"My child whines and it is driving me crazy. Punishment and bribery haven't worked. Does it sound like I'm whining? Please help!"
Excerpt from the book Positive Discipline A-Z.
Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation
Children do what works. If your child is whining, he or she is getting a response from you. Oddly enough, children seem to prefer punishment and anger to no response at all. Whining is usually based on the goal of seeking undue attention. This child believes, "I belong only if you pay constant attention to me--one way or the other." For some children, it is the only method they know to get their needs met. Other children go through a whiny time and it then disappears as quickly as it started.
Some of the suggestions here may seem like rewarding the behavior, but they are actually addressing the belief behind the behavior. Choose the approach that feels best to you.
Every time your child whines, take him/her on your lap and say, "I bet you need a big hug." Do not say anything about the whining or what the child is whining about—just hug until you both feel better.
Let your child know that you love him/her but you feel irritated when you hear whining, so you'll just leave the room until he/she stops so you can spend time with him/her. Then follow through. Every time your child whines, leave the room. If he/she follows, do your best to ignore the whining—maybe put on earphones. It is more effective if you don't say a word when you follow through on what you said you would do. Kind and firm actions speak louder than words.
When your child stops whining, say something like, "Oh, I'm so glad I had hear you now. I really want to hear what you have to say."
Address the problem your child is whining about by, saying, "Let's put that on the family meeting agenda and work on a solution at our next meeting."
Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems
- Plan for regular, scheduled special time with your child to help him/her feel special, important, and that he/she belongs.
- During a happy time, work out a signal with your child about what you will do when you hear whining. Perhaps you will put your fingers in your ears and smile. Another possibility is to pat your hand over your heart as a reminder that "I love you."
- Tell your child what you are going to do: "When you whine, I will leave the room. Please let me know when you are willing to talk in a respectful voice so I will enjoy listening to you." Still another possibility is to explain, "It's not that I don't hear you. I just don't want to have a discussion with you until you use your regular voice. I don't answer whiny voices."
- Have regular family meetings.
Life Skills Children Can Learn
Children can learn that their parents love them but will not fall for their manipulative tactics. Children feel better about themselves when they learn effective skills to deal with their needs and wants.
- Some fascinating studies have been done with children of deaf parents. The researchers found that the children would make facial expressions that looked like they were crying, but they weren't making any sounds. The children had learned from experience that their deaf parents didn't respond to sounds, but did respond to their facial expressions. Whatever works!
- A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. A cooperative child is an encouraged child. Whining could be a sign of discouragement that will stop when the child feels enough belonging and significance.