Whining is a problem for almost every parent. When children don’t get their way, whining is often a last-ditch effort to get you to change your mind. Those long, high-pitched protests from your child can instantly raise the blood pressure of even the most patient guardian. Uncontrolled, these displays can spread stress through the entire family unit, causing disruptive behaviors in siblings and tension between adult members.
When a child whines, they are asking for attention. They need your help. For younger children and those with limited verbal skills, it can be difficult to clearly express a need or desire. When the squealing starts, it’s important to find the root cause of the problem.
- Disappoint from a denied request
- Loneliness or a need for attention
- Desire for a sense of security
- Unfamiliar or uncomfortable emotions or pain they can’t put into words
Before you respond, try to figure out what your child is really trying to tell you. Ask closed-ended questions to clarify the situation.
- Does something hurt?
- Are you hungry?
- Do you want to take a nap?
Stay calm while you work with your child. Losing your patience will only escalate their response.
Make It Stop!
Even if you aren’t able to decipher the reason behind the whining, there are some simple yet effective ways to help calm your child and return peace to your home.
- Hold your child. Give them your undivided attention. Your gentle, physical presence will help them relax and make them feel safe and appreciated. It will also reduce your urge to react in anger.
- Let them talk. If your child can speak well enough to be understood, let them express themselves, even if the answer is still “no.” Nonverbal children can be encouraged to draw pictures or show their feelings in other ways.
- Be proactive. If you know something is going to happen that your child will not like, talk to them about it beforehand. Giving them time to process and accept the situation reduces the need to react.
- Check the environment. Things like unfamiliar visitors or a change in their living situation can cause stress and confusion.
- Reward positive behaviors. Praise your child when they are able to control themselves emotionally.
Stay the Course
What is the number one reason why children whine? Because it works. According to neuroscientists, we are genetically programmed to respond to certain distress tones from our young ones. When those loud, keening noises hit our ears, we will do almost anything to stop them. Children know this, and will use it to their advantage.
It’s important to stand your ground when confronted with a demanding child. If you tell your child he can’t have a cookie but change your mind in response to his whining, you lose authority. This can lead to other disrespectful or defiant behaviors. Be firm but gentle when denying a request that goes against established family rules.
In the fight against whining, calm attention and genuine affection are your best allies.