How To Stop Your Child From Whining
Most parents know that feeling. The sound of that little voice that screeches through your ears and it just doesn’t seem to stop.
It might be because they’re hungry, or they wanted that red lollipop, or that they simply want more attention. Whining. It's like nails on a chalk board.
But what can you do if your ears and patience can’t deal with it anymore?
Dr. Sara O’Byrne, senior clinical psychologist and clinical director of Treehouse Practice, says as difficult as it can be, don’t punish you child for whining. “The use of time-out or responding by shouting is discouraged,” she says. “This will simply give your child the message they are in charge and make them feel quite powerful, that they can get you to respond dramatically. This ultimately means that there is good reason for them to continue whining.”
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A Worthwhile Form Of Communication
Whining is often the only way young kids can express themselves when they are tired, hungry, uncomfortable or just not in the mood to do something.
A child usually starts to whine when they are tired, hungry or uncomfortable. “Whining is your child's way of communicating,” O’Byrne says. “However, the reasons it continues are related to how we as parents respond.”
Simply put: Whining persists because it is worthwhile for the child. “Usually the noise is so irritating to the parent that they give in, and either give the child what they want or respond dramatically (such as saying, ‘Cut it out!’ or ‘Stop it!’). “Both ways of responding are rewarding to the child. So the child learns that whining is a worthwhile form of communication.”
Whining Works For Kids
Kids, especially between the ages of three and four, still don’t have the vocabulary to exactly describe their feelings. Making whining noises is the best way they can describe how they feel when they want to get your attention so that you can help them get more comfortable.
Even if your child is able to verbally express how she feels or why he is annoyed, they may still whine because they learnt from previous experience that you’ll give in and give them what they want.
If you can’t stand whining and want to snap every time you have to listen to it, remember your child will keep on doing it simply because it gets a reaction. They want a response and know that you can hear them.
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Whiny Voice Vs Nice Voice
Fortunately, there are ways to stop your child from whining, but it can take time for them to learn.
O’Byrne says eradicating whining involves two key approaches. “Firstly, remove the payoff for whining,” she says. “This involves teaching your children about different types of voices, at a time of low-stress.”
Explain to your child the different ways of talking and demonstrate what a whiny voice and normal tone of voice sound like. Explain to your children that you will only respond to the normal tone of voice and not the whiny voice.
“So the next time (and the next time!) your child engages in whining, you can give a clear message,” O’Byrne says. “Such as: ‘Remember to use your normal voice and not your whiny voice’. If the whiny voice persists, you will need to actively ignore this behaviour.”
This can be very difficult to do, as it might initially mean an escalation in problematic behaviour but over time, your child will learn the new association.
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Show Your Child How It’s Done
Make sure your child knows exactly how to ask nicely. Children at this stage are still small and may not truly understand what nicely means or even realise that they are whining. That’s why it might be necessary to break it down for them and explain to them what you understand.
Secondly, according to O’Byrne, you want to ensure that your child’s need for attention and affection is fulfilled.
“When your child is polite and calm, provide praise and one-to-one time. This helps your child develop a clear message about acceptable and unacceptable ways of speaking.”
Cuddle The Whine Away
According to Aha Parenting another way you can try to decrease the whining is by holding your child.
“Long cuddles like ‘bear hugs’, can benefit them, yourself and your relationship. By holding you child, you’re helping to ground them and to restore their state of balance and well-being.”
Cuddling can also teach them that we can find our own inner well-being by reconnecting with ourselves in the present moment.
“As grown-ups, we tend to use food, alcohol or technology to regulate our inner state. Teaching your child to reconnect with themselves at an early age, can only be beneficial in a healthier way for later in their lives.”
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Help Your Child Develop Skills
O’Byrne says the broader picture in terms of managing whining, and other difficult behaviours, is the process of helping your child to develop self-regulation skills.
"(Skills) that are the ability to manage his/her emotions, with your support,” she says. “Children do this by developing a strong connection with their parents and learning from parental modelling and shaping behaviours. So remember that whining could also be a sign of your child’s ‘emotional cup’ needing to be filled.”
Like the ‘bear hug’ mentioned earlier, “keeping that image of that cup in your mind can sometimes be helpful and lead to you asking things like, ‘I wonder does he need his cup filled up a bit more?’
“Offering one-to-one play time, hugs and kisses throughout the day, and talking about emotions and experiences openly, all help to keep the child in balance.”
Hang In There
Even though you are trying your very best to stop your child from whining, O’Byrne says it might take some time.
“For most behaviour changes, a period of three to four weeks is needed for new habits to be formed,” she says.
“As noted, within this period there might be an increase in the frequency or intensity of whining. Hang in there. Seek support from your partner or family members. The change will happen provided you are consistent. “And the payoff will be well worth it.”
How do you handle your child's whining? Tell us in the comments below.