Although whining still occurs at our house when children are tired, hungry or bored, one simple rule has been the most effective in turning things around.
Whining does not get us what we want.
Whining for food? Not getting any. At least not yet.
Whining to go outside? Staying inside, for now.
Bored and whining? I don’t think I can help you right now.
Whatever they are whining for, they will hear the same response from me – whining does not get us what we want. They can continue to whine, but it will not produce the desired result. And they may end up having to continue whining in their room.
The message is clear – they’ll have to find another way.
But what does a child do with this? Most likely they will get frustrated because they don’t know another way. So along with the rule comes a lot of grace and a willingness to teach some problem solving skills.
They need to learn to solve their problems without whining. If it was natural to do so, they’d already be doing it.
First acknowledge how they are feeling. Obviously if they are whining, they have a problem of some kind. Sometimes they don’t even know what the problem is. Help them name it. Many times, naming it is enough to make them recognize what they need so they can ask for it.
Next, try asking questions to help them figure out a solution. Does the way they are talking sound kind? Is there another way they could be talking? Is there something they need or want? Do they need help with something? Have they tried asking for it?
I often find myself saying to our kids, “Lets start with asking for it”. And parents, I think we need to be generous here – when you can say yes, SAY YES.
While it isn’t fool-proof, most whining can be rephrased as a polite question.
Turn that whine into a polite question explaining what you need or want to do? I’d like to help you. Lets talk about it.
Suddenly whining for food becomes – I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?
Whining to go outside becomes – I really want to go outside. Can we?
Bored and whining becomes – I can’t find anything to do. Can you play with me?
Before going any further, I think we need to step back as parents and determine if we contributed to their whining. Yes, you read that right. Parenting is a big job. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m so busy or distracted that I neglect to make our children feel heard. No wonder they turn to whining! At least it provokes a response, albeit a negative one. Have they already asked you for want they want? Were you really listening to them or have you been distracted with something else? Did you ask them to wait longer than is appropriate for their age? Is there a physical need – sleep, food, water – that needs to be met? If we’ve contributed to the problem, we may need to remedy our response before we ask them to remedy theirs.
Although sometimes it would be easier to give in to the whine…remember, consistency is king. Every time we give into a whiny request, we demonstrate that whining does get them what they want. At least, it does sometimes.
Which means it’s still worth trying.
So…Do. Not. Give. In.
Start showing them that whining does not get them the result they want – and then help them find another way.