Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whine Fest

The urge to whine must be a very strong one.

My first job out of college was teaching children with autism in a private school that provided ABA therapy - Applied Behavioral Analysis. With ABA, you look at a behavior, you look at its antecedent, and you look at its response. ABA teaches that you need to change a behavior's antecedent or response to get a change in behavior. A behavior that is persistent must have a response that is reinforcing to the child. If you want to remove a behavior, you need to remove the positive response, and train a different behavior with a different desirable response.

So, when you have a persistent and undesirable behavior, like, say, whining, there must be some reinforcing response that makes a child continue to do the behavior. In other words, whining continues because it works somehow for the child. If it's successful, they'll keep doing it. And if you want to make them stop whining, you need to stop giving in to it, and only reward them for NOT whining.

Here's where ABA fails.

My girls whine. Constantly. But not because it's reinforced by the adults in the household. No. In fact, whining results in a response like, "No, you can't, because you're whining." or "I can't understand you when you whine. Use a Big Girl voice." or "Stop whining." or "No. Ask me again when you're done whining." NEVER does whining get them what they want. Yet they still whine. And we've tried to replace the undesirable behavior with a better one. We model a pleasant voice and polite way of asking. Here's an example:

MeToo:  "Moooommmm, I waaannntt miiilllkk!"
Me:  "Mama, may I have some milk please?"
MeToo: (in a non-whiny voice) "Mama, may I have milk please?"
Me:  "Sure sweetie, here you go."
MeToo:  (gets milk, her desired result)

ABA would claim that after multiple trials of this re-training, the whining behavior should be extinguished, replaced by polite Big Girl voices. 

ABA would be WRONG! They persist in their whining attempts. Despite never getting anything they whine for.

But today, I suddenly feel the need to join in on the whining.

Logically, I know that I don't really have any problems in my life. We can make our monthly mortgage payments. We're both as employed as we want to be. Our girls are both healthy. Our extended family is quirky, but not dysfunctional. I'm not battling a terminal illness. I'm not puking nonstop like the former Kate Middleton. There are people in this world with REAL problems, and we are not them.

But I have an annoying niggling little thing that makes me want to whine. And I'm going to do it now.

I caught a cold from the girls. It hit me full-on at work today. I've had a sinus infection for 2 weeks. I'm on Day 13 of antibiotics. I haven't had full use of my left nostril for 3 months. It was 3 colds back-to-back that set me up for my sinus infection. And just as I was starting to turn the corner on my sinus infection, I got walloped by another cold. Seriously?

Can't a girl catch a break?!?!

Look, I know it's not the same as a neurodegenerative disease. It really isn't such a big deal. It's a mere nuisance in the grand scheme of life. But I'm angry. And sad. And holding a one-person-pity-party in my own honor. 

Please pray for my sinuses. And if you get the chance to talk to Santa, tell him I'd like a new left nostril for Christmas. It's only 2 weeks away. Certainly he can take pity on me and start working on it...

Thanks for entertaining my whine. Come on over and I'll serve you some cheese to go with it.


  1. Yes, I'll pray for your sinuses if you pray for mine! Seriously, I haven't had 4 non-sick days in a row since 10/21: stomach/URI virus morphed into an asthma attack with bad side effects to the rescue inhaler. 2 days after that cleared up I developed on 1 but 2 styes in the same lower eyelid which took 2 weeks to clear and depleted energy levels. There were a few blissful days around Thanksgiving so I could get a nice dinner on the table but that Friday I came down with a whopping old-fashioned cold, which took two weeks to clear. I felt over it this past Monday & woke up yesterday with the lower left side of my face in agony and blowing yellow gunk out of those sinuses. So far the antibiotic is helping & I hope everything gets cleared up. Peace!

    1. I"ll pray for your sinuses tonight too, Janice. Tomorrow is a new day, hopefully one with less congestion!