How Do I Get My Child to Stop Whining?

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Answered by: J.C., An Expert in the Discipline and Behavior Category
Nearly all children whine at some point in their development. Thankfully, nearly ever child outgrows the behavior. What parents want to know is how that happens. How do you get a child to stop whining?

Believe it or not, some children whine simply to get attention, even though it is negative attention. If you ignore it, it should eventually go away on its own. If it doesn't, you'll need to adopt some practical steps.

Young Children

Whining is most common in children who are two and three years old. At this stage of their development, children are learning to communicate their needs, often in a demanding or irritating way! This is the best time to curb the whining behavior, and here's how.

1. Let's say your child wants a cookie, and whines for it. State clearly and calmly, "Please ask me in a polite voice so I can understand you."

2. Refuse to provide the cookie until your child has asked appropriately--no matter how loud or obnoxious she gets!

3. If your child does ask politely, hand over the cookie while praising him for using good manners. Be sure to praise your child every time he is polite.

4. If, however, your child continues to whine or starts a tantrum, calmly state, "I'm sorry, I cannot understand you when you whine. If you ask politely I can help you."

Remaining firm will be your biggest challenge, and be prepared to be inconvenienced! For example, children often whine in the grocery store; they just can't resist the array of colorful boxes containing sugary cereals and cookies, and of course, the candy in the checkout aisle! Instead of giving in to quiet your child, stick to your guns! I have abandoned the cart in the middle of the aisle and marched out of the grocery store with my screaming three-year-old son. And on more than one occasion, I have continued to shop while my daughter's piercing cries annoyed everyone around me. (They stared, they muttered, they offered advice.) Not backing down is hard, and embarrassing, but definitely worth it in the long run. Giving in to get your child to stop whining will certainly increase the chances of your child becoming a chronic whiner.

Older Children

But how do you get your older, school-aged child to stop whining? You can use the steps above, but also provide a clear explanation. Follow these tips:

1, When an older child begins to whine, hold up your hand in a "stop" pose. State: "I'm sorry, I cannot help you if you whine."

2. If your child stops whining and asks politely, praise her. Then grant the request, if it's reasonable. If it isn't, calmly explain why not.

3. If your child continues to whine, simply say "I'm sorry, but when you whine, the answer is always no." Then actively ignore his continued requests.

Is some whining acceptable? Sure. Kids get tired and cranky and irritable--just like adults. Try to recognize when a child is at the end of her rope and offer kind words and a reassuring hug. Parents need that treatment, too!

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