Whining is a verbal temper tantrum. Compared to screaming tantrums, itâ€™s a step up the developmental ladder. Some examples of whining and pestering behavior are:
A child who wonâ€™t take â€œnoâ€ for an answer and keeps demanding something youâ€™ve told him he canâ€™t have
A younger child who wants â€œone moreâ€ snack, book, game or back ride
An older child who nags a parent to buy things, even though his bedroom already looks like a toy store
What Causes Whining?
There are many contributing factors. The child often has a strong-willed temperament. The parent may intermittently reward whiny behavior by giving in to it. In addition, most normal 3 and 4 year olds enjoy testing the boundaries in their home. Expect more whining when your child is tired or sleepy.
What should my goals be?
The parentâ€™s job is to teach the child that whining and pestering never works. Teach that you donâ€™t change your mind, you know what youâ€™re doing, youâ€™re fair and that â€œno means noâ€. While childrenâ€™s needs (love, food, clothing, safety) should always be met, their wants (for more of everything) require a reality check. Children need to be learn to accept limits when they request nonessential possessions or activities. They need to learn to cope with the normal frustrations of unmet wishes.
What should I do when my child whines?
Clarify the Rule about Whining: â€œNo whining in our house. I canâ€™t understand you when you use your whiny voice. Please use your normal (or polite) voiceâ€.
Be Kind and Understanding about their Request: â€œI know you want to stay up later, but itâ€™s past bedtimeâ€. â€œI know you want more snacks, but we need to save room for dinnerâ€. Give your decision in a calm, quiet, loving voice.
Make Your Reasons Brief: Highly educated parents tend to talk and reason too much with their children. Before age 5, trying to reason with your child just gives him hope that if he perseveres, you will give in. You can say â€œNo means no, Iâ€™m done talking about itâ€. For school age children, listen to their request. But after a few minutes you can say: â€œIâ€™ve heard your side of it but we donâ€™t pay to see the same movie twice at the theater. Now let me get back to my workâ€
Redirect Your Child to Other Options: Help your child disengage from their nagging behavior. Point them in a new direction. Suggest playing with LEGOs, reading a book, going outside, doing a puzzle or calling a friend.
Ignore Ongoing Pestering: If the whining continues, donâ€™t expect to satisfy or calm your child. Donâ€™t play point-counterpoint with them. Stop talking. Let him have the last word. Often you will need to move to another room.
If Whining Continues, Give a Time-Out: As a last resort, send your child to their bedroom. This is your backup plan. Calling it a Quiet Time is often better than calling it a Time Out, because your goal is to help your child control his emotions and calm himself down. Tell him â€œCome back when you feel betterâ€.
All children do some whining and complaining. They need a wise parent to coach them through this annoying phase. Be sure to praise them when they accept your decision without resorting to endless pestering.
When should I call my childâ€™s healthcare provider?
Your child has several other behavior problems.
Whining becomes more frequent
The whining is no better after trying this program for 1Â month.
You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of â€œMy Child Is Sick,â€ American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2011-08-08 Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.