Ways to Stop your Child from Whining
The whine. It’s a sound that clears out grocery store aisles, makes you rethink that third child plan, and tempts you to give in to the cookie — or the whole box of cookies — right before dinner — for yourself! Before you reach for the cookies or your own “whine” (the white, Napa Valley variety), here are some reasons for whining and what you can do about it.
Michele Borba, Ed.D., Today Show contributor, recipient of the National Educator Award, and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, defines whining as “an exasperating blend of crying and nagging,” adding that the only two sounds more irritating are “nails on a chalkboard or a dentist’s drill.”
She says that the reason kids whine is to get their way. She adds that when we give in to the whining we are setting ourselves up for many more hours of the same. Worse, Borba says that whining is “quite contagious” and that siblings can “catch” it, giving you a whole houseful of whiners!
“It’s also a huge peer turnoff,” Borba writes. “What kid wants to be around a whiner? But it also turns off adults as well,” she adds. “What parent wants their kid to associate with a ‘whiner?’”
Is It A Problem?
Here are Borba’s four big signs that it’s time to change this annoying behavior:
1. Whining has become a habit that works. Your child has learned to use whining to get her way, and it usually works. You give in to what your child wants because it is easier than listening to the whine.
2. The whining is hindering your relationship. Your child is now treating you in a disrespectful way. It’s embarrassing to take your kid out in public.
3. Your child’s reputation is affected. Adults roll their eyes when they hear your kid whine. Other kids have labeled her as a whiner or have stopped associating with her.
4. The whining has spiraled up a notch. In addition to (or in place of) the whine, your kid is now resorting to back talk, rudeness, tantrums or defiance to get her way.
What To Do
If your child’s whining has become an ingrained habit, it may take a little time to change the behavior. However, the effort involved will be well worth the investment. Borba recommends that you first make your child aware of the difference between a “whining voice and a normal ‘nice’ voice.” She says that parents can demonstrate the difference by saying something like: “Here’s my whining voice: ‘I don’t wanna do this.’ Here’s my polite one: ‘Can you please help me?’ When you want something, make your voice sound like my polite voice. Now you try.’”
She adds that you need to be careful not to mimic your child. “Your goal is to be instructional without ridiculing,” she says.
Once your child understands what whining sounds like, you are ready to help your child stop the habit.
Here are Borba’s suggestions:
Lay down new house rules. “Announce that from now on, she should expect an automatic ‘no’ anytime she whines…Your child has to realize that your rule is nonnegotiable.”
Turn a deaf ear. At the first sign of a whine, say, “Stop please. I don’t listen to whining voices. Tell me what you want in a nice tone.” Then ignore the whine. Turn back when the whining stops (even for a few seconds) and say, “I do listen to a nice voice. Can I help you now?”
Do not overreact. “If your child’s tone is getting to you, turn and look elsewhere, but don’t get upset. You can escalate that whine to a full-blown tantrum. Stay calm. If you need to leave the room, do so. The trick is not to look irritated or to react.”
Refuse to comply until your child speaks politely . “The best way to stop the behavior is to flat out refuse to listen to requests unless they are spoken with a polite tone.”
Praise your child for using the “right tone.” “The secret is to thank your child every time she uses the right voice. It may seem awkward, but you should see a dramatic decline in the whining.”
Set a consequence. “If your child is caught up in the habit of whining, you might need to take your response up a notch and give consequences. For a younger child, try a ‘Whining chair’ (every time she whines, she sits in the chair—one minute for each year of her life.) For older kids she recommends removing a privilege or requiring that they contribute part of their allowance to the family
“Fees for Complaining Jar.” “Every whine, nag or complaint is fined a preset amount, such as a quarter.”
For very young children Borba recommends distraction at the first sign of whining. She suggests parents say something like, “Look there is a butterfly!” Or “Listen. Doesn’t that sound like Daddy’s car?”
“Beware,” she adds, “the first sign of a temper tantrum is often whining. So divert your child’s attention or walk away as soon as possible before the whine escalates to an outburst.”
She also gives special instruction for those children who have a harder time waiting, such as children diagnosed with ADHD or kids who are just more “impulse prone.”
“Some kids have a harder time waiting and may resort to whining to get a parent’s attention. Responding promptly to a more impulse-prone child might fend off the whine.” She recommends that a parent “try putting a hand gently on the shoulder of the impatient child or giving her a one-minute finger signal to let her know you see her and will help her momentarily.”
Finally, make sure your habits, such as texting, Facebooking, or talking on the phone aren’t getting in the way of communicating with your child. When was the last time you put the iPhone down, made eye contact with your child and really listened to what she was trying to say? Sometimes an overly preoccupied parent sets the stage for the decline into whine.