Whining: Is there a solution?

After about the age of 2, most children whine from time to time but others whine a lot. This is annoying behavior to most parents and it can be frustrating to try to stop. While we understand that whining is something every child does, it is very difficult when your child does it more.


Children whine when they are tired or frustrated. Whining is a response to what is bothering them. For other children it is part of their style and they whine even when they are not bothered, tired or frustrated.

Most parents want to change this behavior. Here are a few pointers to decrease your child’s whining.


• Whining is the child’s way of getting attention. It can be good or bad attention but it’s attention. So see if there are some other ways to give him attention. Try to catch him being good and give him praise and attention for his good behavior. That way you give him the attention he craves but not when he goes about getting it in a negative way.


• When your child is whining, it probably won’t help to say “What’s wrong?” Your young child is still limited in expressing or putting his emotions into words. Try guessing what might be wrong and ask, “Are you angry at your friend?” or “Are you mad because your friend went home?” or “Are you hungry?” These questions might give him some clues about why he is upset.


• Set up some rules about whining. You need to do this when your child is not frustrated and whining. Tell him you won’t give him what he asks for when he whines but you’ll think about it if he asks politely.

• Give your child some alternatives to whining. Tell him to use his happy voice when he asks for something. Teach him about asking politely. Talk to him in the way you want him to talk to you so he can hear your tone of voice and your words.


• Try not to become angry; it will only increase his whining. Try asking him if you can hold him and that might make things better or perhaps the two of you could whine together for a bit and end up laughing about it.


• You can make a difference. With a little patience and a lot of understanding you will be surprised how much you can change this irritating behavior.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and now director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.


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