Whining children are not enjoyable to be around. The sound of incessant whining can be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Nobody wants to listen to whining. There are solutions to help stop the whining. Below are my top 8 tips to get the whining to stop.
1. Address the Issue
To get a child to stop habitually whining, you first need to address the issue with the child.
There are some children who aren’t even aware that they are whining. In their little minds, they are simply voicing their opinions, concerns, and complaints. They don’t realize that tone and delivery matter significantly in communication. You need to talk to them about what whining is and how it affects you.
When you address the issue with the child, ensure that they understand for their age. A two-year-old and a seven-year-old have very different levels of comprehension. Speak to each child on their level. Use words that they will understand.
For example, in talking to your two-year-old, you can sit down on the floor so that you are at their eye level. Explain that whining is not a good behavior and that you are going to enforce consequences. “You are such a good girl, but when you whine that is not good girl behavior. From now on, you will get time out when you whine. If you want to tell me something use your big girl voice without whining and I will listen.”
When you communicate clearly and on their level, they can better understand that their whining needs to stop. Getting them to understand that their whining is a real problem is the first step.
2. Zero Tolerance for Whining
You need to set a standard in your home with whining. It is not allowed in our home. Does that mean it never happens? No, of course it still happens, my children are human and are not perfect. They whine, but when whining occurs, there are consequences.
They know that if they whine, they will either get a timeout immediately, or they lose check marks from their chart. We use reward charts in our home. Our children earn check marks for positive behaviors and completing chores. When they complete a 50 box check mark chart, they get to cash it in for a toy or something else that they have been wanting. They can get check marks taken away for misbehavior. Whining, especially in public, can result in check marks being taken away.
It is hard to give a child a timeout when you are at the grocery store or out running errands. Taking away check marks is saved for those situations when a timeout is not feasible. My kids take their check marks seriously, because they are hard-earned. With a threat to take away a check mark, usually their behavior changes immediately.
Yes, bribery can be good parenting sometimes.
Whatever methods of reward and consequence that you may have in your home, it must also apply to whining. You can provide a reward for an entire day without whining. Having consequences that occur when whining happens is what will help change the behavior as well. If you only have empty threats by warning them eight times that “if you don’t stop whining, you are going to timeout” is not effective.
The key to getting the behavior to change is having consequences. You ask them only once to stop and provide a consequence in your request. For example, if my son Charlie is whining, I will say something along these lines: “If you don’t stop whining right now, then you are going to get a 5 minute timeout. If you have something to say, please use your big boy voice and say it to me nicely.” They know that I won’t ask a second time. If they whine again, they immediately go to timeout.
3. Enforce Consequences for Whining Using a One Ask Approach
My kids don’t fight with me about going to timeout. They know if they argue or continue whining, then there are consequences for that behavior. That consequence is increased time in their timeout. I usually start with a three-minute or five-minute timeout. If they complain or continue to whine, my response is “one more whine or complaint and it goes to ten-minutes”. It isn’t just an idle threat either. They know I will follow through.
If the complaints continue, time will continue to be added to their time-out. If we make it all the way to a thirty minute timeout, I will send them to their room and they can lay down for a nap for that thirty minutes. It doesn’t often get to that point, but they know that it is possible, because they have all had those thirty-minute timeouts that mean they go to lay down in their room.
Your ability to get their behavior to stop immediately is tied directly to your enforcement of the ask. If you ask them to do something, you must have a consequence tied to that request. When they don’t do as asked, then you immediately follow through with the consequence. This is enforcing a “one-ask approach.” When you keep asking them repeatedly to stop whining and you don’t have it tied to a consequence, they will keep whining. They don’t have an incentive to change.
You must ask once for them to stop the whining and have it tied to a consequence if they don’t stop. You must enforce the consequence immediately if they continue to whine after that first warning. This is using the one-ask approach.
4. Provide Them with Communication Tools
Some children whine because they don’t have the right tools to communicate. This is especially true for young children who have not developed good communication skills.
A child who is under the age of two may be whining “mommy” all the time when they want milk, or help putting on their shoes, or they want a toy off a high shelf. Teach them the words and how to ask for those things. For example, using a nice tone say to them “you can ask for milk by saying “mommy, milk please”. Have them copy your tone. If they don’t use the same tone, then repeat the tone and phrase more exaggerated in a sweet voice so they better understand.
Providing children with the right tools for communication by teaching them the words to use is helpful in minimizing whining. You must also teach them about tone of voice at the same time. Because the right words are not helpful if they are being whined. Teach the child tone of voice by providing an example to them. Show them with your own voice how to ask nicely.
5. Be a Model of No Whining Allowed
Children are always paying attention to their parent’s behavior. Their parents and caregivers are their role models. This makes it very important for parents and caregivers to model good behavior.
If you are whining and your child witnesses you doing this on a regular basis, then they will learn to do the same behavior. If you model good communication skills and making requests using a pleasant and civil voice, then they will learn to do that instead of whining.
6. Praise Them for Changing Their Behavior
If you have a child who is a habitual whiner, then you need to focus on their positive behavior. Using the consequences for the whining is helpful and still applies, but you don’t want your child to feel defeated.
You can help make the situation positive by praising their good behavior. This means when they whine and you ask them to stop and they in turn, stop the whining and ask you again in a nice voice, you respond with praise.
The following is an example: “You did such a good job saying that like a big girl and you changed the way you said that to me. Thank you for saying that to me so nicely, I will get you that glass of milk you asked for.”
Praise reinforces their good behavior. The positive feedback from a parent is greatly desired from a child. Be sure to praise your child when they change their whining into a good tone of voice and good communication skills.
7. Let Them Know What Whining Sounds Like
Some children don’t realize how annoying and irritating whining can be. They don’t know what it really sounds like coming from someone else. If they are in the habit of whining, then show them what it sounds like.
Don’t do it when you are in the middle of one of their whining episodes. Wait until things are calmed and you can have a one-on-one heart to heart chat with them in a sincere manner.
Don’t mock them. Instead, you can say something along these lines: “When you whine, it sounds like this….(fill in with an example of a recent whine)…and it makes me not want to listen to you. I need you to work on using your big girl voice by asking like this….” Then, follow it up by converting the whining statement into a nicely said statement using a good tone of voice.
Providing them with an example and allowing them to hear what they sound like to you helps them to better understand how annoying and irritating whining can be.
8. Assess What the Whine is Really Saying
Some children whine because they are overtired or they are seeking attention. If whining occurs and it is not your child’s typical behavior, then you may need to assess why they are whining.
My son Alex is typically not a whiner. When he begins to whine, we now recognize that it is because he is really tired and needs a nap or needs to go to bed for the night. If we put him in timeout for whining, it seems that his behavior becomes worse because he is overtired. The solution is to get him down for a nap, or put him to bed. In this situation, we don’t give a timeout. Instead, we focus on the task at hand, which is getting our overtired child put into his bed for some much needed sleep.
If your child is whining because they are in need of attention, then take the time to give them the attention that they are craving. They are only little once. A few minutes of your undivided attention can make all the difference in the world to your child.
It’s Up to You as the Parent to Make Change Happen
Children will naturally whine. It is part of development. For younger children, especially toddlers, the tendency for whining is more likely because they lack good communication skills. It is up to parents to correct the behavior by showing children the right ways to communicate.
If the behavior persists, then parents and caregivers should use a reward or consequence system consistently to change the behavior.
Whining doesn’t need to be a part of your home life. You can set the standard first by your own example of not whining and secondly, by having a system in place for handling whining when it does occur.
More About Communication with Children
- An Expert Parenting Guide to Dealing with Toddler Tantrums
- How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)
- 8 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (Even if You Have a Good Intention)
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