Whining: How can you get your preschooler to stop whining?

My four-year-old son whines all the time. He brings me to the point of tears and then I just give in to stop the incessant noise. I've tried to be patient and I've tried to be strict, but nothing seems to be working. What can I do to break him of this annoying habit?

Question:

You have described a very common problem among four year olds! They surely do have the art of whining honed to perfection.

Whining works particularly well, of course, if the child's parents are very annoyed by it. Then it can become a main weapon in the arsenal of testing, which four year olds do on a very consistent basis.

With consistent use, however, whining can move from testing behavior into a bad habit. This seems to be what has happened with your son.

I know of only one effective way to break this habit. It is hard on the parent, but it does work. First, tell your son that he is whining, and that you don't like when he whines. Ask your son to repeat whatever he has just said in a normal voice. He may not be able to do this at first, so you say his words. Here comes the hard part -- Every time he whines after that, your conversation must come to a stop. Say to him, "You are whining. I can't really understand what you are saying to me when you whine. Try saying what you want in a regular voice." Then wait until he complies. (If he can't, then repeat his words in a normal tone.) Once he begins to use a regular voice, you should not overload the praise. A simple "Good" will suffice. This should be an expectation, not an achievement, in his mind.

Remember, for this to work, you have to stop him every time.

This can be tiresome, I know, but it is really effective. And after a day or so, your child will get the message that he is expected to speak in a normal -- not whiny -- voice. Believe me, he will come around.

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