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Whining Wars

Tips To Deal With Your Child Who Whines

Jason's 2-year-old son whines when he wants more juice. Brenda's 8-year-old daughter whines about having to take piano lessons. Connie's daughter whines about not getting enough playing time on the softball team.

Each parent finds the whining annoying, but is unsure what to do about it. In each case, the parent and the child could be helped by the following guidelines.

What to Expect


Do expect your child to whine. It is age appropriate at 2, 3, 8, 13, 19 and every other age in between. Children will whine. Count on it.

Don't say, "Stop whining." That doesn't work. Children do not like being ordered around under normal circumstances. When they are whining, they like it even less. One thing worse than a whiner is a whiner who engages you in a power struggle.

Do say, "Madison, that is whining. Whining doesn't work with me. What works with me is to ask in a normal voice, with normal tone and normal volume. If you do that, sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don't. But it's your only hope."

Testing the Limits


Don't be surprised if you are tested. Your child will check you out to see if you meant what you just said. Show them that you do.

Don't cave. You may be tested more than once. Once your child realizes that whining doesn't work, he will drop the behavior. A child who fights does so because that behavior works for him. A child who runs away from fights runs away because that works for him. A child who gives excuses does so because that behavior works for him. Show your child that whining doesn't work with you.

Do announce the living room, kitchen, your bedroom and the car are whine-free zones. Put up whine-free signs if necessary.

Do allow your child to whine. Provide a whining area. Her bedroom will work well for this purpose. With a legitimate whining area, your child can continue to whine if she chooses and you don't have to hear it.

Don't whine to your spouse about your whining child. You are always modeling. Your child learned whining behavior somewhere. Could it have been from you?

Do use a whine fine for older children. Assess each whiner $1 per whine. Keep it in a whine jar or whine bottle. Treat yourself to dinner out or a massage when the whine toll allows.

Do allow children to whine in a whining journal. Inform them that you will listen to all whining if it is written down.

Do praise your child when she asks in a normal voice, with a normal tone and normal volume.

Be Prepared


Don't take children to stores, malls or relatives' homes beyond their normal bedtime. You are asking for whining. Whining, both theirs and yours, increases with tiredness.

Do use preventative communication before you enter whine zones. Have a talk in the car before you enter the grocery store. Explain the purpose of the trip. Set the ground rules. Make your expectations clear before you enter the whine zone and you will experience less whining after you get in there.

Do inform your child that you are having trouble hearing when she whines. Tell her she is hard to understand when she chooses that tone. Tell her whining hurts your ears and they close down for whine protection.

Do make a copy of this article and carry it around with you. This will help you stay conscious that whining is a behavior you have made a commitment to eliminate.

Don't get discouraged. Whining is learned behavior. Learned behavior can be unlearned, and with consistent use of these strategies, your child will learn new behaviors to replace it.

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