My daughter is a good kid and awfully mature for being just four years old. But when she wants something or feels wronged in some way, her voice veers into nasal territory.
She wants to watch another movie, she wants to wear her tutu to bed, she wants to open the garage herself, she doesn’t need to go to the bathroom (although you have evidence to the contrary), you didn’t give her the right password to get out the door in the morning when you’re already running late – and she didn’t actually tell you what the right password is.
We’ve been working on it for a couple months now, and she’s getting better at catching herself.
When the whining starts, I say: “I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you’re saying. Try saying it in a different way.”
Usually, she can right her tone on the first try, but on a tough day it takes two or three times to get her to stop whining. Then sometimes to contrast with her whiny tone, I’ll follow up with something like this in a casual tone: “You don’t have to freak out about it. Next time just say, ‘Hey mom, can I wear your $500 pearl necklace to school?’”
Bonus: Get a free cheat sheet of how to get your kid to stop whining.
A Fresh Start
When we moved from an apartment into a house this past summer, my fiance and I added another anti-whining technique to our repertoire – we told our daughter that whining isn’t allowed at the new house.
But instead of being nags about it, we enlisted 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 most people, she digs the idea of telling people off for doing something that she does herself.
This trick helped a lot, but it didn’t completely get her to stop whining.
On occasion, I’ve displayed zero capability of patience and understanding by:
- Snapping back with: “Well, you can’t always get what you want.” (Made the whining worse.)
- Responding in a mocking whiny tone. (I felt like crap after.)
- Ignoring her and hoping she’ll stop. (Didn’t work.)
7 Tips on How to Stop Whining (Plus a Cheat Sheet!)
Here are a few tips I culled from various parenting sites on how to stop whining from kids. For a free printable cheat sheet of these tips plus three bonus tips, scroll to the end of this post.
- Nip it in the bud. From webmd.com:
To avoid whining, [pediatrician Laurel Schultz, MD] advises parents not to wait until children are in distress to acknowledge them. “It’s important to respond to that first bid for attention, if you can,” she says. “If you are on the phone or in the middle of a conversation, make eye contact with your child and put a finger up, so she knows you’ll be with her in a minute. Then give your child your attention as soon as you can politely do so.”
- Empathize before you lecture. From parents.com*:
Don’t say: “You can’t always get what you want.” Yes, it’s tempting to start humming that Rolling Stones tune, but what you really need to do is show empathy — at least before the whining becomes a full-blown tantrum. “Say, ‘It does look like a fun toy, and I bet you’d really like it. Should we add it to your birthday list or would you like to save your allowance money for it?'” says [Toni Schutta, a psychologist and parent coach in St. Paul]. “This helps kids learn to delay gratification.” Plus, this response gives them hope and empowers them, and it teaches them the importance of saving money.
- Show your kid what to aim for. From askdrsears.com:
Replay for your child how unpleasant [whining] sounds, being careful not to mock. Don’t do this when you are both emotional. Do it at a calm time. Whine back: “Which do you like, Mommy’s sour voice (‘I don’t wanna make supper’) or Mommy’s sweet voice (‘Gosh, I’m tired. I could use some help’)?”
- Let her know when she got it right. From parents.com:
“Parents always point out, ‘That’s not a nice voice’ but often don’t provide enough positive reinforcement,” says [Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of Parents Do Make a Difference]. You might say, “Thanks for using your normal voice” or “My ears love that voice.”
- Don’t ignore the whining. From parents.com:
Put away the earplugs and take action. “Kids can whine all day, easily outlasting a parent who is trying to tune it out,” says Rene Hackney, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist in Alexandria, Virginia. “The longer you let your child complain, the more determined she’ll become to get her way.” Instead, help your child understand that her whining voice is very hard to listen to. You can say, “I can’t understand you when you whine. If you want to tell me how you feel, then I need you to use your regular voice.”
- Be playful. Here’s a foolproof magic trick to stop whining that’s worked for us when we’re out running errands. Or you could try reading this book† to your kids. From cnn.com:
Debbie Granick of St. Louis uses a “whine” cup, or bowl or bucket or whatever’s at hand. “Whenever one of them starts, I say, ‘Here, go pour out your whine and bring me your regular voice.’ It gets a smile, or at least that ‘Oh, Mom’ look, and then they’ll usually change their tone.” She then thanks her child for using a “pleasant” voice. Or whisper your answer back. “You may have to whisper it several times, but your child will have to be quiet to hear you, and a lot of times he’ll mimic your tone of voice,” says Karen Shaffer, a mom of three in Highland, California.
- Reconnect for a few minutes. From webmd.com:
“Often whining signals it’s time to reconnect with your child.” To do that, [educator and developmental psychologist Becky Bailey, PhD] advises parents to spend some focused time together reading, cooking a meal, or doing something else the child enjoys. “A few minutes connecting with your child once or twice a day can make a huge difference for families dealing with difficult behaviors,” Bailey says.
Here’s a sneak peek of the printable cheat sheet with these tips, plus three more:
* Note: The quote from parents.com is from an article titled “Your Kid, Only Less Whiny” that’s no longer available on the site.
Get Your Free Cheat Sheet
- Get the cheat sheet. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to get it and subscribe.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like on the fridge or on the bathroom wall where you escape when the whining drives you crazy.
Still need more advice for how to stop whining? Check out these tips:
- A Simple Trick to Run Errands With No Whining From Your Kids
- Warning: Read This Before You Take Your Kids Shopping
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What are your tricks for how to stop whining from your kids? Or how about your whiny co-workers? Share your tips in a comment below!