Feeling worn down by your child’s incessant grumbling and constant complaining? When whining wars ensue, experts suggest moms and dads explore the reasons behind the behavior, teach appropriate communication skills and set limits for acceptable conduct. The following 11 tips can help you get control of your child’s whining – and your reaction to it.
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, you can properly address it.
2. Parental controls
Although you may not be able to control your child’s behavior, you can control your response. 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.
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 witness 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 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 it sends the clear message that you care and want to help – but his communication method is inappropriate.
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.
8. Be consistent
Children need an unwavering message that whining is not OK. 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’ll persist.
9. Praise positive behavior
Positive feedback is the most effective way to curtail whining. Be sure to notice when you see a marked improvement – and reward your child, whether with something material or simply your recognition.
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.
11. Find what fits
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 what works for your child and go with it!
This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated for 2016.