Why Kids Whine

 

[Originally posted at Just the Facts, Baby]

December 4, 2010 by Jennifer Kolari

Few things are more irritating to a parent’s ear than whining, or “nose talking” as we call it in our family. Here’s why it happens–and what to do about it.                                                                                                     

Why kids whine

Whining can be difficult to deal with (and can really push buttons for us as parents!). But it’s a behavior, and behavior is a form of 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. Of course, it can also mean that they’ve figured out that this behavior gets results.

Five ways to stop the whining

1. Make sure that you’re listening to your child–she may have been trying to tell you things in a more appropriate way and you may have missed it, or not really listened, so she has escalated to whining to get your attention. Try listening to the message, then reflecting it back.

2. 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’re not rewarded.

3. Ask your child to repeat her 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.

4. You can also try calling the whining something else, like “the complaining bug.” Saying something like, “uh oh, sounds like the complaining bug is back–let’s try to get rid of him” can sometimes help you work on a problem together.

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

Meet our expert:

Jennifer Kolari, M.S.W., R.S.W., is a therapist who has helped children, teens and families get connected for 20 years. She is the author of Connected Parenting (Penguin, 2009) and is a highly sought-after speaker with schools, organizations and media agencies throughout North America. Jennifer lives in Toronto with her husband and their three children. www.connectedparenting.com

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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.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
—Gabor Maté, M.D.

"A must read for parents, educators, and any other adults who want to connect in a deeply caring and positive way with the children in their lives."
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