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How to Stop Young Kids From Whining

Updated on June 13, 2007

Whining has got to be right up there on the parents' list of annoying things our kids do. When it comes to whining, it's better to have a plan because if you don't, you're likely to do anything to make it stop and that could include giving in to some pretty outlandish demands.

Pleeeeeze let me eat the chocolate bunny for breakfast.

Pleeeeeze can I have a pony.

Pleeeeeze buy me car/house/yacht.

Break the whining habit while they're young and you'll be happier later.

Stop the Whining

When your child first begins to whine, it's what you call a teaching moment, but not for the child - for you! Our children teach us many things and this time it's patience. A few minutes of extra attention can nip whining in the bud so that you don't end up later with a situation you need to nip in the butt. Diversion works for toddlers and snacks are among the best distracters I know. Who can be upset with a mouthful of Goldfish?

Some toddlers don't know they're whining. If you whine back at them you may just hit them off guard enough to make it stop. But don't count on it. You've got to be patient and correct each whining request with the proper way to ask for something. I like the honest and straightforward approach.

I can't understand you when you whine. Please speak in a normal voice.

Stand Your Ground

It's all in the follow-through. In other words, talk is cheap and consistency is key. If you say you can't understand the child, but then you comply with the whiny request you're defeated. Keep repeating your wishes until the child speaks in a normal tone. You will only have to go over and over it the first few times. Once the child understands you're serious, she will adjust - if you're lucky. The younger you start the better.

Ignoring a whining child is not going to scar her for life. If the request or complaint were urgent she'd be screaming instead of whining. You can always send her to her room. Stand up for yourself and just say no to whining!

Why Do They Whine?

If it's so darn annoying, why do they do it? Kids generally begin to whine as toddlers. It's a natural response to the overwhelming feeling of being out of control. They're just starting to figure out all the cool stuff their bodies can do as well as all the fascinating things in their environment and then BAM - it's no, no, no to everything. Without the vocabulary to articulate emotions, especially frustration, toddlers resort to whining. Plus, it's effective. It doesn't take them long to figure out that you'll do just about anything to make it stop.

Reinforce the Positive

The flip side of correcting whining is to make sure you acknowledge good behavior when it occurs. We cannot praise our children too much as long as it is genuine. Your praise should reinforce the behaviors you want repeated. Asking for something in a pleasant tone of voice is something that will serve your child forever. Do your part and teach your child not to whine, not only for your own sanity, but for her sake as well.


Submit a Comment

  • phoenixarizona profile image

    phoenixarizona 8 years ago from Australia

    This is brilliance. I do exactly the same thing. Just a normal voice and repeat myself. works for my kids. Fantastic Hub Lela!

  • Owais Siddiqui profile image

    Owais Siddiqui 8 years ago

    Great hub and equally greta comments Please seemy hub to add to you'rs

  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    LifeBoost, Great Idea with the set-up! That is a great way to make sure you follow through. I'm not sure most of us have that kind of planning in place, but I love the idea.

  • lifeboost profile image

    lifeboost 9 years ago from United Kingdom

    Hi Lela :)

    Great Hub!

    I think C. S. Alexis is referring to the line: "snacks are among the best distracters". I do agree with her - when I read that line I felt it could lead to an unfortunate connection between food and frustration. Apart from that, all your other ideas are great!

    I have something else to add: I believe in "setting children up" - that may sound mean lol, but what I mean is, create a situation, when it's convenient to you, that will bring out the behaviour you want to correct.

    If your child always whines in the grocery store, go to the grocery store one day with no purpose other than to correct the whining. I would promise a trip to the playground or some other treat for after the store. It MUST be something she REALLY loves to do/have. 

    Make it very very clear what behaviour will break that deal. In other words, make sure the child understands exactly what you mean by "whining". I would even get her to demonstrate it. "Give me an example of whining." "That's it - that's what I don't want you to do - do you understand?"

    Then, the first time she does it, say to her very calmly "Okay, remember I mentioned that if you whine we won't go to the playground. What you're doing right now is whining, so if you stop speaking like that and speak normally, we can still go to the playground. If not we'll have to go straight home"

    And then of course, as you mentioned, it's vital to follow through on whatever the result is. But the follow through needs to be Calm and Matter-of-fact - without emotion. You can do that because you've planned the situation especially for this, so you won't be feeling frustrated and stressed because you knew this would probably happen. It's perfect. And the calmer and more matter-of-fact you are, the more effective it will be.

    Congratulations on a Fab Hub :) xx

  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    CS - I'm not sure anyone here said anything about treats. I wouldn't do that either, unless I was having a really bad day - then all bets are off! Threats and bribery you know. I agree with you about treats-for-behavior. Better to have an internal motivator. Thanks for the comment.

  • C.S.Alexis profile image

    C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

    I do not like the idea of giving treats to quiet a toodler. This could cause eating disorders later in life. We do not want to teach our children to run to the pantry or fridge when they are frustrated.

    I do believe that positive reinforcement is always a good thing. I also think that giving them a choice in the matter works well. Say you can stand there and whine or be quiet and we can do something positive. Thenyouhave the opportunity to make the choices whatever you want. You stay in control but they feel they are in control. Best thing is ,most kids will always make the best choice.

  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Oh yeah - baby talk is a whole different issue....

  • Paul Edmondson profile image

    Paul Edmondson 10 years ago from Burlingame, CA

    Whining and baby talk are two of my pet pieves. I don't know if there is any other behavior that I am as quick to correct. I love the line "I can't understand you when you whine. Please speak in a normal voice." Very good advice.

  • Maddie Ruud profile image

    Maddie Ruud 10 years ago from Oakland, CA

    Believe it or not, kids actually crave boundaries.  The world is much less scary if it has padded edges... if you never put your foot down, life can be a frightening prospect for your children.

    GREAT hub.