What About Whining?

  1. “To produce a sustained, high-pitched, plaintive sound, as in pain, fear, or complaint.”
  2. “To complain or protest in a childish or annoying fashion.”

If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you have encountered the word that matches the above definitions. Whining. In almost any poll of issues that parents find the most irritating, whining is probably near the top of the list.

Why do children whine? There can be a number of reasons but first and foremost? Because it often works. Whining can become so annoying that many times parents will cave in and allow a whining child to have things their way just to stop the offensive sound. Most parents know that isn’t the best solution but the reality is sometimes it’s just easier for the moment to give in. Easier for the moment, but a big loss on the parent score card when it comes to long-term solutions.

If you’re ready to tackle the problem more completely, the following suggestions may be helpful.

  • Address the problem ahead of time. You probably know which situations are common times for whining to set in. Tell your children what is going to happen and that the situation is not negotiable. Tell them the consequence that will be used if whining still occurs.
  • Again, ahead of time, when things are going smoothly, talk about how whining sounds. Don’t mock your child, but demonstrate the different ways a statement can be said and how the tone can vary. Practice a simple phrase – even a silly one – and show how the same words can sound angry, happy, scared, whiny, etc. (“Elephants aren’t supposed to wear clothes.”)
  • Be fair. Is your child over-tired? Have you planned an unreasonable amount of errands they have to go on with you? Are they hungry? Be understanding and try not to set them up for failure.
  • Approach whining episodes with “low energy.” Keep a calm voice. Remind them that you are hearing whining and that you would like them to try a different tone of voice.
  • Be consistent. Let children know that you are willing to listen to their viewpoint but not if they are whining.
  • Praise successes. (“I know you don’t want to do this but thank you for talking respectfully and not whining.”)

The most important advice? Try not to let it bother you. Remind yourself that it’s a common behavior and that the less you react to it or give in to it, the less it will happen. Challenge yourself to maintain the calmest reaction ever and chalk up a win for your own self-control.



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