In our family, we’ve tried several tricks to handle whining kids.
Depending on the situation, we’ll pick the best “no whining” trick in our parenting toolbox – or we might end up using all of them.
But in the last couple years, one single approach has worked consistently, again and again. In fact, it works even better today than the first day we used it.
And the best part? Our 6-year-old daughter Abby loves it.
Bonus: Download a free color-in poster that will help your kid stop whining.
When we moved into our home three years ago, we decided it was time for a fresh start.
We told Abby that whining isn’t allowed in the new house, and we hung this sign in the entryway:
Then we asked for her help: “We’ll have to let people know when they come to visit that there’s no whining in our house! Can you help with that?”
Like a lot of folks, she thinks it’s fun to tell people off for doing something that she does herself.
When her voice turns whiny, we point to the poster and say, “What does that say again?”
She’ll read it out loud, and she can’t help but smile when she gets to the “hugs, smiles, and warm fuzzy feelings” line.
Over this last weekend, I realized she actually has the poster memorized and can recite it on command!
Why This Trick Works Like Magic
First, a disclaimer: We use this sign as a tool to handle whining about everyday minor wants and needs, like preferring the blue cup to the red cup. For real emotional upset, we do not use this sign at all. For those situations, these tips to handle whining kids are more appropriate.
With that said, the ultimate goal is for your child to learn how to express her everyday wants and needs without whining in the first place. To do this, she needs to internalize the lesson so she doesn’t have to think about it consciously.
But you can’t just jump straight to having your kid internalize a lesson. She needs lots of practice first. Repetitive practice.
From math to vocabulary and beyond, repetition and rehearsal of new information work to enhance a process that’s essential to memory – a process called consolidation. During consolidation, the brain moves memories from temporary storage in the brain’s hippocampus to more permanent storage in the cortex (the outer layer of the brain).
Think about when your kid was learning to ride a bike. At first, you had to remind her how to pedal, how to balance, how to steer. But after a few practice sessions, she needed fewer reminders. Until one day, she had internalized the lessons so they were second nature.
She didn’t have to consciously think about all the rules of riding her bike. She just…rode her bike.
This is why asking Abby to read the poster aloud on a regular basis has been so helpful.
The Other Key to Success?
The “no whining” sign is a visual representation of the lesson.
It’s easier for brains to remember information that forms a memorable pattern. The design of the words on the poster are a visual pattern, and the cadence of the words read aloud is an auditory pattern.
For this reason, when you pair written or spoken information with visual information, you end up with better recall.
Learning also involves the strengthening of connections between neurons. “What fires together wires together,” say neuroscientists, which is why repetition supports learning while the absence of repetition and exposure results in its decay…
Given that visual, semantic, sensory, motor, and emotional neural networks all contain their own memory systems, multichannel learning engaging each of these networks increases the likelihood of both storage and recall.
This one trick is engaging Abby’s visual, semantic, and sensory neural networks. It’s also engaging her on an emotional level because it makes her smile!
If we wanted to go all out, we could try to engage her motor systems as well, maybe by having her tap her foot or forearm for each syllable or word – just like some spelling bee champs do.
A Free Printable No Whining Sign for Your Kids to Color
We love the no whining sign we bought from Hammerpress.
However, it’s currently out of stock.
You can sign up to get an email update when it’s back in stock at the link above, but in the meantime, this post includes a free printable “no whining” sign for you. (See below for how to download it.)
Your kids can color in the words on this sign, and then you can hang it in your house and point to it from time to time.
Just remember to keep it light and fun. If you approach it like a drill sergeant, you risk introducing fear and stress into the situation for your child. And when fear and stress are involved, learning stops.
Here’s one idea for keeping it fun: Print two copies, and sit by your child and color them together. Bye-bye, whining!
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the color-in poster. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to download and subscribe.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Set your kids up to color the poster. Regular old crayons work fine, or you can pair the activity with a fun new art supply like watercolor pencils or 80’s Glam Sharpies.
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Check out 7 Ways to Get Your Kid to Stop Whining for more ideas on handling whining kids.
How do you handle whining kids? Share your tip in a comment below!