Understanding Tears, Tantrums and Whining with Kathryn Kvols

In today’s episode of The Gentle Parenting Show, Kim sits down with Kathryn Kvols. Kathryn is a mother of 5 who struggled with her parenting over the years. Through her 30 years of studying multiple courses and books, she wrote her book and education course “Redirecting Children’s Behavior.” Her course is being taught in 21 countries and 5 languages. Her newest work is going to be a course called “Whining, Tears, and Tantrums – Oh My!” Her goal is to help parents walk away with skills and tools to help their children’s behavior. 

Teaching About Children’s Behavior 

In Kathryn’s course, she teaches about whining, tears, and tantrums. Her course is 5 weeks long and the premise is to help parents understand unwanted behavior. She says that “instead of trying to stop the behavior, we look behind what the behavior is saying to us.” Usually whining and tears show an unmet want or need of the child. 

Kathryn’s biggest advice while parenting during a tantrum is to stop and get to a calm place for yourself. Then, ask what your child needs right now. Obviously, depending on their age and verbal level, these may be questions you ask directly. If your child is younger, you need to ask yourself why your baby may be crying or fussing. 

What are Common Unmet Needs?

There are so many reasons behind your child’s tantrums and whining. For example, your child may want a cookie before dinner. You say no, and they throw a temper tantrum. Conventional wisdom tells the parent to turn around, walk away and let your child get over the tantrum. However, Kathryn offers different approach ideas. 

One idea is to empathize – tell your child that you understand that they want the cookie. That you hear them. Really get on their level and show them you understand. Another choice is to distract them with a choice – would you like a cookie right after dinner or before bed? Kathryn also suggests not saying no to begin with – but to say something like “yes, you can have a cookie after dinner.” On her website, Kathryn has 18 creative ways to say no. If you do have to say no, say no in a really funny way or in a character tone of voice. The more playful we can be, the more we’re going to win a child’s cooperation. The Sleep Lady also has an article all about that HERE

Connect Before you Expect 

One of Kathyrn’s biggest words of advice is to “connect before you expect.” This means that before you ask your child to do something (go potty, pick up toys, etc,) connect with them. It can just be something small for a few seconds to connect. Whether it’s a hug, a quick game of chase, or a tickle fight, connect before you can expect anything of them. 

She also advises that when it comes to connection, quick short sessions of connection are more important than fewer, longer sessions. A few quick minutes of connection spread out through the day can make all the difference in the world. 

A lot of parents don’t spend time thinking about connection – they are in their heads thinking about a to-do list. Their head is in the future and in the past. When a parent isn’t mentally present, a child feels that. Kathryn says to be in the NOW moment, even just for a few minutes.

If you’re a working parent, it can be hard to have time for a relaxing connection with your child. When a child doesn’t have that connection often, that’s when tantrums become more frequent. When you get down on your child’s level and make eye contact, dopamine is released in both bodies. Dopamine is a bonding chemical and creates lasting and strong connections. 

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

Just like with tantrums, when you see siblings fighting, ask yourself what is behind the fight? Do your children not know how to negotiate? Are they fighting because they’re bored? Have they had too much TV time? Is one child getting more attention than another? Sit down with children separately and work through new skills with each one. They need to be taught how to play with their siblings, and other children, gracefully. 

Being intentional about individual attention to each child is so important. Intention makes all the difference. Kathryn says to be intentional about figuring out what each of your children’s unique qualities are. Children can even be our teachers as they teach us about themselves. 

Dealing with Anger and Whining 

Kim and Kathryn discuss how we can teach our children to manage anger in a productive way. It’s very important to tell your child that it’s OK to be angry. If they express their anger in a physical way, tell them it’s ok to be angry, but not ok to hurt. Ask them for ideas to let out their anger without hurting themselves or someone else. Kathryn gave a funny example about how she once let one of her children throw eggs outside to let out some anger. 

Like anger, when it comes to whining, ask yourself (or your child) why they are whining. It’s important to acknowledge that your child is upset, but break them out of their whining in a fun way. Kim used to say “would you like some cheese with that whine” to help herself brush it off and respond more appropriately. Make your approach to whining fun. One thing Kathryn advises against is to say “I can’t hear you” in response to whining. Instead, say something like “I do not feel like cooperating with you” or “how can you say that without whining?” 

The Why Behind Whining

A huge reason behind a child whining is that they don’t feel heard. They don’t know what they need, so they get confused and act up. As parents, we forget that our kids don’t know how they’re feeling. They don’t know how to give names to their feelings. They don’t know how to process all the feelings coming at them. When this happens, ask your child what they need. Offer a hug, a snack, a kiss, or a rest. 

When kids feel that we are on their side, they are more open to communication and understanding. Like Brene Brown says, we’re hard-wired for connection. Connection helps a child’s brain develop. 

Connect with Kathryn

The Sleep Lady®

The Sleep Lady is a brand, founded by Kim West, focusing on gentle sleep and parenting solutions. For over 25 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of families get the rest they need, without leaving their children alone to cry it out. While we focus on sleep-training, we provide resources and tips for parents to help schedule their child’s day, feedings and more.

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In the Gentle Parenting Show, Kim West will interview parenting experts on everything from mindfulness to developmental milestones and how it relates to gentle parenting. Kim West is a LCSW-C, bestselling author and founder of a world-renowned gentle sleep training method. She and her team of Gentle Sleep Coaches have helped over 1 million families find gentle sleep through her courses, best-selling book and 1:1 coaching. Kim is the only baby sleep expert out there with 25-years of experience, and she’s seen everything when it comes to parenting.

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