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Teaching Kids Self-Care

This Magic Little Trick Helps Them Understand What They Need & How to Get It Without Whining

Over at loveYOUmoreblog I write all about finding that magic balance of caring for others while also caring for ourselves.

In almost every piece of content that I write, I talk about how we can’t pour from an empty cup. I do this because I am so passionate about spreading this revolution.

I know from first-hand experience that when we better care for ourselves, we can better care for those who depend on us.

This weekend my sweet little Jocelyn (our 6-year-old) was whining…relentlessly. She was tired from a sleepover and from the long school week…and I was tired of that sound, so she got sent to her room.

There’s no way for me to type that sound (I tried), but it’s okay because you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the sound from your kid that makes your ears bleed…the sound you have nightmares about.

But this time when I heard that sound, I had an epiphany.

It must’ve been some combination of good rest the night before and the perfect amount of caffeine that morning because, all of a sudden, I became a freakin’ whiny-child whisperer.

I’m telling you, it felt like parenting GOLD, which is why I wanted to get it out to you IMMEDIATELY!

So, back to my epiphany…

This time when I heard my sweet girl whining, I realized HER CUP WAS EMPTY.

I thought about what I do when my cup is empty…I take a deep breath and ask myself what I need that I’m not getting.

As I closed my eyes and filled my lungs, I realized that I’ve been dealing with whining all wrong…

I realized that IGNORING THE WHINING DOES NOT STOP THE WHINING.

All of you parents out there can back me up…it just doesn’t help. If anything, it perpetuates the madness.

So as I sat there thinking about what to say to Jocelyn when I “released” her from her sentence, inspiration hit me. I knew what she needed.

Her behavior didn’t need to be ignored…it needed to be changed. And to make a successful change, you need two things.

First, you need a toolbox. And second, you need the knowledge to use that toolbox.

HERE’S THE SETUP…

As I walked into my sweet little girl’s room, she was under her blanket in a heap of pillows, tears, and snot. I pulled back the blanket and told her that I had a story to tell.

I told her that everyone in the whole world has a cup.

I told her to imagine feeling sad, tired, lonely and scared…much like she felt when she got sent to her room. Then, I gently explained to her that when she has those feelings, her Jocelyn cup is empty.

I pointed to where her hands were grasped around her “cup” and told her that right now her cup is empty…You’re so tired and so sad and your cup needs filled up again.

Next, I had her to imagine when she is happiest and full of joy…I told her that when she has those feelings, her cup is full, all the way to the top.

She looked down at her hands to her “cup” and started to smile through her tears.

I went on to tell her that when we feel ourselves getting upset and hear ourselves starting to whine, that’s our mind’s way of telling us that our cup is running low.

She nodded. I could see her connecting the dots, so I moved on to the toolbox.

HERE’S THE TOOLBOX…

I took her by the hand and spread out her five fingers.

I explained that when our cup is empty it’s because we aren’t getting something that we need.

Then I pointed to each of her five fingers and said that the next time she felt empty, she could stop and ask herself what she needs to make her cup full again…

1. Do I need the bathroom?

This can really make us grumpy! Nobody is happy when they’ve gotta go!

2. Do I need to eat something?

You know how HANGRY you can get???? It happens to them, too.

3. Do I need a drink?

Being dehydrated can definitely make us feel yucky and get us crazy crabby…getting them to be conscious of their water intake is always a positive thing!

4. Do I need a rest?

I don’t need to elaborate too much here…tired=cranky.

5. Do I just need a hug?

When teaching this one I told her that sometimes things can get overwhelming and we just need to calm down. Sometimes that can look like a hug, sometimes that can look like a big, slow, deep breath.

Things stress them out just like they stress us out. And they may be kid-sized problems, but to them, it is a huge deal.

HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE…

As we sat on her bed, I explained how not having enough of any of these things can make us grumpy and whiny.

She excitedly shifted to an upright position. She touched each finger and remembered each of the questions. Then she said, Momma, I think I’m tired and I just needed a hug.

Let me tell you, my cup was full in that moment. I hugged her until she let go.

This was a pivotal moment in my parenting.

I could’ve ignored her whining…but that would’ve kept us stuck in the cycle. Me, angry that I always have to listen to whining, and her unaware of how to handle her feelings.

But instead, I did something different. I sat with her and let her know that those feelings are going to happen again and again…but that she has the power to be in control of what happens next. I gave her the toolbox she needed and taught her how to use it.

And want to know the coolest part of the whole thing???

I saw her look at her hands several times in the next few hours. She remembered to fill her cup!

I saw her go grab a drink and ask for a snack without whining!

I even overheard her tell Gideon (our 4-year-old) that he was just whining because his cup was empty! (Be still my heart!)

HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY…

Ignoring a problem is never the answer.

Think about this…if you saw someone bleeding out, would you just yell at them to stop?

Of course not.

Yelling at them to stop will not fix the problem.

The same rings true for whining.

Yelling at our kids to stop will not fix the problem.

The only way to cure whining is by giving them a kick-butt toolbox and teaching them how to use it…By teaching them to fill their own cups.

And you know what? When you do this you won’t need luck because you will be raising self-aware problem-solvers who know when their cup is empty and know how THEY can fix it.

ONE MORE NOTE FROM ME…

***Yes, this whining cure works best with kids who are old enough to have the capacity to understand this conversation. Our 4-year-old has already started to grasp the concept after his sweet sister taught it to him.

For those of you with toddlers who aren’t ready to hear the whole talk, stick this in your back pocket.

Remember that right now you are their primary cup-filler. Yes, that is an amazing, but extremely challenging job…I know.

Right now, your role is to imagine their cup for them…and to realize that when they are whining, their tiny cup is empty.

So ask yourself what they need…

  • Bathroom???

  • Food???

  • Drink???

  • Nap???

  • Your attention and snuggles???

When you break it down and use this toolbox for them, you’ll lessen the whining, too. Promise.

You’ll also be well-prepared to teach them all about filling their cups when they are ready.***

Now, go fill those cups. 

This article was originally published here.

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