Children Who Whine About Their Injuries Are Annoying

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This past weekend our little one (just turned 2) had a special day with Dad. Mostly that meant they ran errands together. At one store, she went right into the corner of a table and got a nasty wound that makes her look like Harry Potter right now. You know, the lightning scar on the forehead? Well, my husband reported that she screamed bloody murder for about 30 seconds and went back to having a good time. So everything seemed fine. She was a bit cranky when she came home and did have a weird episode of screaming even louder than normal. And without any good reason. But that’s kind of typical for her.

A few hours later, she was taking a bath before bedtime when her nose started bleeding pretty heavily. This is the first bloody nose either of my children have had. We consulted the authorities (WebMD, naturally) and it said to seek immediate medical care if a bloody nose developed a few hours after a head injury. We were almost positive she was fine, but you don’t want to be overly cautious about brain swelling or skull fractures, right?

I told her she was headed to the hospital and she excitedly said “Yay! I go get my flip flops.” The doctor checked her out and she was totally fine. But while my husband was there in the ER, he witnessed a boy about age 10 who just would not stop whining about his head injury.

OK, OK, it’s a head injury. You’re allowed to whine. But this was several hours after the fact, he’d been given painkillers and his head was numbed and ready for the stitches. My husband reports that his mom was coddling the boy and it was annoying the medical professionals because of how loud and unending it was.

Finally the doctor says, “Listen kid. Almost a year ago to the day, I took a vacation to Barcelona. I was having a great time and when Spain won the World Cup, things were even better. So I was crowd-surfing and took a kick to the head and blood was gushing everywhere. I had a gash the entire length of my right eyebrow. But this being World Cup, there was no way I could even get to a hospital, much less be seen once I got there. So you know what I did? I went back to my hotel room and stitched myself up without any painkillers or numbing agents. Quit your whining.”

I don’t know why I love this story so much but I do. Whenever my children are injured, I’m overwhelmed with worry and sadness. It feels as if my heart is breaking. I get that we want to coddle our children and make all their pain go away.

But that is a completely unrealistic parenting strategy and one that serves them horribly in the long run. Being a parent isn’t just about helping your kids navigate around pain but about how to handle pain when it comes to them. Whining is not an effective pain management strategy and encouraging it basically tells your kids that they are helpless and weaker than the threats around them.

So kudos to the doctor for helping that kid learn that he’s stronger than he thinks and can overcome a difficult situation.


  1. Lindsay Cross

    July 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I have to say, I think that there is plenty of time to help our children learn to deal with pain. But a little whining when they are sick or injured should be understandable. I don’t think we need to expect children to be stoic little warriors in the face of pain. They’re kids!

    And if a doctor would’ve said that to my child who was going through a very scary and difficult experience, like having their head sewn up, I would’ve been extremely angry.

    I agree that we should expect our children to be polite and well-mannered in public, we need to let them figure out what disappointment is all about, but they’re still children. A little understanding doesn’t hurt.

  2. Mollie Hemingway

    July 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    See, I think the politeness issue is second to the issue of helping your children understand what they’re capable of.

    A little whining is one thing. Perfectly understandable, even. But constant and ongoing whining without parental direction and encouragement to buck up? That’s just helping nobody.

    No more mollycoddling! (Ok, I just had to get that word in there.)

    • Lindsay Cross

      July 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      Hehe! I wish my name could be transformed into an awesome word like mollycoddling. I’d use it all the time!

      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said, “Rub some dirt in it! You’ll be fine!” more than once in my parenting career. And for minor stuff, I completely understand. But a head wound? Someone literally stitching your scalp? I know grown adults who would freak out at that. I guess, in that situation, I feel like its not even pain, so much as fear, that’s the issue. And I think kids have to be allowed fear in unusual circumstances. You can help them work through it, and see that they can deal with tough circumstances, but I don’t feel comfortable dismissing it.

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