Very few childish behaviors are more annoying than whining. I don’t know any mom who hasn’t wanted to rip her hair out over this issue! Many of us don’t have a clue how to stop it. But I found something that worked well in my family:
I refused to acknowledge what they had to say if they whined.
It’s a simple matter of positive reinforcement. When they approached me in a respectful manner, I addressed their concern. When they whined, I refused to engage them in conversation.
Whining comes naturally to children. We must teach them what is acceptable when they speak and what is not. By allowing a child to speak rudely and with a whiny tone of voice, by engaging them in conversation when they stomp their feet and shout at us, we show them this behavior is okay.
But if we refuse to listen until they are calm and can speak kindly in a smooth tone, then they quickly learn that if they want their problem solved, they must approach us correctly.
So what does that look like, exactly? When your children start whining, simply tell them in a calm voice that you will only talk with them when they can convey their problem in a positive manner. Then request that they state their feelings again the right way. When they do, praise them and address their concern.
Here are some of my responses when my children tried to talk to me through whining:
- “I couldn’t understand what you said because you were whining. Can you say it again, please?”
- “I will be right over here when you are ready to come speak to me like a big kid.”
- “No, that is not how you speak to me. Try it again with nice words.”
- “I’m sorry, were you trying to ask me something? All I heard was whining.”
You can tweak these responses to fit your child and each situation. The point is to halt the resolution of their problem until they have stated their case in an appropriate manner. This teaches them to respect you as the parent, and how to earn respect in return.
At first your children will probably react to this new response with anger and exasperation; they were comfortable with the old way because it got results. In my family, there were times when I made my kids repeat something back to me 3-4 times until they got it right.
Remember – patience is a virtue! If you stick with it, your children will understand that when they talk nice to mom, then mom will be more than happy to help them.
In order for this tactic to work, we must follow a few guidelines:
1) For preschoolers, try offering an example of what type of tone and phrasing you’re looking for. They don’t know how to talk to us correctly. Explain what you want them to say and then have them repeat it.
2) For older children, ask them to brainstorm with you ways to reword the issue so it comes across in a respectful manner.
3) Like all other parenting tools, consistency is key. We can’t allow whining today and then crack down tomorrow. Stick with it and they’ll get it.
4) We must always treat our children with love and respect, no matter how they treat us. We can’t respond in anger. We can’t use a sassy tone or become domineering when they irritate us. Remember, we’re modeling for them; it’s both our words and actions that influence them.
This tactic did wonders in my family when I started using it! I also tried it recently with my nieces and now they don’t whine as often. Maybe it will work for your home!
Do you have any tips to get kids to stop whining?
I do this as well with my daughter. I tell her I can’t understand her whining. That she needs to speak like a big girl. We are still working on it lol.
Lorena Alcocer says
I agree with this approach of teaching our children to respect us and others. Thank you for sharing what helps with you and your family. I would like to share also that humor can be useful as well. When my kids were younger they would ask me for a drink of water by stating “Mom, I’m Thirsty”, or “I’m Hungry”, to which I would reply, “Well Hi it’s nice to meet you Thirsty or Hungry”. At first they would look at me confused but then I would explained to them that I thought their name was so and so and then apologize and call them by their new name of Thirsty or Hungry, Hot, Bored, Tired etc…Then I would apologize for the misunderstanding and teach them the proper way to ask for something. Works like a charm and gets a little giggles out of them also.