In the early 1980s, Saturday Night Live had two characters named Doug and Wendy Whiner. They were a married couple who would whine like children and annoy everyone in the skit. I think of those characters when my kids start whining. I have to confess that my first temptation in those moments is to impersonate the SNL couple back to my kids. It’s certainly not the most effective (or mature) way to deal with the problem, particularly when my children remind me that in our family, we don’t mock people. Then I have to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
But kids do need to learn healthy ways to express themselves when they are upset. We have put together a game plan for when your child defaults to whining. Here are 10 ways to get your kids to stop whining.
1. Ignore them.
The vast majority of parents polled on this subject all say that ignoring a whining child is a great technique. This tends to come easier for women than it does for men. However, ignoring a whining child eventually will teach them that whining gets them nowhere. As one mom said, “They stop when they see it’s not working.”
2. Leave the room.
When your child begins to whine, simply leave the room. A parent explained, “I walk away from my 8-year-old to another part of the house. He eventually comes around to see if I will throw a baseball or whatever. I explain I’d love to—if he loses the attitude!” Excellent advice.
3. Remove the cause.
When it happens that your child is whining about a particular item, simply remove access to that item. For example, your children are whining about a toy they both want. If after giving them time to work it out themselves they begin to whine instead, take the toy and put it away.
4. Name it.
A father notes, “I tell them I don’t understand whinese. They know they won’t get very far with me, so they check themselves.” Using humor in this situation not only lightens the tension, but it helps bond you to your kids.
5. Take a time out.
In cases of young children, the time out works for many different issues. This includes whining. An experienced babysitter stated, “Get down to their eye level and explain that you can see they are frustrated. Instruct them to go somewhere quiet and think about why they are upset. In about five minutes, they will come back changed for the better.”
6. Watch your tone.
Men tend to have very low tolerance for whining. It is a natural instinct to want to use intimidation to squash it, usually by raising your voice to a high volume. However, this can lower your child’s self-esteem as well as make her fear you. Instead, try using a firm and strong voice but in a calm manner.
7. Change the subject.
A parent notes, “With my 3-year-old, changing the subject has an 85% success rate. When he whines, I will ask him a completely random question he can answer. Then we just move on from there.” Redirecting the attention of young children can be a great technique for many different situations.
8. Use a Whiny Jar.
If your child receives an allowance, this is an outstanding technique. Whenever your child begins to whine, give him a warning. If it continues, he loses a portion of his allowance, and it goes into the Whiny Jar. When enough money builds up, have him earn back the lost cash with extra chores.Make sure your kids get a good night’s sleep; it will help in every aspect of their lives.
9. You are the role model.
Whining is not exclusive to children. We all whine from time to time, and it does not go unnoticed by your kids. Be sure when you are around them to think about the things you say and how you say them. Your kids are learning how to behave from you. Everything starts at the top, so be a good role model, and you will see the results in your children.
10. Make sure your kids get enough sleep.
The primary reason a child becomes whiny is a lack of proper rest. As one doctor puts it, “Parents usually underestimate the amount of sleep their children require to function at their best. Sleep deprivation puts children’s brains in a stress mode that creates a constant state of irritability.” Make sure your kids get a good night’s sleep; it will help in every aspect of their lives.
Sound off: How would you teach your kids to stop whining?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it is wrong to whine?”