6 Steps to Put an End to Whining

Curb Whining and Take Steps to Prevent this Annoying Behavior Problem

Daughter jumping and screaming on bed
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Whether your child whines, "That's not fair!" every time you say no, or she whines about everything from the food you serve to the temperature in the car, whining is tough to listen to.

Whining is a fairly common behavior problem in children. From an early age, most kids recognize that whining can often be effective. It's a good way to annoy adults into submission.

That's why it's important to curb it as soon as possible. Without a proper intervention, whining can get worse. And a whiny kid is likely to turn into a whiny adult.

Fortunately, these steps can help you curb whining fast.

1. Establish a Household Rule about Whining

Establish a household rule about whining, such as, “Ask nicely for something and accept the answer calmly.” This helps kids understand that their attempts to change your mind won’t be effective.

Make sure other caregivers are on the same page when it comes to whining. If your spouse or a grandparent gives in to whining, it will undermine your rule.

You may need to remind your child sometimes, "What's our rule about how we ask for something?" or "What's an appropriate way to respond when someone tells you no?" Help your child see that whining is a big problem.

2. Provide a Warning

Sometimes whining becomes a bad habit for kids and they don’t realize they’re doing it. Provide one warning by saying, “No whining,” or, “Remember, we don’t whine at our house.”

This can help make your child more aware that begging, pleading and asking repeatedly constitute whining. And a warning can give your child a chance to do have a do-over where he can act more socially appropriate.

3. Remain Calm and Don’t Give In

Listening to a child whine can sound worse than nails on a chalkboard. However, it’s important to remain calm. Take deep breaths, leave the room, or put on some music if it will help you stay calm.

Whatever you do, don’t give in. If out of frustration you end up saying, “Fine, have another cookie!” you’ll have taught your child that whining is an effective way to get what he wants. Avoid providing any type of positive reinforcement that may encourage your child to whine in the future.

4. Ignore Whining

Attention in any form, even if it is negative attention, can encourage the behavior continue. Ignoring attention-seeking behavior, such as whining, is an effective form of behavior modification.

If your child begins whining when you tell him to pick up his toys, and you keep talking to him while he whines, you’re reinforcing the behavior. Giving him attention encourages the whining to continue. Also, the longer he engages you in a conversation, the longer he can delay picking up the toys.

Ignoring means you’ll need to pretend as if you can’t hear the whining at all. Go about your normal business and try to tune out the whining. Be prepared, however, because it’s likely that your child may begin to whine louder when he sees that you aren’t responding.

Continue ignoring until the behavior stops. Eventually, your child will recognize that it isn’t working. Just make sure that you don’t give in at any point or you’ll have likely made the behavior worse.

5. Provide Positive Attention When the Behavior Stops

As soon as the whining stops, provide your child with positive attention. Praise your child by saying something such as, “I like the way you are playing quietly right now!”

Give lots of positive attention to the good behavior and it will encourage your child to seek attention in positive ways.

6. Prevent Whining in the Future

Give your child the skills he needs to handle uncomfortable emotions like frustration, disappointment and sadness without whining. Teach your child about feelings so he can recognize how he feels and help him learn how to deal with upsetting feelings.

For example, if he is angry that you said he can’t go outside to play, help him learn how to deal with those angry feelings by coloring a picture or doing jumping jacks. Teach coping skills that will help your child deal with his feelings in a positive way.

Teach your child problem-solving skills as well. If your child is sad because your trip to the beach got canceled because it is raining, help him find an indoor activity. Teach him how to solve problems on his own so he can deal with problems without whining.

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