First it’s a mosquito in your ear…then it’s that obnoxious squeal of air escaping a pinched balloon…and by the time the sound reaches its crescendo, it’s a few decibels away from shattering your glasses. The dreaded whine. Children whine to get your attention and, sadly, it works. But if your child is beginning to believe that whining is the only way to get what they want, it’s time to teach them otherwise.
There are a few measures any parent can take to prevent whining before it begins. When you can’t respond immediately to a child’s request, try to be as pleasant and respectful as possible when asking them to wait. Give an accurate time estimate for when you’ll be with them: “2 minutes” rather than a vague “later.” Also, try to consider factors that may have caused your child to clamor for attention more often. Have you been busier than usual? Taking care of a new baby? In these cases, whining may be a child’s plea to reconnect.
If you think it’s time to bring your child’s whining to their attention, there are some dos and don’ts to remember. The first time you tell them, it might be best to wait until they’re not whining. If you bring the issue up when your child is in a good mood, they’ll be more likely to take heed. Then, the next time they whine, ask them to listen to what they sound like. It may be necessary to cultivate a passable impression of their whine – “This is what you sound like to me…” – but be careful about mocking: the only thing worse than a whiner is a whiner with hurt feelings.
If a whining problem persists, get consistent about how you respond. It’s important to resist caving in to your child’s whined demands; if you do, it lets them know that it works. But telling your child that they’re whining again and again can become tiresome and somewhat antagonistic. For a different approach, tell your child you don’t understand them when they whine. Suggest that maybe it’s a problem of enunciation, and let them know that you’ll only respond to requests you can hear clearly. Also, it might be worth pointing out to your child that most of their idols and heroes, like Batman, iCarly, and Dora, aren’t big whiners…though Justin Bieber’s songs have been known to get a little whiney.
Once you draw a line between whining and not-whining, it’s very important to reward non-whiny requests with your full attention. And when you notice your child has made an effort to decrease their whining, tell them that you’re proud of how maturely they’re acting. Indeed, a child who has moved past whining is beginning to recognize the difference between wants and needs, and so a whining phase, while annoying, is a key step in learning this lesson. It’s a long and whine-ding road, but the destination is worthwhile.