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Many parents have heard this at some point, “But Mommy, I’m sta-r-ving! I want a cookie now!” It can sound like nails going across a chalkboard. Please take heart – there really is hope.

This is a quick how-to guide for dealing with whining children. Learn the reasons why children whine, what will make whining worse, and what you can do to change your child’s whining behaviors forever.

Why kids whine

Kids are masters of manipulation. They are still maturing, and very self focused much of the time. While this is absolutely normal for children, it can be downright frustrating for parents. The key is to understand that kids are just looking out for “number one.” They aren’t out to ruin your morning with their whining; they just want what they want. If whining works, why try anything else?

What will keep it going or make the whining worse

Giving in will most certainly let the whining cycle continue. Very simply put, kids whine because it works. They make a big fuss, shed some tears, capture your full attention, and perhaps draw out some guilty feelings on your part. You give in and the cycle is complete – until next time.

What to do to reduce whining

First of all, any response you make to a whining child has to be consistent. You may use more than one method listed below, but be predictable. You want to become the impenetrable wall to your child. Only the right tone of voice and word choice will let your child through the gate.

Show your child what you mean by “whining.”

Go ahead, do a little acting and get into it. Show him the body language you see when he whines, the facial expressions, the voice, etc. Then, show him what you mean when you would ask him to use his regular “big kid” voice to ask for something. Change your posture, change your facial expression, and use the exact words you would want him to use.

Another approach is to say that you just can’t hear what they are saying with a whiny voice. This may even be true! Even if you can clearly understand them, tell them you can’t. If you keep this about a communication issue and stay calm, they will start to see that whining makes it hard for them to get what they want.

When they are able to talk in a calm normal voice, decide whether your child’s request is reasonable or not. You may not even be able to address their request at that moment. If you need to delay your child for any reason, be as specific as you can. Tell them in terms of when you finish a certain task, or use a timer. If your child is old enough, you can tell them a certain time.

Here are a few examples to consider:

“I need to make one short phone call; then we’ll talk about what you want. You can stay by me to watch if you are quiet.”

“When the big hand gets to the 6, you can go outside.”

“You can have a banana or an apple right now if you are hungry. You can have one small piece of candy only after you’ve finished your supper.”

When they comply with you, thank them and give them some affection. Tell them how proud you are of them. Tell them how much easier it is to hear or understand them when they use their big kid voice. Give them a high five. Do something meaningful so they even if they don’t get what they want, they can get some emotional goodies for doing positive behavior.

You can stop your child’s whining. Be warned – it will probably get worse before it gets better. The longer a child learns that whining works, the harder it will be to influence them. With a little patience and the sure-fire methods listed above, you can make it happen. Peace, at last.

You might also find the following helpful:

Age-Appropriate Manners and Lessons

Parent's Survival Guide to Puberty

Bullying in Schools

Giving More Attention

Cleaning Their Rooms