How to get kids to stop whining

As a mum to a three-year old daughter, there’s nothing that gets to me more than my daughter’s whining. You know, that high-pitch voice that sounds pitiful and annoying. Almost like when someone is scratching their nails across the blackboard.

I’ve been told by mums who have boys that their sons are equally capable of pulling that trick to their parents in order to get them to surrender to their demands and it can be a hundred times worse because boys shouldn’t be whiners.

So is there a secret to get the kids to stop whining?

The good news, I’ve learnt from the author of No More Misbehavin’, is that whining is learnt, so this behavior can be unlearnt. And here are Michele Borba’s top 4 tips to eliminate whining in your household.

1. Establish a zero tolerance for whining

I’m sure you know this one already – stop giving in to your child every single time he/she whines and letting them think that whining work.

But it’s no good to just ignore their whining, you have to teach them to replace it with another behavior.

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When Sophie launches into her whining mode, I’ll tell her firmly that she’s using a whining voice and she needs to talk in a nice voice for me to pay attention to her. At this point, it helps to get down to their level and look them in the eye to show them that you mean business.

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2. Demonstrate appropriate voice tone

Show your child what is the difference between a whiny voice and a normal or what I call a nice voice and explain to them why whining is unacceptable.

Tried and tested: When I first started doing this, Sophie would whine in protest and refuse to replace her whiny voice with a nice voice. Eventually after constant reminders, she’s slowly unlearning the bad habit of whining and knows that if she wants something, speaking in a nice voice is the way to go.

3. Lay down your rule

Don’t assume that kids know what is the expected behavior from them. (Even husbands need a reminder now and then) The surest way to put a stop to undesirable behaviors is to make it a house rule – No whining in our home. We speak with a nice voice.

4. Set a consequence if whining continues

What if your kids continues to whine despite numerous warnings? Here’s when Michele suggests that you should set an immediate consequence so that your child knows that you will not tolerate such behavior. Consequences can range from time-out to taking away privileges.

Be prepared to execute the consequence every single time they threaten to go into their whining mode. Otherwise you’ll send mixed signals to your kid that you’re not serious about it.

Last but not least, remember that breaking a bad habit takes time, so always be positive and encourage good behavior. When you catch your child using the right voice, praise them to reinforce the desired behavior, the pay off will be well worth it.

A lollipop treat for good behavior

Good luck for whine-free days ahead!

Do leave a comment to share your tried and tested methods on how you get your kids to stop whining.

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  1. San August 16, 2012 at 9:47 am Reply

    Oh, the hundred times worse is right-o. Haha… Now that Jay is older (and understands better), I also use the imitation method to talk back to him, to show him how his whining sounds to me. It never fails to crack him up, and a smiles and whines just dont go together (so the whining stops! Hurray!)

  2. Iris Kuah August 16, 2012 at 10:06 am Reply

    Thanks for your post. WIll try it on my super whiny boy 🙂

  3. Iris Kuah August 16, 2012 at 10:06 am Reply

    Thanks for your post. WIll try it on my super whiny boy 🙂

  4. Iris Kuah August 16, 2012 at 10:06 am Reply

    Thanks for your post. WIll try it on my super whiny boy 🙂

  5. Sharon Oh August 16, 2012 at 11:35 am Reply

    Yes babe!! This super relates to us… Sigh.

  6. Sharon Oh August 16, 2012 at 11:35 am Reply

    Yes babe!! This super relates to us… Sigh.

  7. Sharon Oh August 16, 2012 at 11:35 am Reply

    Yes babe!! This super relates to us… Sigh.

  8. A Juggling Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Iris: Let me know how it works. I find that Sophie gets more whiny when she’s tired so ensuring they have enough rest is also a way to nip it in the bud before they get moody.

  9. A Juggling Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Iris: Let me know how it works. I find that Sophie gets more whiny when she’s tired so ensuring they have enough rest is also a way to nip it in the bud before they get moody.

  10. A Juggling Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Iris: Let me know how it works. I find that Sophie gets more whiny when she’s tired so ensuring they have enough rest is also a way to nip it in the bud before they get moody.

  11. Susan Koh August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm Reply

    Sharon: Must ask the teachers what is their secret for getting the kids to be well behaved in school and at home!

  12. Susan Koh August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm Reply

    Sharon: Must ask the teachers what is their secret for getting the kids to be well behaved in school and at home!

  13. Susan Koh August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm Reply

    Sharon: Must ask the teachers what is their secret for getting the kids to be well behaved in school and at home!

  14. Regina August 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm Reply

    I can’t wait for the time when the boy can be ‘encouraged’ to discuss things instead of us having to hear the grating whiny noise coming out of his mouth which is the usual practice now!

    I’ve always spoken to him as I would to an adult (as much as a toddler would understand) and although I know he does understand me, I suppose it would take a lot more effort and patience on my part to help him understand the power of negotiations and meeting us halfway.

    Thanks for the tips! I’m sure it will be very useful!

    • Susan August 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm Reply

      Regina, that’s a very good start already as I also believe that our kids understand more than we give them credit for. I’m sure that if you continue what you’re doing, Caden will be speaking to you faster than you can count to three.

  15. Dominique@Dominique's Desk August 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm Reply

    A lot of positive praise and bribes help to keep the kids well behaved in school and at home.:P

    • Susan August 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm Reply

      I agree but then I’m also worried that it may turn the tables around and create an expectation that they have to receive something for doing what right.

  16. Elaine August 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm Reply

    Sophia hasn’t tried the whining thing on me yet, perhpas the fact that she is only 20 month old has something to do with it. She basically makes her request a few times and, if the desired response is not achieved, either decide its not worth it or start crying. “mama, phone, mama, phone, mama, phone… waaaahhhhh”. Any tips on what’s an appropriate consequence for any behaviour we want to correct in a less than 2 year old?

    • Susan August 18, 2012 at 12:59 am Reply

      Hi Elaine, I feel that it’s never too young to start teaching children the appropriate behavior. In this case, you can teach her that she was to wait for a response or explain to her why she’s not getting what she wants. Since Sophie was young, we have been using this approach to her. Of course, at a young age they may not understand everything that you say, but if you keep doing it consistently, they will understand over time. All the best!

  17. lisacng August 17, 2012 at 4:14 am Reply

    Great article! I loved it, as you can tell b/c I shared it on FB, Expandng FB, and Twitter! I love #2 to demonstrate what voice you want to hear. You’re right, kids need to know what we expect of them first. I will try to remind J every time of what his nice voice should be. Thanks for the reminder, also, that bad habits are hard to break and it takes time and patience.

    • Susan August 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm Reply

      Yes if silence is golden then patience is diamond! Haha. Well we are not completely having whine-free days yet. But it helps to keep encouraging them to articulate what they want instead of whiny. All the best!

  18. Stephanie August 17, 2012 at 4:37 am Reply

    Great tips! We are working on decreasing/eliminating whining at our house, but it is definitely a slow process!

    • Susan August 18, 2012 at 1:00 am Reply

      Stephanie, well we’re not exactly having whine-free days yet. But we’re reaching there slowly…

  19. Summer August 17, 2012 at 4:43 am Reply

    Nice tips! You bet I have a whiny princess at home. =) It’s cute sometimes but more often than not, I wish I could find a way to curb it too. So thanks for this post!

  20. June August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

    Hey Susan, great post! We use most of these techniques at home, and I must say that setting a house rule and using consequences really work for us, and not just for whining but also for other aspects of toddler behaviour that need a little moulding.

    There’s also another method worth trying – selective deafness. When the whining switches on or the child is asking for something in a rude manner, let them know that you’ve turned deaf and can’t hear them unless they ask nicely. 😉

    • Susan August 18, 2012 at 1:02 am Reply

      Good tip there June… I do that with Sophie sometimes too. When it’s done in jest, she gets the idea that she needs to switch her tone and talks to us nicely.

  21. Lilium August 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm Reply

    My girl whines too. Will try to ask her talk in a nice way instead of whining. Hope it will help. Setting consequences doesn’t seemed to work for my kid for now, it’ll would have already turn into screaming and struggling (if I tried to put her at a corner for time out). Sigh…

  22. Lee Lee August 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm Reply

    Susan, I use these techneques a lot with my nieces and nephews. At 1, I will not pat any attention to their whining till they start talking properly. It works!

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