The Dreaded Headache
November 13th, 2011
I’ve added a new trick to my “bag-o-parenting-tools” — the Dreaded Headache. It’s proving to be quite effective in my War Against the Whine. Miss Mouse whines. A lot. All the time. Constantly. When she’s not whining, she’s sobbing piteously about some perceived injustice, slight, or life-ending disaster (including but not limited to: a Cheerio that fell out of her bowl, not being asked what flavor yogurt she wanted for dinner, being asked to share her toys with her brother, being asked to wear underpants, and being licked by the dog).
I needed some sort of consequence that I could dole out in these circumstances that was logical. One of the central tenants of the Love and Logic school of discipline is that the punishment needs to make sense to the miscreant. The idea is for the consequence to derive so naturally from the behavior that the misbehaving child has no way to blame anyone but herself for what happens. I want to try to keep her from getting mad at me because if she can blame me, she won’t learn. I need her to blame herself.
My first successful application of the Dreaded Headache happened about a week ago. Josh was at a meeting and bedtime didn’t go well in his absence. Miss Mouse was a massive pain in the rear as I tried to put her little brother to bed — stomping, pouting, and wailing outside his door the whole time. Thanks, sweetie.
When I finally got Buggie tucked in, Miss Mouse instantly asked to do puzzles, which is what we usually do post-Buggie bedtime.
“Oh, honey,” said I. “My head hurts so much from all that whining and crying that I just can’t do puzzles right now. I need to lie down. What a bummer.”
She was instantly filled with remorse, but I stood firm for a few minutes. Then, inspiration “struck.”
“Oh! Miss Mouse! Do you know what might make my head feel better? If you put away all the music toys into their box in the living room all by yourself.”
She didn’t like this plan and tried to cajole me into helping her, but I wasn’t budging. And, lo and behold, after fussing for a minute she set to work, cleaning up the living room. When she was done, I proclaimed my headache cured and we did a puzzle together.
And thus the Dreaded Headache was born. It was beautiful. She couldn’t really get mad at me for having a headache when she was the cause of the headache. A grown-up would probably see right through this, but to a three-year-old, it makes perfect sense.
The Dreaded Headache has appeared a few times since and now I can sometimes get away with just invoking its specter — “Ooooh. My head is starting to hurt from that whining…” — and she’ll shape up.
Is it a magic cure? Is the whining gone forever? Not hardly. The key to all parenting, I’m learning, is consistency. I’m making a concerted effort to nip the whining in the bud each and every time (which is exhausting) and am hoping it makes a difference!