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How to Get Your Child to Stop Whining

Toddler with bad behavior
  • ​Point out to children that they are whining
  • Never give children what they want when they are whining
  • The best way to respond when children are whining is to say you don’t understand them
  • Silence is golden
  • Don’t model whining
  • Reward appropriate language
  • Distract or redirect
  • Use Time-Out

STOP the Whining!

Imagine a finely manicured hand with clear polish on the nails. Now, imagine those nails scraping slowly down a chalkboard. Hear it? That’s the same sound most parents hear when their young child starts to whine.

Whining often accompanies or precedes tantrum behavior, but not always. Children whine for all kinds of reasons, usually because they are upset about something, or because, in the past, whining has helped them get something they wanted. They also are more likely to whine if they are sick or fatigued. Regardless, whining is annoying and unnecessary, which is something young children have yet to learn.

The good news is that you can MANAGE whining fairly easily and effectively with your child by following these tips:

  • Point out to children that they are whining. Sometimes children aren’t even aware of this behavior.
  • Never give children what they want when they are whining. This will only lead to more whining when your child wants something in the future.
  • The best way to respond when children are whining is to say you don’t understand them. For example, say “I can’t understand a word you are saying. You’ll need to talk to me in a big girl (or big boy) voice.”
  • Silence is golden. Ignoring whining until you hear your child use a tone of voice that is acceptable will send a message that whining has little payoff.
  • Don’t model whining. Adults are just about as capable of whining as children. Do yourself and your child a favor by using appropriate behavior and language when you are frustrated.
  • Reward appropriate language. When children use an appropriate tone of voice, especially when asking for something or expressing a complaint, acknowledge and praise them. For example, say “Thank you for talking so clearly. It helps me understand what you want.” This is especially true if your child used an appropriate voice first, without whining. Either way, it’s important that your child understands that talking in an age-appropriate voice is beneficial to them, and will earn praise from you.
  • Distract or redirect. Sometimes, a simple distraction or redirection will be enough to get your child off the whining platform.
  • Use Time-Out. A good old-fashioned Time-Out is sometimes necessary when whining persists and all of your other efforts to stop it have not worked.