Whining child is spoiled or responding to stress

Child Life

January 07, 1996|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

No matter how much attention my 9-year-old grandson is given, it is never enough. He whines all the time. His father plays catch with him every day for two hours, and when his father is tired, my grandson moans that no one will play with him. He complains when playing with his friends, and it is driving them away. We love this boy, but he is so unhappy all the time. Do you have any suggestions?

Patricia Caterina,

Edina, Minn.

A 9-year-old who whines frequently and demands his parents' constant attention may be an overindulged child who needs a firm set of limits, many Child Life readers suggest.

"A kid needs to know where he fits into the puzzle of the family, not always be the center of the hub," says Pamela K. Iriguchi of San Jose, Calif.

But first check for signs that the child's behavior is not a symptom of another problem, such as a divorce or death in the family, child development experts say. Check for other signs, also, such as depression or sleep problems, that indicate the child might benefit from professional help.

First, parents need to figure out how long the child has been acting this way, says Stanley Turecki, author of "Normal Children Have Problems, Too: How Parents Can Understand and Help" (Bantam, $12.95).

"If it's relatively recent, in the past year, this is a reaction to something that's going on in the family or school," he says.

Some possibilities are illness, marital problems, a move or a bad classroom situation. In these cases, the behavior is a symptom of distress, Dr. Turecki says, and parents should focus on addressing the cause.

If the child is also having other serious problems, Dr. Turecki says the child may benefit from a professional evaluation. Symptoms to watch for, Dr. Turecki says, are depression, withdrawal, saying he's bad or saying he wants to run away.

The child may not want to be alone because of troubling thoughts and feelings inside him, says Stanley Goldstein, a psychologist in private practice in Middletown, N.Y., who specializes in troubled children.

"It would be a good thing for him to have someone to talk to," Dr. Goldstein says.

If the child is behaving normally -- aside from the whining and demands for attention -- he may simply need more structure and limits.

"This is the kind of spoiled kid who over the years has been systematically taught that whining will get him what he wants," Dr. Turecki says.

That's something Jeanne Corrado, a reader from New Jersey, learned from experience with her 11-year-old.

"If you give in to the whining, they are going to use that every time to get their way," she says.

Ms. Corrado's solution for getting her son to spend time alone has been providing him with creative projects. Models are a favorite.

One reader from Carrolton, Texas, suggests sitting down with the child and together making up a schedule for when the parents will be available.

"Let the child know you want to give him attention but you also have to take care of your own needs," Cindy Soper says.

Can you help?

Here 's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608.

* On the move: "I have a 5-year-old and a baby, and my husband and I are being transferred," says Cindy Parker of Glen Rock, N.J. "I need to know how far in advance to tell my 5-year-old that we are moving and how to make the transition smooth for him."

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