Whining - that pitiful, loud, grating sound - is one of the most irritating of kid behaviors. The pitch is an exasperating blend of crying and nagging that’s annoying as nails on a chalkboard. If that’s not enough, whiners have this amazing ability of stretching syllables so they almost slap you back in your face: “Pleeeeeeease” or “Daaaaad!”
Rest assured, all kids whine occasionally, but the surest way to turn this grating attention-getter into a full-fledged habit is to give in, and let your little nagger “win.” Take heed: once you back down and surrender, kids usually continue using the technique as a way to get what they want. Worse yet, if not stopped, whining often escalates to back talk, arguing, and tantrums. So the bottom line is: don’t let your kid think it works.
Here are the four steps to stop your little whiner...
FOUR STEPS TO SQUELCH WHINING
Step 1. Establish a Zero Tolerance for Whining
The best way to stop the behavior is to flat-out refuse to listen to nagging requests unless it’s spoken with a polite tone. At the first whimper of a whine, firmly say: “Stop! I don’t listen to whining voices. Tell me what you want with a nice tone.” Then walk away or turn around and ignore your kid. Turn back when the whining stops (even for a few seconds) and say: “I do listen to a nice voice. Can I help you now?” The trick is to not to look irritated or to react. Hmmm. Easier said than done, right?
Step 2. Demonstrate Appropriate Voice Tone
Next, show your child what a more acceptable voice sounds like. Please don’t assume he knows the correct way to get your attention. Whining may have become such a habit that he simply isn’t aware of his annoying tone. Take a moment to ensure your child knows what kind of a voice you expect. For example: “Here’s my whining voice: ‘I don’t wanna do this.’ Here’s my polite one: ‘Can you please help me?’ When you want something, make your voice sound like my polite voice. Now you try.” Be careful not to mimic your child: your goal is to be instructional so he understands your expectations without ridiculing.
Step 3. Lay Down Your Rules
Announce that from now on he should expect an automatic “no” any time he whines. Then just flatly refuse to listen to even the first note of a whine uttered from your kid’s lips. Usually whining stops when kids realize it’s getting them nowhere, so your child has to realize that your rule is non-negotiable.
Step 4. Set a Consequence If Whining Continues.
You may be wondering: “What happens if my kid still whines?” The answer is simple: you must set an immediate consequence so your kid knows you won’t tolerate it. And it’s the same for back talk, hitting, spitting, or arguing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can wait until you’re home to correct your kid’s misbehavior. Wherever the whining occurs is where the consequence must be administered. That may mean the huge inconvenience of changing plans when your kid starts up his whining routine during a shopping outing. But if you really want to end the behavior, you’ll calmly say on the spot: “That’s whining, and you know the rule. We’re leaving now.” Consequences stop bad behaviors, only if they’re used every time the behavior occurs. Take heed: if you don’t follow through, the whining usually increases. That’s because your child has learned you just might give in.
By the way, if you’re on the road, the best consequence is to use the brakes. Just pull over to the side (when safe) and don’t move. Bring a supply of water and a good book, but pretty soon your kids will know you are serious. Also, please remember to praise your kid when he uses the right voice tone. Breaking a habit takes time, so always encourage his good efforts. Above all: don’t give in.
I’d love to hear your ideas! What’s the most creative way you’ve stopped your little whiner? Some moms swear that recording their kid secretly then playing it back so he can “hear” the tone, does the trick. What works for you?
If you have individual questions about your child, please post them. Though I can’t get to them all, I will try to answer as many as I can.
Best to you and your family!
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Dr. Michele Borba is the author of No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them .