10 Quick Tips to Kick the Whining Habit

No Whining
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When whining wars ensue, try one of these with your little one.

Published: July 31, 2019
By: Denise Morrison Yearian

Many parents have been worn down by their child’s incessant whining, grumbling and complaining. When whining wars ensue, consider these 10 tips: 

  1. Play detective. When your child whines, ask yourself, “What other factors are contributing to his behavior? Is he tired? Hungry? Out of routine? In need of attention?” Once you explore the reason behind the whining it can be properly addressed.
  2. Parental controls. Although you may not be able to control your child’s behavior, you can control your reaction to it. When whining occurs, remain calm. If you start to feel frustrated, remove yourself from the situation until you can get control of your emotions.
  3. Candid communication. In a kind but matter-of-fact manner, call attention to your child’s tone then ask him to speak in a normal voice. Or repeat what your child said, how you want him to say it and then ask him to repeat his words in the proper tone. With a preschooler it may be helpful to use a visual cue, such as covering your ears, to help him understand the voice he’s using is hard to hear.
  4. Tactful teaching. If whining is becoming a habit, look for other coaching opportunities when you aren’t in the heat of the situation. Find children’s stories on the topic, and discuss and role play different voices. Or if you experience a child whining in public, point it out then discuss it in private: “What do you think that child was trying to say to his mother? Was his behavior appropriate? What else could he have done?” These suggestions give you something to refer back to when whining does occur: “Remember when we read that book? That’s the voice you’re using now.”
  5. Validate feelings. Help your child understand his feelings are valid but his communication method is ineffective and unacceptable: “I understand you’re disappointed you can’t have your way right now, but whining will not help and the situation is not going to change.”
  6. Tune it out. If the previous steps have been taken and the complaints continue, ignore it or redirect your child to another room. This gives him a choice to stop the behavior and sends the clear message that you care and want to help but his communication method will not be tolerated.
  7. Don’t mock. Mimicking your child in an attempt to curtail the behavior could be perceived as demeaning. It also reinforces the negative behavior you are trying to correct. For preschoolers, mimicking or mocking could be confusing because young children don’t have the tools to express themselves properly.
  8. Be consistent. Children need an unwavering message that whining is not okay. If you give in to your child’s whines, it perpetuates the problem and teaches him this is an effective way to get what he wants. When your child starts to whine calmly state, “Let me know when you’re finished.” This may mean you have to forgo something you want to do. But if you do give in, the next time he will persist.
  9. Praise good behavior. Positive feedback is the most effective way to curtail whining, particularly if you are working with a preschooler who is still maturing in this area or it has been an issue.
  10. Ongoing lessons. As your child grows and matures he may revisit this behavior. If so, re-teach and work through it. If the groundwork has been laid early on, whining is less likely to occur because he will have more effective tools already in place.

Finally, remember, there is no one-size-fits-all as to what works with children. Different strategies work for different children at different stages of their life. Figure out the most effective method for your child and go with it.

Denise Morrison Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.

Resources to Help

+Earrings! by Judith Viorst. (Juvenile)

+Mama Cat’s adventures in child training presents: No whining by Janice C. Villnerve.

Adult. (Juvenile)

+Say goodbye to whining, complaining and bad attitudes . . . in you and your Kids by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. (Parent)

+Whining: Three steps to stop it before the tears and tantrums start by Audrey Ricker. (Parent)