Yesterday, while watching the musical of The Lion King, one little guy sitting in front of me began to cry and whine. He didn’t like the candy he was being offered, he was tired, he was hungry and it downhill from there. Between the loud music and the life-size stage production, it was just too much for him. He kept whining and asking to go home. I felt bad for him, and for his family. At one point Dad couldn’t take any longer, he grabbed him and began whispering angry terse words into his ear.

Why do we get angry and use terse words when our kids are whining and trying to tell us they’re having a hard time? Are we trying to shut down whatever is going on because we’re embarrassed? Does that work? Or does it enflame the child and make things worse?

Conversely, when a child is finally calmer and has managed to adjust to the situation we tend to begin talking. We say things like, “See, it’s not so bad,” or “I knew you’d enjoy this?”

Yes, the child is doing well, but the moment we begin talking he’s reminded that he doesn’t like what’s going and begins the crying and whining again.

I think we have it backwards. The time to talk, teach, connect and express love is when a child needs us, when they’re upset. (Read some of the other articles on this site to uncover the art of how much to say when a child is upset.)

When a child is quiet and has finally found his ability to adjust to the situation is not the time to talk to him. Talking only reminds him that he doesn’t like it here and wants to go home.

When a child is showing you he can manage, for the moment, without you is the moment to honor his budding independence, not disturb him. After all isn’t the goal of parenting to support your child as they grow and learn how to manage things without you?