March 25, 2002 - Monday
We've started to ignore Harry and I must say the results have been impressive. Oh, it's not that we're hardhearted, and it's not, of course, that we're ignoring him constantly, but it does seem to be an effective strategy for dealing with a two-year old's aimless whining.
Actually, a two-year old's whining really isn't all that aimless, it would seem, but rather very focused on bringing attention to the whiner. Wanting to be responsive parents, we've usually acquiesced in the past. Unfortunately, more and more that interaction has been negative, chastising him for disagreeable behavior. Of course, that means he's gotten the attention he's after and that, it is said, is more important than the exact type of attention to a little person just figuring out the world.
Harry's daycare provider mentioned the silence strategy as the method she used with her three kids, who now, at 6, 8, and 9, seem like good role models in this regard. So, over the weekend, I started just walking away when Harry started the whining. Wouldn't you know, It seem to take much less time for Harry to come searching for me with the promise that he was "all done crying." I told his mother of the success and yesterday we tried it some more. If fact, that was the ultimate strategy for the car ride home last evening.
The most amazing thing is that, after this veritable shunning, Harry genuinely seems to realize that his whining has been misguided and often becomes apologetic, to the extent that is possible from a two-year old. I guess that makes sense. If we scold him, it's kind of a fight to which the human response would often be to fight back or at least put up a guard. Contrarily, by ignoring him he's left to figure out what went wrong on his own. Maybe it's just circumstantial, but last night after we got home and Harry was pulling himself together, and then again this evening after another minor incident, Harry has become as vocally gracious as he's ever been. "I love you, daddy" and "I love you, mommy." Wow, that's awfully nice to heard, especially in response to our doing our uncomfortable best as parents in an awkward situation.