Win over the whiner - how to stop your child whinging

Every parent suffers through it: the loud, obnoxious, pull-your-hair-out whining of a child who wants his or her way, now.

Six Strategies To Help Parents Keep Their Sanity

Before you frazzle your last nerve, or worse yet, give in to your child’s demands for attention, try these six tips — and restore your sanity.

Be calm and clear

Children will use kicking, biting, screaming or crying to get a reaction from Mum or Dad. When parents lash back at the child out of frustration, it may have the opposite of the intended affect. A child may see their bad behaviour as a way to get them the attention they desire.

Instead, calmly but firmly correct the child’s behaviour by saying things like, “Please ask politely” or “Please don’t hit Mummy. When you hit Mummy it hurts.” If you snap at your child, expect that he or she will adopt the same tone as an appropriate way to express frustration.

When children persist, resist the urge to give in. “Make an announcement: 'When you use your normal voice I will listen to you,’” suggests parenting author Elizabeth Pantley. “Then turn your back to the whining child and make it obvious you are ignoring her by singing or reading a book out loud held in front of your face.”

Don’t be afraid of discipline, but don’t forget the praise

Whining childA child will quickly learn there are consequences to his actions if they result in time out, or time on the Naughty Step.

If your child’s bad behaviour continues, make it clear that you intend to follow through on threats of discipline. “If you yell at Mummy again, you will have to sit on the Naughty Step.” When he does it again, it’s straight to the Naughty Step for one minute for every year of age. When he is calm, and ready to try again, reinforce the message by asking for an apology — then give him a hug. Your child will learn that his time out was for his own good.

The key to discipline is consistency. Regardless of how busy you are, make the time for a time out when necessary.

And while bad behaviour deserves parents’ attention, so too does good behaviour. If your child resolves a conflict without resorting to whining, heap on the praise. Let him know that a calm, measured approach to frustrating situations will have the most positive outcome.

Stop whining before it starts

When a child whines or displays related behaviour, he might be trying to tell you something. Perhaps your children are not stimulated enough with games or exercise, or maybe they are hungry earlier than the established time for meals.

When your child starts whining, make note of the circumstances surrounding the situation. Perhaps a simple midmorning snack will ward off a noon meltdown, or a trip to the park for some play time will give the child a positive release for pent-up energy.

Pay attention to nap time/bed time

Whining is often related to a child being tired. Parents may expect children to conform to their sleep schedule, but children demand longer and more frequent periods of sleep. Consider whether your child’s sleep schedule is consistent and satisfying. If you child starts whining in the early evening, before bed time, perhaps it is their way of asking to go to bed a half-hour earlier. If your child is a terror by mid-morning, they may need to sleep it off.

For your children, the need for sleep doesn’t stop because it is not convenient for your schedule. You may have to make adjustments so your children get the appropriate time to sleep.

Cut the sweets

Diet and behaviour are often connected, and in children sugar can be like a drug. If you are pouring glass after glass of juice, you may be exceeding your child’s tolerance for sugar. Likewise, sweets, soft drink and other prepared foods are sometimes packed with sugar. Once the sugar high is gone, then comes the low. And with the low comes whining.

Pay attention to your child’s eating habits, and make connections to their behaviour. Perhaps some simple changes will make all the difference.

Be flexible

Remember, kids will be kids. So parents should understand that their minds are active and when they are engrossed in a project, or having fun at the playground, they may not want to stop.

When possible, meet your children halfway — “Okay, we can stay at the park for five more minutes. Then it’s time to go home and take a nap,” or “Alright, we can read one more book before bed.” Compromising with your child will teach them that reasoning with you is preferable to whining and acting out.

Common whining wind-ups, and how to avoid them:

  • The ever-popular supermarket meltdown: Keep your kids in line by feeding them before you go to the supermarket, and give them duties to keep them occupied while you’re there. “Can you help Mummy find three apples?” You might want to avoid the sweets and crisps aisle altogether.
  • Whining as you're winding down the road: Let’s face it, kids get bored in cars, so bring along games, toys and snacks to keep them occupied. Play their favourite music on the radio and sing along. Follow our car drill technique for more advice on how to make sure those long car journeys don't turn into a nightmare.
  • Headaches when they’re hitting the sack: Children who are resistent at bedtime may benefit from an established routine that includes bedtime stories and other family rituals.

Related links

  • Calming your kids: how do you tame a wild child? Parents frustrated wih bad behaviour may find these tips useful.
  • No More Tantrums: Supernanny expert Eileen Hayes shares advice to help you calm your child.
  • Stop the backchat! Many parents complain about disrespectful behaviour from their children. Backchat, sarcasm, bad manners, swearing and cheekiness can be frustrating and difficult to handle.
  • Discuss parenting issues with other parents in our forum.
  • Tantrums - some causes and myths: Even the best-behaved children will throw a tantrum occasionally. Parenting and Child Behaviour expert Eileen Hayes shares some home truths about tantrums and the reasons behind them.
  • How aromatherapy can help your children: Supernanny expert, Penny Price, gives her tips on the right essential oils for the right occasion - including those temper tantrums! 

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