question
is about my three month old son. When do I start using Love and Logic skills? They don’t seem to be applicable to my child yet.
-Lauren, Troy, Ohio
I am so glad you asked this question! Here’s a simple answer. DO NOT USE LOVE AND LOGIC SKILLS WITH YOUR CHILD YET!!!!!! Love and Logic is designed for children who have wants. Kids generally start to have wants between the ages of eight to fourteen months. A want is something that a child does not need to survive, but wants anyway. Before that, kids only have needs. An infant needs food, water, shelter (including the “shelter” of a dry, clean diaper), and love. Anything else is a want. In short, when an infant has a need, there is only one thing to do: fulfill the need! If the baby is hungry, feed the baby! If the baby is wet, change the diaper. If the baby is scared or lonely, pick up and comfort the baby (the rules of sleep training also apply here)! YOU CANNOT SPOIL AN INFANT!! As you know, the best way to fulfill these needs is a subject of wide debate. There are lots of resources about this and this subject has nothing to do with anything I know much about.
That being said, as soon as a kid does start to have needs, this site is the best place to find out how to set limits with your child in a calm and loving way. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to figure out when your child is wanting something versus figuring out when your child needs something. Frankly, it isn’t all that important to make sure that you are ready with Love and Logic skills when your kid has his first want at eight months and one day. If you have been studying Love and Logic skills during your kid’s infancy, you will be ahead of the game whenever you are sure that your child is having wants. As a rule of thumb, if your kid is fourteen months old, has no diagnosed developmentaldelays, and you are still not using Love and Logic skills, you may want to re-examine whether your child is having needs or wants.
Please forward this to other parents who have kids younger than fourteen months. Good luck!
-The Kid Whisperer

How to Stop Your Kid from Causing Problems with Another Kid

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have been all over the internet looking for a solution to my daughter’s problem with another student and was hoping you may be able to give some insight and suggestions. The problem is between my daughter and another girl. For the last 2 years, these two have annoyed, picked and argued. I have been to the school on several occasions to help come up with a solution to no avail, and just this last week it has become physical. They have started kicking each other in P.E., in the lunch line, and on their way to art. They also seem to have a type of “competition” going between themselves. They race each other to get somewhere first or are always wanting a book that the other one wants, and each always claims that the other started it. We (myself, the school’s principal/counselor, and the teacher) are out of ideas and options. It has come to moving each child to separate sides of the class and trying to keep one in the front of line and the other at the back, but this is not working either. two girls argueLast year the teacher tried having the girls work, sit and play together, which only seemed to make the problem worse. Both girls have been told not to speak to each other or interact, and the principal feels that it is not bullying and that both girls seem to be instigating at different times. Both girls do not have siblings and I have been told this is the problem, but this still does not give me a solution. To make matters worse, the other parent has resorted to telling her child to punch my daughter and she has been publicly threatening me. I would be grateful for any advice or possible exercises that the girls may be able to do together that might alleviate the problem. All of the teachers that interact with these two are at their wits’ end with them.

-Jade   Arcadia, Missouri

Dear Jade,

Alright, let’s do this. Let’s get to the low down and dirty of the situation, because as parents of small children, neither you nor I have time for anything else.

Here’s point number one. Before I show you how you and your kid’s teacher can create an AIR-TIGHT strategic training opportunity for you daughter and her arch-nemesis, I need to put forward three truths about your situation.

1)     If you are not emotionally prepared to allow your daughter to suffer the consequences of her actions, this will not work.

2)     If you react with anger and emotion about, or in reaction to, the arch nemesis or her mother, it will be very difficult to improve this situation. Furthermore, if you exhibit anger and emotion when dealing with issues in your own life, any attempt to make your daughter different than you will almost definitely fail. You can’t tell a kid to do as you say, not as you do.

3)     Everything you and the teachers have been doing to this point is more or less wrong. The last thing you want to do is to disallow the two kids to be around each other. The teacher who had them work together was the closest to doing the right thing, but since it didn’t work, I know that it wasn’t done in quite the right way. Please understand that this is GOOD NEWS because if you are doing the wrong things, all you need to do is to start doing the right things in order to resolve the problem. The right way will be described here.

OK. Now we have a starting point. All of this said, if you are willing to accept this as a starting point, you are now all set to take your first step into a much larger world. If that sounds familiar it’s because Obi Kenobi said it in Star Wars. I cannot guarantee that this will be the last Star Wars quote that will I use.

By the way, this Strategic Training Session works on kids who cause any kind of problem when around each other. For example, two of my 3rd grade students LOVE being around each other so much that they giggle and guffaw to the point that it becomes a problem for the class. I just finished using the same STS with them last week.

Enough exposition already. Here it is. First I will show you what the teacher can do, and then I will show you what your part can be. Your part is optional, but the teacher’s part is mandatory. Use of your part will speed up compliance on the part of your daughter, but you can take it or leave it.

Here are our Love and Logic STS’s.

Teacher STS

As we join our little angels, they are kicking each other while in line for lunch. Teacher thanks God and knows that these two are finally going to learn a valuable life lesson. Teacher approaches the little angels.

Teacher: Oh, no this is so sad. I’m going to have to do something about this. But not now, later. Try not to worry about it.

Later, at recess, the Little Angels are called into the Teacher’s room.

Teacher: (with a smile and a calm voice) Oh, man. You guys are really terrible at being around each other. I think this school owes you an apology. We have lectured and warned you and all of that. Sometimes we have even gotten mad at you. On behalf of the school, I’d like to apologize to you. Do you accept my apology?

Little Angels: (stunned) Uh, OK.

Teacher: Great. Thanks. Now that we have this fresh start, I am going to offer you the chance to get really good at being able to be around each other without causing a problem for each other or anyone else. I know that when I am bad at something, I need to practice being better at it. I used to be bad at playing softball, but I practiced and now I’m really good. You both are terrible at not causing a problem when around each other, so you are going to practice until you are experts at not causing a problem. Every recess you will sit here at this table and sit next to each other. You can do anything you want as long as you don’t speak and you don’t cause a problem.two girls sitting Every recess that you can do that perfectly will tell me that you have gotten better at not causing a problem. I will let you know when I think you are experts at not causing a problem. If you agree that you are experts, you can stop practicing. Also, if you want, you can practice during class by working near each other and we can count this as practice. You will be allowed to practice during class time for as many seconds as you cannot cause a problem. So good luck. I have faith in both of you, and remember that I will love you no matter how long it takes you to become experts! So let’s start practicing right now! I know you can do it!

The Little Angels begin sitting next to each other in silence.

Home STS (optional)

            This will supercharge the consequence at school and will help the Little Angels understand that home and school are on the same page. It is totally unnecessary for the other parent to be on board with this. Here’s the Love and Logic™ home STS that should take place the same day that the school STS begins.

Little Angel #1 walks through the door, fresh off the school bus.

MommyJade: (smiling and with a calm voice) Hi, honey. Welcome home. Hon, I owe you a huge apology. You have been so terrible at being around Molly without causing a problem for so long, and I have never given you a chance to practice getting better at being around her. I’m so sorry about that. Do you accept my apology?

Little Angel #1: What are you people up to?

MommyJade: Won’t it be fun to find out? Until Mrs. Hetrick tells me that you have become an expert at being around Molly, I’m going to give you a chance to practice being around Molly when you come home.

Little Angel #1:  Oh, brother. OK, well, Molly isn’t here, and you have that restraining order against her mom.

MommyJade: True. That’s why we’re going to use your little sister’s doll, Ms. Emily. I’m going to put her in this kitchen chair, like so, and you are going to pretend that this is Molly. Every day, you can choose how much time you want to practice with Ms. Emily. You can choose ten or twenty minutes and you will do this practice immediately when you walk through the door. I love you and I can’t wait for the news that you have become an expert at being around Molly so you don’t have to practice any more. I know you can do it!

happy girl

  • Keep This On Them For a While: This needs to be done until the Little Angels’ behavior has become perfect around each other. In this specific case, since the behavior has been going on for years, this means that they are able to sit through several recess training sessions in a row perfectly and haven’t had any issues at all for at least a week in class. Remember, she has to suffer. Remember when “suffering the consequences” was a thing?
  • Don’ts: Don’t warn, lecture, use anger or threats. This would allow them to put the pain that they are feeling on you instead of on themselves for their poor decisions. Don’t tell them how long they will have to practice.
  • Do’s: Do be calm. Do keep your expectations high.
  • Be Ready to Reapply the Consequence: These two will act out in the same way once they have earned the right to stop practicing. I guarantee this. The teacher has to be ready to 1) Apply the empathy and 2) Delay the consequence. Once they cause a problem, with each other the teacher should simply say the following:

Oh, no. This is sad. I’m going to have to do something about this. But not now, later. Try not to worry about it.

Then, at her convenience, the teacher should go back to the same consequence that was used before. Pray that the Little Angels test that limit immediately once they are done with their first round of practice. They are just testing to see that the limit is still in place. This is healthy and normal. Be concerned if she doesn’t test immediately!

Let me know how this goes! Of course, feel free to share this with her teacher, and ask her to message me! I will keep troubleshooting this with you until you have success! May the force be with you!

-The Kid Whisperer

How to Train Your Child to be Polite


Dear Kid Whisperer,

I was your server last night when you came into my restaurant with your wife and daughter. You told me that if I “Liked” you on Facebook and emailed you the question that I asked you, that you would answer it. So I did and I am. So now, how do you get your daughter to be so polite? She said “please” and “thank you” not only to you and your wife, but to me too. My daughter is much younger than your daughter, but I would like her to be that polite by the time she is two.                         -Anna, Dayton, Ohio


Dear Anna,

Wow, that was quick! Thank you for signing up for Kid Whisperer Nation. Welcome. Let me first dispel one rumor about my daughter, henceforth to be known as “The Evildoer”. She is not an easy kid to get along with sometimes. From the very start, she has been hardwired to be a little difficult, strong willed, and has a tendency to try to manipulate whenever she can. If you give her an inch, she will take a mile.

With that being said, The Evildoer is extremely polite, so much so that it often stops people in their tracks to hear someone so young be so gracious. Part of this is due to The Evildoer being a bit verbally advanced for her age. However, we all know kids whom we wish weren’t so verbally advanced, by which I mean we wish they would not talk at all because they are jerks.

There are five steps to getting yourself a polite child. Before we get to those steps, there is one essential understanding that you must commit to before we move forward. If you cannot commit to this rule, then don’t waste your time reading the rest of this. Here it is:

Once your child is able to say “please” and “thank you”, your child no longer is allowed to get the things that they want without saying “please” and “thank you”.


               Allowing your child to sometimes get what they want without saying these kind words while sometimes not giving them what they want is confusing and unfair to your child.

“But…” you say, “What if it’s a need like food or water? What then?”polite girl

To that, I refer you back to the above statement. A child missing a meal will not kill the child and does not constitute neglect. It does, however, create a logical consequence (the unpleasant feeling of hunger) for the unpleasant behavior of refusing to be pleasant.

If your child has gotten what she wants by being nasty over a long period of time and they are refusing to be polite in regards to non-nutrition oriented wants (toys, candy, asking for help, etc.) then simply keep not providing the want. If they really dig in with the food issue to the point of them actually having health issues (talk to your pediatrician about when this begins) then you can plan accordingly. Prepare two meals: one that is a delicious meal that they love, and one that consists of food that takes no time to prepare that they will hate but does provide enough nutrition. Then, calmly use this enforceable statement and do not repeat it:

I serve cheeseburgers to children who use kind words. I serve tomato juice and bread to children who don’t use kind words.

OK, now that we have done troubleshooting on that front, I can show you the five steps to getting a polite child:

Step #1: This one only pertains to very young children who are emergent speakers. If this does not apply to your kid, move on to Step #2. Every first time your child says “please” and “thank you”, make a huge deal about it. Cheer and applaud with enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter if they say it at the appropriate time and situation or not. By all means, if it is done in the right time and situation, give them the thing that they want if at all possible. “Please” is called the “magic word” for a reason: it should get you what you want. As soon as your child is able to say both kind words and know when they are used, always withhold wants until they use the kind words. Until then, just reinforce by celebrating each time they use kind words.

Step #2: The rest of these steps simply involve different scaffolding levels for prompting. On this lowest level, we prompt by saying ‘“Say ‘please.”’ Or “’Say ‘thank you”’.  The amount of time that you spend at each level depends on the age and developmental level of the child. For an 18 month old we may spend months on this level, while for an 18 year old, we would stay on this level for as many seconds as it would take to say this once. If your kid doesn’t say “please”, simply smile at them for as long as it is convenient with the wanted object until she says her kind word. If she doesn’t say it, walk away until she says it. Once she says it, hand the wanted object over but keep your hand on it until your kid says “thank you”. If she doesn’t use the kind word, after five to ten seconds say “Uh-oh”, walk away and then repeat Step #2. Do this for as long as it is convenient. Walk away and continue living your life at your convenience. Once your kid has become proficient with Step #2, move onto Step #3.

Step #3: Follow the steps detailed in Step #2, but replace the words used with “What do we say?”

Step #4: Instead of speaking when your kid wants something, simply smile while holding the wanted object out of the reach of the kid.

Step #5: Ignore any requests that are not preceded by “please”. Continue to keep your hand on the object until “thank you” is said.thank you

Important Points:

If it is help that you provide after a “please” and the child does not respond with “thank you” even after prompting, you can’t hold on to anything, so simply say “Oh, no, you won’t say thank you? Oh, man, this is sad. I only help people who can use kind words. I would be happy to help you when I know that you will always be kind to me.”  The next day when your kid comes downstairs expecting to be driven to his soccer game, he will have to deal with some serious disappointment while understanding that mom really means what she says as she explains that she only help people who can be polite and that you hope that he has another means of transport to the game.

Follow each step, in order, as your “go to” method, but feel free to use a previous step whenever you really need your child to do something. For instance, you generally use Step #5, but you are running late for work, you’re on the phone, and your kid asks for a breakfast bar. Feel free go back to Step #2 if that may work better for you.


I hope this will help you to have a polite little one! Let me know how it goes!!!!!!

The Kid Whisperer

How to Allow Your Child to Improve Through Struggle

Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am the parent of a very promising young lady. She is very smart and she is generally a very happy girl. She is going into her freshman year of high school. I often remark to my husband that she lives a charmed life. People like her and she is a very successful person. She just got her schedule for her first grading period. She completely fell apart. Her first period class is physical education. She says that she will “get sweaty and gross” and that it’s hard enough to be a freshman at this school, where kids really are known to be mean. What can I do to help her?
-Andrea, Euclid, Ohio

Dear Andrea,
This is such an amazing question for a couple of different reasons. First, I had an old family friend tell me that her daughter was going through the exact same situation last week and second, I went through this as a sixth grader!
Indulge me in a quick story. In sixth grade, I was the only child in my K-6 school to have started puberty. Keep in mind, by “started” I mean I was shaving, I had acne, and I was awash in hormones. My classmates were these tiny kids and I was this hunched over giant monkey-boy. I left 5th grade in the spring a little, tiny, chipmunk-voiced kid. I came back to 6th grade in the fall seven inches taller and sounding like Darth Vader’s more mature older brother. To make this worse, I had Physical Education first period. No problem for the pre-pubescent pipsqueaks in my class. Big problem for Grendel. As I remember it, I stunk every day for a year. Not helpful for the self-esteem of a stressed out-pimple faced gorilla.
The point is, I get it. I’ve been there. It’s a terrible situation and it must be worse for a freshman girl. Your daughter is going to have a much more difficult year because of this. I want you to go to your daughter’s school. I want you to charge into the principal’s office. I want you to take him by the lapels and say these words very forcefully:
“Thank you for giving my daughter an opportunity to improve herself!!!!”
Girl pic
Now I want you to understand something about your child that you may have not considered about your child and about childhood:
***Bad things help your child to grow more than good things do.***

This is an opportunity for your daughter and for you. The answer to your question “What can I do to help her?” Is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!! By this, I don’t mean to just not help her because you could care less, I mean that the best way to help her is to not help her!

I want you to consider the idea that by doing anything to solve the problem, you are giving her the implicit message that she is incompetent and that she needs mommy and/or daddy to solve her problems. I am going to suggest that you want to get this idea out of her head before she enters college or the work force.

Now I’m not suggesting that you don’t care about your daughter and I’m not suggesting that you dismiss her. I am suggesting that you empathize fully and that you suggest possible solutions. My Love and Logic® response would go something like this:

Kid: AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! I have PE first period every day!!!!!! It’s hard enough being a freshman. Now I have to be sweaty and gross. I have second period with Dante and he is going to ask Tiana out instead of me because she has Home Ec first period and she’s going to bring him cupcakes and I’m going to sit there in my own filth every day AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. This is awful. I’m so sorry…. What are you going to do?

Kid Whisperer: Would you like to know what some other people have tried?

Kid: What?!? I…guess.
Kid Whisperer: Some people try throwing a fit like a crazy person.
Kid: Real funny. Pass.

Kid Whisperer: Some people run away from home and join the circus.
Kid: Enough already.

Kid Whisperer: OK. Some people choose to cut their hair so that it looks cute in a pony tail.
Kid: I guess. Sort of… but I’m going to be… smelly.

Kid Whisperer: What could you do about that?
Kid: I guess I could bring deodorant to school.

Kid Whisperer: Will that work?
Kid: I guess it would help. I’m still going to be gross.

Kid Whisperer: Sounds like you have some good ideas on this. I’m sorry this happened. I’m proud of how well you’re handling this. Let me know if you need any more ideas on how to deal with this. I know that you’ll get through it.
girl pic 2
Handling this situation this way shows your daughter that
1) You love her.
2) You only solve your own problems.
3) You have faith in her ability to solve her own problems.
Have faith in the fact that we all improve through struggle. Look back on your own life. No one looks back on things going perfectly and says “I grew a lot during that time”. People grow the most during the most difficult times in their lives. Love your daughter enough to allow her to struggle. I’m not saying that this situation will allow your daughter to become more popular, but it sounds like that might not be what she needs right now. Think of it this way. When your daughter is 40, will it be better that she went through this, or better if she didn’t?
You can’t always get what you want
But sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need.
-The Rolling Stones

Good luck! Please let me know how things go! Let your child struggle and fail. She will be better for it!
-The Kid Whisperer

How to Calmly Remove a Defiant Kid from a Public Place

Dear Kid Whisperer,

            I am so tired. I feel like I am the worst parent in the world and I hope that you can help me. I think that I make a lot of mistakes with my four year old, and the way that  he acts is terrible, but the last few times that we have gone to the park, I have realized that I have hit rock bottom as a parent. I need help with everything, but maybe you could first help me with this park situation. He is okay the whole entire time that we are there, but when I tell him that it’s time to go, he yells “no” and continues to play. Yesterday he walked up to me and screamed “NO!” in my face and then ran away. I just sat there on a teeter- totter and cried. How is that for rock bottom? I am a bit heavy and I can’t run after him. Is there something wrong with my child? What do I do?

                                                                                                -Amy, Dayton, Ohio

Dear Amy,

I am so sorry about your situation. People who have never dealt with difficult kids successfully overpowering them don’t and will never understand the impotent feeling that it gives them and the devastation that accompanies this feeling.

I am going to tell you something, and I am going to predict that the way you react to this may determine whether or not you will be successful in helping your children. From your question I will predict that you will react well because you seem to have come to accept that you need help. Here it is:

There is nothing wrong with your children.

There is something wrong with you.

Still with me? I hope so. Since I think that beating around the bush with you in what is a desperate situation hurts you because it implies that your situation is not as bad as it is (because it’s really bad) and it hurts me because if I give you this false impression that this isn’t a really bad situation, you may not take it as an emergency situation (which it is) and not work hard enough to solve your issues. This would be a sum total waste of my time, and my time is valuable.

I’m going to give you a few absolutes. Here are three thoughts that I would ask you to wire into your motherboard* when thinking about setting limits with your kids. If you were parented in a basically healthy way, these have been pre-wired into you. If not, these will be new to you.

1)     Only try to control what you can control when dealing with kids.

2)     Control everything that you can and need to control.

3)     The parent is the boss.

In other words, I suspect that after your description of what transpired at the park, you did not have a terrifically healthy upbringing, which is not your fault. So when I write that there is something wrong with you, this is also not your fault.  You never had these “instincts” wired into your circuitry. The question now is how you go about replacing what you are doing with actions that will yield the desired result (that being your kid getting in the car when it’s time to leave the park).

So this is my Love and Logic® response to your situation. This is how I would handle the end of a trip to the park if I were you. Notice that I am not writing today about how to deal with the aftermath of your kids treating you the way that they did. For that, please see How to Create a Solid Logical Consequence When Your Kid is Acting Like a Real Jerk. While you read the following, please notice that at no time do I try to control anything that I can’t control, which allows me to be calm because I am in control of the situation and I’m not praying that a child who has been trained to be obnoxious will all of a sudden stops being obnoxious.

Kid Whisperer: OK, Bobby, it’s just about time to go. Would you like to go now or in five minutes?

Kid: (without stopping what he is doing) Five minutes!

Five minutes and zero seconds go by. Kid Whisperer walks casually up behind child and gently, with a smile, puts his hands on the child’s body in such a way that, if necessary, Kid Whisperer can stop the little bugger from running away.

Kid Whisperer: (whispering) Hey, bud. It’s time to go. Would you like to go with your feet on the ground or your feet in the air?

Kid: No! I want…

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. Feet in the air it is.

Kid Whisperer picks Kid up and calmly carries the child to the car. Kid Whisperer is glad that the Kid is kicking and screaming, knowing that he is learning that no matter what he does, the adult is the boss, and that resistance is futile. Kid Whisperer gently and firmly puts the child into his car seat and drives away, whistling a happy tune.


Again, notice that I did not try to control anything that could not be controlled, but I controlled everything that I needed to control. I didn’t warn, lecture or threaten him. I didn’t have to because these are things that we do when we are trying to make kids do that which we cannot control!

I hope this helps. Please keep coming back to the website. I will be announcing a very exciting opportunity for people in the Dayton/Southwest Ohio area in the coming weeks. Sign up for the RSS feed! Share and Like this on Facebook! Do it!!!!

-The Kid Whisperer

*This may be a bad analogy, as all knowledge of computers used here has been gleaned from watching Tron when I was eight.