What is it about whining that is so annoying to us as parents? Is it the high-pitched tones, the sign of ingratitude, the lack of patience? Whatever it is, we don’t want to hear whining. But is there a way to get our kids to talk to us appropriately and to no longer whine? That’s what we talk about today with Janet Cazier, LCSW and mom of seven!
Janet Cazier, LCSW
It is OK for parents to not allow their kids to whine. In my experience, parents are too patient with it. Parents allow it to go on longer than it should.
Make whining a problem for your child rather than a problem for you
This is true of all misbehaviors. If the parents are the only ones bothered by a misbehavior, they’re also going to be the only ones that want the behavior to stop. However, if parents can find ways to make misbehavior a problem for the child, all of the sudden, the CHILD is motivated to change.
Most often I hear parents respond to whining by saying “Stop it”. This doesn’t work because that doesn’t really bother the child. It’s making whining a problem for the child. Instead, it’s still a problem for the parent because the parent is saying “Stop it” over and over again without seeing a change. This can lead to frustration with the child, yelling at the child, whining back at the child, or resentment towards the child. All of which are undesirable outcomes.
However, if you find a way for whining to become unpleasant for your child, the child will stop whining, you will get along better, and there will be more happiness in your home. Those are all outcomes you do want.
I want to point that out, because some parents feel that making misbehavior a problem for their child is “mean” or “harsh”. I feel the opposite. I feel that letting misbehavior continue and experiencing all the negative emotions that come from that is less healthy for your child than them experiencing an uncomfortable consequence for choosing inappropriate behavior.
Some ways you can make whining a problem for your child
**Before trying these ideas discuss with your child why whining is not going to be OK any more, teach them appropriate ways to ask for things they want/need, and practice asking appropriately. We set our kids up for success when we are really clear with them about our expectations. It’s not really fair to start disciplining them for things they didn’t know were wrong.**
If your child whines say “I can only hear you when you ask nicely”. Then stick to that.
If you’ve told your child you can only hear them when they ask nicely and they continue to whine, give an extra little consequence. This could include a time out, some loss of a privilege, some time in their room. YOU choose based off of what works for you and your child. It just needs to be something big enough to motivate your child to no longer whine.
If you want to learn more about selecting an appropriate consequence, go here.
If your child whines while you’re out and about, you could stop and get something fun for all the kids that weren’t whining.
Again, if your child whines while you’re out of the home, you can send them to the car with another adult.
If you can’t do idea #3 or #4, you could let your child whine through your outing, NEVER GIVING IN TO WHAT THEY’RE WHINING FOR, then when you get home say:
“Your whining today was really draining for me. I need you to play on your own for while, I have to go to my room and read my favorite book to get my energy back.”
Plan a “learning opportunity”. I tell my clients that have children with chronic misbehaviors to plan a “learning opportunity” for their child. Find a time that works for you and some adult support, then plan a to go somewhere or do something the child really loves. If they use the misbehavior on the way there or while you’re there, send them home with another adult while you stay to enjoy the activity.
Parents get nervous when I teach this to them. They tell me it’s too harsh. But in my experience, not only does this work quickly, but then my clients report that everyone in the family is MUCH happier when it does work.
You’ve got to keep in your mind that it truly is better for everyone if your kids have significant opportunities to learn to behave appropriately.
Also, what’s the alternative? To let your child continue to whine and whine and whine?
**IMPORTANT** As always, all of the ideas above must be executed in a calm and empathetic way! There is no need to yell at or shame your child. Rather, keep your cool and simply say “This is so sad. I know you’re trying hard and you can do even better next time! You’ve got this!”
Kids really do better when parents are firm and loving at the same time.
Things to AVOID when your child is whining
- Giving in! I cannot stress this enough. When you give into whining, your child’s subconscious brain says “Whining works! Try it again.” I don’t know a single parent who wants their child’s brain saying that!
- Stooping to their level and whining back at them. I am absolutely guilty of this. I have gotten so irritated with my child’s whining that I just lost my cool and started whining back at them or yelling at them.
However, through the years I have learned that we cannot expect our child to stop using a misbehavior that we are using ourselves.
I have seen the things that I taught today work over and over again. Give these things a try and stick with them for an extended period of time. I promise it will be worth it in the end.
Want YOUR Parenting Questions Answered By a Child Therapist?
Join our private Facebook group where we host a weekly "Ask the Expert" Facebook live. You can ask YOUR parenting question and a child therapist will answer it.
We've answered hundreds of questions and want yours to be next!