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Research on whining confirms that it really is the most annoying sound to the human ear–more so than the sound of a screeching table saw or a Vuvuzela football/soccer horn resembling the sound of an elephant. You can witness this firsthand as you listen to frustrated parents proclaim to their children, “I can’t understand you when you whine,” or “I don’t speak whine.”


There is a purpose to whining and nature was not ill intended. Whining vocalizations are also found in other mammal species and are part of the instinctive and emotional etchings in the emotional system geared towards eliciting attention from others. In other words, if your child’s whining hijacks your attention system and stirs you up then this sounds about right. Whining is meant to get your attention but the question is why and what do our kids need from us?

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The emotional driver behind whining

When a child is whining, their emotional system is stirred up with frustration. Frustration is the emotion of change and it usually indicates a child wants something to change or something to stop–ironically, the same as the parent of that whining, frustrated child! Before tackling “what to do” with a child’s whining we will need to make sense of the frustration that drives it.

Why do kids get frustrated? Because they want something we have said no to–like another cookie, staying up past bedtime or wanting to play when we are busy making dinner. For the older child, the whining may be about getting more screen time or to change our mind. A child can be frustrated because they are feeling sick and don’t have words for it or they had a hard day at school and are overwhelmed by it.

The point is this: There are too many sources of potential frustration to name and we don’t always have words for these experiences or conscious awareness. We don’t always know what our children’s emotional system is experiencing but we are meant to be cued to caring for it when it needs us most of all. What is clear is when our children are stirred up and frustrated, their whining is a call for parental action.

The problem with statements such as, “I don’t speak whine” or “I can’t understand you,” is that it conveys to a child that you don’t know how to help them or you don’t care to unless they behave in a certain way. Frustration is a hard emotion to control at the best of times. It takes sophistication and strong development in the prefrontal areas of the brain, as well as caring feelings to temper one’s reaction in the face of it.

Acting in a mature way when we are frustrated is a challenge for anyone–ask any frustrated parent of a whining child. It is natural for kids to struggle with a civilized response but it isn’t a problem when a 7-year-old whines—but certainly is when a 21-year-old still does.

Coming alongside and transforming frustration

There are two possible outcomes to frustration: We change something for a child or we help them accept what they cannot change. This last path often involves tears, but if a child cannot feel their sadness about what cannot change then the whining will likely continue along with other frustrated actions. When we respond to a child who is whining, one of the things we want to avoid is adding to their frustration by letting our own frustration take the lead.

Whining is the emotion of frustration and in order to help draw it out, make room for it, get to the bottom of it, release and quell it, we will need to come alongside it. As Gordon Neufeld states, in coming alongside a child we purposively move ourselves into relationship with their emotions and try to put some words to them. The key issue with whining is we want to focus on the frustration and not the behavior (which we often don’t want to condone), so as to normalize their feelings.

We can come alongside a child’s desire to see things change and help them effect change wherever we can. For example, we might say, “I can see you are tired and hungry, I am going to help you with that.” Sometimes we will need to come alongside the things that won’t change and normalize their feelings of frustration about this, for example, “I know you want to have more screen time and you are frustrated with my ‘no.’ You will have more screen time tomorrow, it is not going to happen right now and it’s OK to be disappointed about this.”

When we are clear about what cannot change we invite a child’s emotional system to surrender their frustration to sadness. This typically isn’t a smooth transition by any stretch of the imagination and may take some time. As a child routinely faces things that are futile and realize they can survive any “no” in their life, whining should abate around these issues.

When a child is up against the things they cannot change, it is only sadness that will release the emotional system from the whirring energy of whining. When tears fall, especially when they are invited by adults and acknowledged by them–the energy in the child will shift and the emotion of frustration is brought to rest. In other words, the transformation of frustration into sadness moves a child to accept what they cannot change and how they become increasingly resilient and resourceful.

It is ironic that in writing this article I experienced two different whining episodes from my own kids. Despite being able to make sense of it through developmental science, I have to confess it still feels like someone is taking a cheese grater to my limbic/emotional system. While knowledge helps buffer my annoyance, it doesn’t quell my stirred up emotional system and that is the whole point. What whining does is it motivates me to get to the bottom of my kid’s frustration and either change what isn’t working for them or help them find their tears about what cannot change. This is not a mistake in human emotional design but is part of the beautiful dance that is meant to tie parent and child together.

Interestingly, as one of my kids started whining, the other one turned to me and pleaded, “Just make her stop will you! That sound, I can’t handle it–she is so annoying!” This leads me to conclude that whining is annoying to everyone except the person doing it. If nature was so intent in ensuring whining grabs our attention, then perhaps we really need to find a way to listen and deal with all that is underneath it.

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Caring for young children can be challenging enough on a perfectly normal day, but during an emergency those challenges are magnified. Natural disasters and emergencies—such as earthquakes, storms, fires, power outages, flooding or outbreaks that affect a wide community—obviously present a major operational challenge for childcare programs.

That's why childcare providers need to have preparedness plans for emergencies and natural disasters that are likely to occur in their communities. Be sure to discuss emergency planning with your day care, childcare program or after-school care provider.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask to make sure that your child's day care or childcare is ready for emergencies.

1. Does the parent handbook cover emergency planning? Is it up to date?

The parent handbook should serve as a guide for everything that takes place in a childcare program, from drop-off protocols to nap schedules, and it should also include information about the program's emergency plans, response, and recovery. As situations change or arise, the parent handbook should be updated accordingly.

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2. What is your communication plan for emergencies or disasters?

While 90% of childcare providers have written emergency response plans, only 70% have plans to communicate with family members during an emergency. Your provider should outline its plan of communication in its parent handbook.

3. Do you perform drills for disasters that are likely to occur in our area?

Ask whether your day care or childcare program has practiced its emergency response plans in a calm, safe environment—in other words, before it's necessary.

4. What is your evacuation plan?

In the rare event that an evacuation is necessary, it's important for providers to include up-to-date evacuation drills and protocols in the parent handbook. Caregivers, staff, parents and children should all know the designated meet-up point during a community evacuation.

5. Do you have a safe, designated evacuation spot in the event of a community evacuation?

Once staff and children calmly evacuate the building, there needs to be a safe shelter-in-place spot nearby. This location should be kid-friendly and have plenty of food, water and ways to keep young children occupied. The location should also be able to accommodate children with special needs and those with medical requirements.

6. What is your shelter-in-place plan?

During an emergency where parents are unable to access roads or public transportation, childcare programs need to have a shelter-in-place plan. Whether children stay at the facility or evacuate to a safe spot nearby, providers need to keep at least 72 hours worth of food, water, and medical supplies up to date. The program should also have parents write notes in advance letting children know that everything is okay.

7. Do you have post-disaster plans?

According to FEMA, more than 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. If childcare programs close, parents cannot return to work and recovery cannot begin. Also, young children need a safe, secure, and familiar place to return to after a disaster.

8. How do you discuss emergencies in an age-appropriate manner with children?

A great way for care providers to introduce the concept of emergency plans to children is to have them help create emergency kits. This way children become familiar with emergency response items. Teachers should also let parents know how they plan to talk to children about emergencies in advance.

9. What are your policies for closing?

Childcare providers must give advance warning to parents about closures if there is an impending weather emergency. If roadways near the childcare program are typically out of use during an emergency, both parents and staff need to map out secondary pick-up plans in advance.

10. Are you in touch with local preparedness organizations?

Local emergency organizations can provide advice and tips to prepare for an emergency or natural disaster. Parents, care providers and community organizations should meet regularly and have the most recent copies of the parent handbook.

According to FEMA, in 2019 alone, there were 59 declared disasters in the U.S. These emergencies include earthquakes, tropical storms, fires, floods, severe storms, tornadoes, landslides, mudslides, extreme wind, and snowstorms. But basic advance preparation can go a long way toward helping parents and caregivers feel ready for emergencies and disasters, and can ensure that families and care providers stay safe.

A version of this post was originally published at the Institute for Childhood Preparedness

Learn + Play

The transition to motherhood is tough, and you deserve a little love! Join us March 28th for Motherly's Becoming Mama event in NYC for a day filled with conversations and connections that will leave you feeling inspired. Get advice from expert panels, indulge in a little pampering, and meet other local mamas IRL for a day of empowerment and support.


Register now for early-bird pricing, and access to limited VIP tickets with exclusive gift bags.

Here's what you can expect:

  • A mindful mama meditation to start your day.
  • Interactive panels and workshops focused on the hottest topics for new moms and moms-to-be. Check them out below!
  • A healthy lunch + delicious snacks
  • Pregnancy + postpartum pampering
  • Personalized gifts for you + your baby
  • The chance to test the hottest baby gear on the market
  • A swag bag filled with surprises
  • Amazing giveaways from our brand partners

Sat, March 28, 2020
10 am-2:30 pm
SECOND.
849 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001

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Here's what we'll be talking about on our panels:

Navigating the Fourth Trimester: Self-Care for Mom
While having a baby is a joyous occasion it often involves mom putting her own health on hold and speeding into overdrive to care for baby. Here postpartum experts will discuss the importance of postpartum mental wellness, and the importance of asking for help and finding support.

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The Motherhood Advantage sponsored by Medela
Motherhood brings so many advantages to the workplace, and yet, it's still a topic often talked about in hushed voices. We'll invite Medela to sponsor this very important panel that will evolve this working mom conversation. Together we can work to erase the Motherhood Penalty, support moms with the proper tools and lift each other up in the workplace.

Parenting in Partnership: Learning to Share the Load
There's never been a more equitable time to be a parent, and yet so many mothers still feel like they're carrying more than their fair share. Let's talk about how to create a parenting team from the start, with tips, tricks and expert advice on leveling the playing field between parenting partners.

*While many of Motherly's events are family focused, there will not be specific activities or play spaces for babies or kids. This event is more mom-focused. Babies under 1 are welcome at this event, but a baby carrier is suggested. Please use your discretion.

Thank you to our sponsors buybuy Baby and Medela.

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When I think about Meghan Markle, her effortless style is usually one of the the first things that comes to mind. Whether she's traveling, taking her dogs for a walk, or attending a royal event, her outfits always look timeless and put together. Yet somehow she still manages to wear outfits that feel way more accessible (even when she is donning a gorgeous—but expensive—coat we've had in our cart for much longer than we care to admit).

While I can't quite afford a personal stylist yet or drop a few thousand on a bag, I did do a little digging and found that a few of her wardrobe staples are items that I can add to my closet, with a little investment. And, if you're not in the market to invest this much, don't worry—I found dupes that will do the trick!

Here are our favorite products to achieve Meghan Markle's classic mom style:

Meghan's pick: Rothy's flats

rothys flat

Confession: I own a lot of shoes. But I wear my Rothy's at least once a week and they're the first shoe I toss into my luggage when I'm traveling because they're so comfortable and can be machine-washed. The Point is my (and apparently Meghan Markle's) favorite style because it elongates the legs and goes with literally anything you wear. I love that they're made from recycled plastic water bottles, too. And, they just launched the Mary Jane—it has a bow!—if you prefer a more dainty look with a fun twist.

$145

Our dupe: ASOS ballet flats

asos black pointed toe

This pointed pair will give a similar elongated look at just $23. They come in half sizes and if you're unsure which size is best, ASOS offers a sizing recommendation. The material isn't machine-washable (like our prized Rothy's) but you can wipe these clean with a damp cloth to keep them looking like new.

$23

Meghan's pick: Wool wrap jacket

meghan markle wool coat

There's just something so elegant about this coat. Maybe it's the wrap waist that flatters any body type. Or, it's the way the collared neck drapes (seriously it'll even make wearing pajamas look chic). It's become one of the most recognized pieces from Meghan's wardrobe and we are obsessed.

$750

Our dupe: Tahari wool blend coat

tahari wool blend cape coat

Looking for something more affordable? This coat is marked down to $83 from $360 at Nordstrom Rack. While we haven't personally tried it, at 77% off, we can bet the quality is pretty up to par with a higher-end jacket. Plus, we're obsessed with the pale blue and port wine colorways. The removable waist tie belt and shoulder cape overlay will have you feeling like Meghan Markle in just about anything.

Bonus: We love this Amazon dupe that's just under $80.

$82.48

Meghan's pick: Longchamp bag

longchamp bag

On the quest for a bag that holds just about everything you need (without having to be a diaper bag)? Say hello to the Longchamp 'Le Pliage' tote. It's water-resistant, has durable leather straps and folds up into a square for each storage or packing. I've had mine for more than five years and it's still going strong—and it's schlepped a lot of heavy things over the years. Plus, it just looks nice with everything!

$125

Our dupe: Amazon shoulder bag

longchamp knock off bag

This dupe on Amazon has 59 great reviews and the large size is under $30! With three sizes, you can pick whatever best fits your style. Each bag comes with a zippered main compartment and interior pockets and yes, it even folds up just like the real thing.

$27.99

Meghan's pick: Birdies slippers

birdies slippers

Are they house slippers or the most comfortable flats you've owned? Spoiler alert: They're both. Meghan has been spotted wearing The Heron style (I've been spotted wearing the slides around my apartment all day) many times and we think the velvet detail dresses up just about anything, even leggings. The no-slip rubber sole and 7-layer support means you can run around in these all day long without missing a beat.

$95

Our dupe: Chase & Chloe pointy loafer

pointy toe loafer

While you won't experience the cloud-like softness of Birdies, you can achieve a similar look with this pair from Nordstrom Rack for under $20. Both black and tan pairs come with a padded footbed, grip sole and a flexible construction (so hopefully no blisters even from day one).

$19.97

Meghan's pick: Madewell denim jacket

madewell denim jacket

I didn't own a denim jacket until last year and since then, I've worn it in just about every season. Over summer dresses, paired with a T-shirt, over a blouse, you name it. It add just enough extra warmth without having to put on something bulky and is machine-washable. For an extra-cool and Meghan Markle factor, roughly roll up the sleeves twice.

$118

Our dupe: Old Navy denim jacket

old navy denim jacket

Grab this $30 distressed denim look at Old Navy. I'm not sure how they do it, but their denim jackets are *so* soft. This one is slightly fitted so size up if you're looking for a more oversized look. Just like the Madewell one, this hits right below the waist, making it great to pair with pants or dresses.

$35

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