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Six Strategies to Combat Whining

Six Strategies to Combat Whining

by Jennifer Jordan

Whining. Even the word alone can draw winces and groans.  Everyone, including adults, whines from time to time.  However, it seems that children, especially those ages 2-7, hold the market on this behavior that can aggravate parents, caregivers, and anyone within hearing distance. Is there a solution? While no magic potion is guaranteed, here are some strategies to help curb whining and provide a little peace of mind:

1) Change Your Perspective

Children do not intentionally whine to drive parents insane.  More often than not, they resort to whining because they are frustrated or want to be heard. This is especially true in the case of toddlers who are still developing communication skills. Consider what might be triggering the behavior—hunger, exhaustion, even a major change, such as a new baby in the house or a new school. Spend time listening to your child and engage in some one-on-one time with him to decrease whining episodes.

2) Be Clear that Whining is Unacceptable

Tell your child that whining will not get him what he wants.  Explain calmly that you cannot understand your child when he whines, and that you will not listen to your child until he is able to speak in a normal tone of voice (and asks politely). 

3) Point out Whining to Your Child

A child might not even realize that she is whining. When it starts, stop your child and explain what she is doing.  Mimic the tone of her voice aloud and ask if she understands how she sounds to you. Don’t make fun of your child; explain that you are only demonstrating what you are hearing. This tip can work well with school-age children because chances are that they listen to whining from younger siblings or playmates, and do not like it any better than you do!

4) Do Not Give In

Once you tell your child that whining is not allowed, do not give in. This is hard and some days it seems easier to accept the whining and hand the child what she wants.  Be firm and resist the easy way out. If you give in, you will only teach your child that whining wins your attention, and she will do it more frequently. You may feel like you are losing your mind during a whining episode, but this strategy does work if you remain firm.

5) Do Not Let Your Child See You Sweat

It is easy to react negatively to whining, but it is important to remain calm. Children take their cues from parents’ reactions.  If your child sees that his whining affects you, he will learn to use it more to get your attention.

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6) Be Consistent

This tactic is also hard to follow, but if a parent is consistent in the “no whining” approach, then the child knows that whining will not work.  The child will learn that the only way to get what she wants is to speak in a normal tone of voice. Take a deep breath and remember that this phase will be shorter the stronger you remain!

Prior to teaching Latin at St. James Day School, Jennifer Jordan practiced law for nine years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and English as well as a J.D. and Masters in Library Science. She is married with two daughters.

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