My daughter is 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, you didn’t give her the right “secret password” to get out the door in the morning when you’re already running late – and she didn’t actually tell you what the password is.
As she gets older, she’ll naturally get better at catching herself.
But in the meantime when the whining starts, I say: “I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you’re saying. Can you 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 for her to stop whining. This trick helped a lot, but it didn’t completely get her to stop whining.
Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, get a free cheat sheet of 10 positive and effective ways to respond next time your child starts whining.
Depending on the day, 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 horrible after.)
- Ignoring her and hoping she’ll stop. (Didn’t work.)
7 Expert Tips on How to Stop Whining (Plus a Cheat Sheet!)
Here are a few tips I culled from various parenting experts 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.
1. Nip it in the bud.
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.”
2. Empathize before you lecture.
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.
Note: This quote from parents.com is from an article titled “Your Kid, Only Less Whiny” that’s no longer available on the site.
3. Show your child what to aim for.
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’)?”
4. Let them know when they got it right.
“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.”
5. Don’t ignore the whining.
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.”
6. Be playful.
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.
7. Reconnect for a few minutes.
“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.
This last tip is pure gold, which is why I created these Family Connection Cards based on the science of what actually works when you need to reconnect with your child. These cards remove the mental burden of figuring out how to connect with your child so you can just focus on nurturing your bond with your child. At any point during your day, you can pick a card to get a quick and simple idea for connecting.
And in just 10 minutes a day, these powerful cards will make your child feel absolutely loved and stop the whining and power struggles caused by disconnection.
Get Your Free Cheat Sheet
To help you remember these tips in the moment, I put together a free cheat sheet for you about how to stop whining. The cheat sheet includes all the ideas inside this post, plus three bonus tips:
- 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.
Here’s a sneak peek of your cheat sheet:
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 go-to tricks for how to stop whining from your kids? Or how about your whiny co-workers? Share your tips in a comment below!
Social media photo by Clemens v. Vogelsang.