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How To Handle Whining Without Losing Your Mind

Updated: Apr 16

You love your child, but when you hear that whine, you hit the roof. You feel anxious, annoyed, overwhelmed, or just overstimulated.

You want to have a child that accepts when they don’t get their way, not one that questions your every decision. You want them to listen the first time you ask, or say what they want in a calm voice. But what can you do to make them stop whining?

1: Teach Your Child What Whining Sounds Like

Children aren’t born knowing what whining sounds like or even what it is. At a calm time, explain to your child what whining is. Demonstrate a normal voice and a whining voice. Have them show you a normal voice and a whining voice. You can even videotape their whining voice when they are practicing it so they can hear it play and understand it better.

2: Ignore The Whining Until They Speak Appropriately

I know, whining is hard to ignore. You want to talk back, explain more, or have the final word. However, as soon as you talk back, you show your child that you don’t have control. You show them they can get attention by whining, thus they will continue to whine.

If you whine back at them, you are showing them that this is appropriate behavior. We want to set the example. You may need to also explain this to older siblings so they can model appropriate behavior as well. You want to remain calm, and not give in.

By ignoring the behavior, you will work to get rid of whining as it will serve no purpose to them. You can even say “I can’t hear whining voices, only big kid ones,” and continue to do what you are doing until they speak in a big kid voice.

However, ignoring only works when partnered with immediate praise. As soon as your child speaks appropriately, praise them for using their big kid voice or for speaking calmly.

If you are working on how to ignore your child’s negative behavior and when to praise, check out Parent-Child Interaction Therapy or PCIT.

3: Help Your Child Learn To Voice Frustration Without Whining

Your child gets frustrated so easily and can’t seem to handle no. They argue, complain, whine, and struggle to listen to you.

Part of helping your child stop the cycle of whining is to give them the skills so they don’t need to whine anymore.

To help your child accept no for an answer, teach them to deep breathe and to self-regulate. You can help them learn to self-regulate by asking them to look in your eyes, and what color your eyes are. Once you have their attention, hold a hand to your stomach and practice with them. Show them how to breathe deep into their stomach, and expand their stomach like a balloon. Practice getting in a few deep breaths and then asking again. You can teach them about their feelings and how to express them appropriately.

4: Explore Your Triggers As A Parent

Start by asking yourself three important questions:

  1. What does whining trigger in you?

  2. What do you feel when your child whines?

  3. How did your parents handle whining?

By exploring these questions, you can better understand your own emotional response and how you want to change it. If you can understand what whining triggers in you or your feelings, you can begin to make changes in the pattern.

If whining gives you anxiety, are you able to take a deep breath and model that for your child? This may be a good chance to reflect on what your parents did when you whined, how you felt as a child, and what you want to pass down to your child. Part of doing things differently from the way your parents raised you is not only to recognize it, but also to find new ways to handle it appropriately. It is one thing to know the problem, and another to know the solution.

If you find yourself triggered by your child’s behavior or are worried about repeating the unhealthy ways your parents handled situations, parenting therapy or even trauma therapy may be right for you.

If you feel really stressed by whining, just remember that most adults learn how to express their needs without whining. By taking these steps and changing your approach, you will also change your child and show them the appropriate ways to behave and give them new skills to express themselves healthily.

If you are looking for family therapy, Mary Willoughby (Romm) Prentiss is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

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