Effective Ways to Stop Whining Children

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One of the biggest child behavior problems is how to stop whining. Like fingernails on a chalkboard, whining is one of those sounds that instantly get your attention—and jangle your nerves.

A study has even proven that whining is one of the most distracting sounds known to man—something parents knew already from the first-hand experience! Perhaps that’s why children seem almost genetically programmed to be able to do it naturally like fish know how to swim.

The good news is that parents can definitely influence this challenging behavior. It’s also worth keeping in mind that whining becomes much less frequent as children get older. It’s rare to see an older grade-schooler resort to whining, especially when parents consistently and lovingly convey the message to a child that whining is not going to be tolerated or an effective way for him to express himself.

How we react and what we say to redirect our kids can make a huge difference in whether or not they resort to whining when they are unhappy or frustrated.

Strategies to Stop Whining Children

Adjust the way you view whining. Parents of school-age children need to understand that children are not using whining to deliberately drive them crazy. They are doing it to express their frustration or because they want to be heard. When children express their needs and want, it’s actually a normal part of the development and it’s a good thing.

Consider what may be triggering this behavior. Does your child whine when he’s had a particularly busy day? Or when he’s hungry or tired or hasn’t had enough time with you? Or have there been changes in his life on a larger scale, such as a new sibling or a problem at home or at school?

Then consider some adjustments to his routines that may help curb whining and other negative behaviors. Try spending some time with your child just hanging out and reading, riding bikes, or cooking together.

Call Out the Whining

Your child may not even realize that she is whining (this is especially true for younger children). Call her attention to her behavior by demonstrating what she sounds like. You can use humor here and say something like, "What would it be like if grownups went around whining about things they sometimes didn’t want to do, such as getting up for work when they are tired or cleaning the house?"

Then show your child what whining sounds like. But take care not to make fun of her—the point is to show her what she sounds like, not to mock her feelings.

Make It Clear That Whining Is Not Acceptable

Your child has to know that whining is not to be used to express himself. Just as you taught your child when he was a toddler that it was not acceptable to hit when he didn’t get his way, you can make it clear to your child now that whining is unpleasant and will never get him what he wants. Tell him clearly and calmly that you will not listen to what he has to say until he is able to say what he wants in a normal tone of voice.

Keep Calm

Don't let 'em see you sweat. Apply a little Zen discipline here and stay calm when your child begins whining. Remember when your child was little and she fell, and then would watch for your reaction to decide how upset she should be? The same principle applies here. If your child sees you being affected by her whining—and even worse, giving in to what she wants when she whines—then she will take her cues from your reaction.

Don't Give In

Would it be easier to just hand your child that pack of candy or coveted toys to stop the whining? Yes. But it would be a definite mistake and would be a sure-fire way to encourage your child to use whining again the next time he wants something.

Be Consistent

Not being consistent is one of the common mistakes that parents make when disciplining their children. Do not enforce the "no whining" rule in one instance and then give in on another. When you are inconsistent, you are diluting the message that whining is not to be used and is something you will not tolerate.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. KidsHealth from Nemours. Taming tempers.

  2. Markham L. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling And Start Connecting. Penguin RandomHouse. 2012.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Building structure.

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.