What to Do About Whining

[Originally posted at Just the Facts, Baby]

Few things are more irritating to a parent’s ear than whining or “nose talking” as we call it in our family. It is very difficult to deal with and can really push buttons for us as parents.

Whining is a behavior and behavior is a communication. In general, children tend to communicate with their behavior, not their words. They don’t come home from school and say, “Well Mom, it all started in the sandbox when Sarah took my shovel…” They come home and whine or fall apart when something doesn’t go their way.

Children also tend to build up emotions and then let them out in different ways. Unfortunately, whining is one of them. Whining can mean that kids are uncomfortable, not feeling listened to, or are feeling uneasy, but it can also mean that they have figured out that this behavior gets results.

How to stop the whining:

First make sure that you are listening to your child. They may have been trying to tell you things in a more appropriate way and you were missing it or not really listening, so they have escalated to whining to get your attention. The CALM listening technique in my book usually stops whining in it tracks, (which is basically listening to the message first and reflecting it back).

Never give your child what she asks for if she uses that whiney voice, or you will be reinforcing the behavior. Behaviors don’t stick around if they are not rewarded. Ask your child to repeat their message without whining. Use positives when she does say things differently and be patient, getting angry rarely helps and often makes things worse. It won’t get better overnight, but you should see steady improvement as she learns other strategies.

You can also try calling the whining something else, like “the complaining bug”, that can sometimes help you to work on a problem together.

Give her lots of attention throughout the day, lots of tickling, cuddling and “baby play” – wonderful moments where she just feels delicious. This alone can often reduce whining and other negative behaviors.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
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