Hearing a child whine is very annoying. Young children often whine when they’re tired, hungry, angry, or frustrated, and once they start, it’s difficult to stop them.
When parents ignore their whining child, he usually just continues until they finally speak to him. And even those parents who try to be patient or who believe it’s best not to focus on a whining child, often end up shouting, “Stop whining!” or “What did I tell you about whining! Use a grown-up voice!”
There are no easy ways to keep your child from whining. You can try redirecting his attention, although your attempts at distraction may be unsuccessful. You can also try letting him know that you’re unhappy with his tone. But, when you say, “You’re whining!” or “Stop whining!” you imply blame. Instead, try expressing your feelings in a less negative way, without using the word “whining” at all. Say, “You’ll have to ask me in another way.”
Sometimes, particularly if your child is three and a half or younger, you won’t be able to understand what he says when he whines. You can tell him, “Ask me in a voice I can understand.” You may not be able to stop your child’s whining until you discover what’s causing it. Sometimes a child with an older sibling whines because he feels he can’t compete with his brother or sister. He turns to whining in order to be noticed. Sometimes children whine when they’re tired, frustrated, or want something they think they won’t get: “I want more ice cream.”
By the time your child is four, he should be better able to express himself and understand the limits you place on his whining. “You’ll have to find another way to tell me what you want.” If he whines continuously, despite your efforts, he may believe whining is the best way to get what he wants.
Try not to get too upset and annoyed by this typical behavior. Instead make changes in the way you respond to him. You may need to set more limits, listen to him more, and give him more time and positive attention.