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Stop Your Kids’ Whining

Get tips for dealing with whiny kids.

By
Cherylyn Feierabend,
May 16, 2009
Episode #114

Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some quick and dirty tips for practical parenting.

Let the Whining Begin

My children have learned a new talent. We’ll call it the drive-mommy-crazy talent. You’d probably recognize it as whining. “Mommy, I’m hungry” has turned into “Mommmmmeeeeee, I’m hungreeeeee.” I don’t understand why this happens, but I’m sure I must have done this as a child too. I’m trying to be a good mom and I refrain from whining back at them. “Whaaaat do you waaaaant to eeeeeat?” Sometimes the whining isn’t even in the form of words. The kids just grunt at me like little animals—like when  they must suffer the terrible fate of eating a red popsicle because all of the blue ones are already gone. Oh, the horror. I’ve tried a lot of things, actually. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t. The kids continue to whine. I hear that this will go on and on and on throughout their teen years as well. Oh, the happiness these thoughts bring me.

Should You Ignore the Whining?

I have heard some parents suggest that you simply ignore the whining child. I’d be surprised if that works for you. Ultimately, I disagree with that method, though that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I simply see whining as a form of attention seeking. Unfortunately, this is considered negative attention and it’s a type of attention we don’t want to give.  If we completely ignore the fact that it’s happening, we could be sending the message of “I don’t care” when the message we really want to send is, “I’ll communicate with you when you stop this negative behavior.” This message can easily be presented to an older child or teenager as is, but the younger ones may need a simpler explanation. My three-year-old boy will taper his whining a bit when I say, “Mommy will talk to you when you can be a big boy and use your words.” If you have a set of words you use with your child that you know he’ll understand, such as “use your words” or “talk like a big boy,” this is a good time to give him a reminder. Let him know that you’ll be ready and available to discuss the situation as soon as he complies. You don’t necessarily have to ignore him to get your point across that Mommy isn’t going to take any action until the whining stops.

A Clever Way to Stop the Whining

In some cases, you won’t be able to resolve a situation and your child will start the process of whining about it even though it’s out of your control. Let’s take the popsicle situation. I know there are no red popsicles left. My son only wants red. I can’t fix this immediately and really, his behavior doesn’t warrant me treating him to something special. He is whining about it after all. I suggest that we turn the situation over to him to help decide what to do. I’ll tell him that I’m sorry he’s upset about the red popsicles being all gone. Then I’ll ask him, “What should we do now?” My kids are pretty quick, “You should go to the store, Mommy!” Since I’m not planning on hopping in the car and rushing off to the store right then, I’ll have to take his suggestion into consideration. “That’s a great idea, honey. Let’s put red popsicles on the shopping list so we can get some next time we are out. What do you want to do in the mean time?”  The idea is to let it be his responsibility to resolve the issue. Once he realizes the issue can’t be resolved that very second, he’s more likely to let it go.

Stop the Whining Before It Starts

One thing we have to realize about whining is that while it’s not ever pleasant, we grown-ups might be perpetuating it. Have you heard this before? “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Moooommmmy?” By the time we are on “Mommy” number four, we are at full whine. We need to listen and pay attention to our kids. Oh, I’ve played that game before. My daughter outwits me when I get frustrated and snap at her: “What ?” And she responds with “I love you.” While this exchange is adorable, I could have avoided the initial whining if I’d simply listened and responded. Even if you are already engaged in a conversation with your child, make sure that you are listening and paying attention. If you get confused or misunderstand something, it could lead to frustration. Frustration then leads to whining and that just annoys everyone. When this happens, acknowledge the frustration and get back on topic. Whining is definitely not going to make anything happen any faster.

Don’t Give in to Whining

Finally, don’t give in to the whining. Yes, you should still choose your battles. If it’s a matter of what color socks your daughter wants to wear to school—which really should not become an argument to begin with-- state your position and then stand your ground. If your battle is with the whining and not the situation, be sure to notify her. “Honey, it really doesn’t matter what socks you wear, but until you can ask me like a big girl, we aren’t going to work this out.” If she can ask you properly and you are actually OK with the change, then let it go, but don’t permit the whining child to change your mind by using whining as a tool. If this advice seems all too obvious, that’s because it is. The more you give in to the whining, the more your child will use it against you. Respect works both ways. Listen and speak to your child respectfully and then ask them to treat you the same.

That’s it for now.

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Whining Girl image courtesy of Shutterstock

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