Tired of hearing your child whine all the time? Encourage her to communicate better! Here are practical tips on how to stop your child from whining.
Whining is near the top of my “things that annoy me” list. It’s one of the triggers that makes me lose my temper. My kids will say, “Want waaaaatteeerr…” before I have to remind them that they’re whining.
And whining isn’t a way of speaking I’d want my kids to grow up doing. Imagine hearing that all the time!
Except when you say ‘stop whining!’ they just keep doing it. Telling your child to stop isn’t effective.
And no parent is immune. I have yet to hear of anyone say their child doesn’t whine at all. So, how do we lessen the whining?
How to stop your child from whining
The answer is two-part. We need to teach kids to know that whining is unacceptable, and we need to give them an alternative.
Below are seven tips on stopping your child from whining.
Don’t give in to your child’s requests when he whines.
Your child keeps whining for more milk, never mind that you know he’s just doing so because he’s cranky. As simple as it may seem to hand him a glass of milk and stop the whining already, don’t. You don’t want to respond with a “Fine, already!” mentality.
And it’s okay if you changed your mind and want to give him milk. You’re not caving in if you realized he was thirsty or hungry, even if he was whining about it. But make your response intentional and explain why you changed your mind.
But if you’re tempted to give in just to stop the whining, find another way to do so. Giving in each time he whines teaches him that whining is an effective way of getting what he wants.
Address the reasons your child might be whining.
Your child may just be whining about something simple like not wanting to get down from the high chair. Or he might have underlying reasons, from feeling tired to not knowing how to deal with his emotions.
All my kids have done nonstop whining where they sound like a broken record. They’ll repeat the same phrase over and over, in that whining tone.
I try to remind myself there might be something beneath the whining. I review his day. Has he had any significant changes like a bad night of sleep or attending a boisterous family party? These little things add up, and kids express them in ways they know how to, including whining.
Before brushing aside your child’s whining, address potential reasons causing it. “You seem tired,” you might say. You remind yourself he’s not whining to be irritating. And instead, you help him identify the reasons he’s whining.
Point out that whining is not appropriate.
Point out that whining is not how you and the rest of your family speak to one another. And assuming you’d be okay with giving your child what she wants, ask her to say it in a nicer way. Give her an example of how to do so if need be.
Just today, one of my kids wanted water after seeing his brother drinking some. Right away, he whines, “Want waaaateeerrrr…” To which I said, “You’re whining. Can you ask me politely?”
Show your child how to communicate better.
Kids won’t know what you want to hear unless you give them examples. I try to model how I want to hear the request, so I’ll say, “Can you say, ‘Want water please’.”
Whining is usually your child’s frustration at her inability to communicate. Encourage your child to show you how to say it differently. This can calm her down enough to understand what it is she’s trying to say.
Find different ways for your child to communicate the same requests. Have her show you what she wants or modeling the polite way to say it.
Acknowledge your child feels upset because she didn’t get what she whined about.
Say your child refuses to stop whining. Or she continues to whine because you don’t want to accommodate her request, whining or not. (Like asking for the zillionth cookie of the day.)
Explain the root of her emotions and why she’s upset. Say, “You feel mad because mommy still won’t give you the cookie.”
I’ve always been a fan of labeling children’s emotions. No matter how annoying whining may be, address the emotions that hide behind it. Your child could feel upset, tired, hungry or anxious. Label these emotions for her so you’re able to teach her how to best identify them.
If possible, redirect your child to a similar activity or item that meets her needs. Let’s say she’s whining about waiting in line.
But you realize she’s hungry—you’re still in line during what would be her snack time. Without giving in to her whining, meet her needs and redirect. “Here, let’s get you a quick snack while we wait in line instead.”
Praise your child when she speaks politely.
Kids respond when we praise their positive behavior than hound them for negative ones. Just the other day, my two-year-old said, “Want milk, please” in a nice, polite tone of voice. That’s the communication I want him to continue, and so I pointed it out. “You said that so politely!”
Reader tip: Tell your child you can’t understand her.
SSBE reader Alexandra suggests a great tip: Tell your child you can’t understand what she’s saying. I’ve been doing this with my kids and it works wonders. When your child whines, tell her you can’t understand what she’s saying, even if you can sort of tell.
You’re forcing her to speak correctly and not rely on whining to get her point across. And hold your ground—don’t give her what she’s asking for unless she speaks correctly.
No parent enjoys whining. But before getting angry or snapping at your child, you can help your child stop whining and communicate better.
Don’t give in to your child’s whining that you enable a bad habit. Find underlying reasons your child might be whining and address them. Let her know whining isn’t appropriate. Acknowledge that she’s upset because she’s not getting what she wants. Finally, redirect her to something that can meet her needs and stop the whining.
Eventually your kids will stop whining and instead politely ask, “Want water, please.”
Do you struggle with getting your kids to listen? I’d love to share with you one effective word I’ve found to get kids to listen in this FREE printable handout. Learn about the word, why it works and how to use it (comes with a worksheet, too!).
Get more tips:
- Genius Ways to Make Bedtime Easier
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
- How to Teach Our Kids to Embrace Mistakes
- Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Child to Stop Crying
- Unfair Reasons We Get Mad at Our Kids
Tell me in the comments: What’s something recent your child whined about? What is your biggest frustration with whining?
One Effective Word to Get Kids to Listen
Do you struggle with getting your kids to listen? Learn the ONE effective word to get them to listen and follow instructions. Download my FREE handout and worksheet!