Help! My Kid’s a Total Whiner

posted: 08/27/15
by: Mara Betsch

Whining is normal -- we all do it, no matter our age -- but as a parent, there's nothing more grating than hearing a child's high-pitched pleas to get what they want. And while no child is ever going to be whine-free, there are a few tried-and-true ways to minimize their gripes. We can't guarantee these will work every time, but hopefully they'll stop a few tantrums in their tracks.

1. Listen and react

The majority of whining starts when a child can't get what they want, and their way of showing their frustration is pleading with you over, and over, and over again. Some parents say ignoring them can help, but in our experience, this just makes the whining louder. And don't challenge a four-year-old's ability to ask the same question 100 times. You will lose.

So instead, try listening to their request. Is the whining caused by hunger or fatigue or something you can alleviate? Sometimes a child may start whining because they feel like it's the only way they can get your attention. And your reaction, whether it's positive or negative, is what they're seeking.

To stop whining from escalating, listen to what they're asking and show them you're reacting, whether that's by asking them to speak nicely or denying their request.

2. Ask them to rephrase their whine

Let kids know that the way they ask their request is as important as the request itself. You can either say "I don't understand you when you speak like that," or ask your child to use her nice voice, say please, and even demonstrate exactly what to say and how to say it. Once they jump through those hoops, you can then respond to their request. You can even record them on your phone to show them exactly how crazy they sound.

3. Try reason

We know, we know. A three-year-old on the verge of a full-out fit will probably not understand why they can't have another piece of cake. But if your 10-year-old doesn't is complaining about cleaning her room, try explaining that by clearing her room, she's saving you time, and therefore giving you two time to shop and pick out a gift for her friend's birthday party.

4. Consider a bigger issue

If your child has been particular whiny, and they're not sick or hungry, it may point to something different. Ask yourself if that child's routine has changed or if you've had less time to connect with him or her recently. Often, whining is way for kids to show their frustration with you.

5. Create a "whine cup" or a "whine jar"

This is an unconventional tactic, but it may work, especially for younger children. If your child begins to whine, hand them a cup and say 'Here, go pour out your whine and bring me your regular voice.' If the child is older, ask the child to contribute a nickel every time they whine. Just be sure to hold yourself accountable, too. If you whine, make sure you drop some change in the jar as well.

6. Discuss whining before public outings

When you're about to go out in public, stop whining by establishing some rules before you leave. Offer a small reward, maybe a piece of candy or a little toy, if they maintain their good behavior throughout the entire outing. If they complain or even get close to using their whiny voice, the deal's off.

7. Reward good behavior

If you've been working on how your children phrase requests, be sure to thank them when they use the proper tone and words. If they want a cookie after dinner, maybe let it slide this time. That doesn't mean you need to let them have whatever they want when they ask nicely, but be sure to show them that you appreciate them listening to you.