The whining. It seems to just start up one day out of nowhere and be the answer for everything. It can seem like the sound of nails on a chalkboard or pin needles down your back. I have never heard anyone say they enjoy hearing a whining kid. In fact, I think we can all agree finding the perfect thing to say to get your kids to quit whining can be a real struggle.
When I was in the classroom, this was a topic parents struggled with often. Now that I am in their shoes I know exactly how frustrating it can be. I know just how desperate we feel when our kids just won’t stop the whining. Maybe its the toy they want, but can’t have. Maybe its the snack they want before dinner. Maybe, its because of a flying unicorn with rainbows that make cupcakes. Really, it could be anything. It doesn’t matter. The whining can drive us all batty. That’s when many of us snap!
Teeth gritted, eyebrows furrowed… “Stop it! NOW!”
“Stop that whining.”
or maybe even…. “Shut up.”
I’ve heard many versions in my years as a teacher, but they all pretty much amount to the same two words…
We are frustrated and at the end of our ropes. That’s when most of us revert to what we grew up with. We choose to go with the familiar because we remember it from our past. We want the whining to stop and we are not prepared with the right thing to say. So instead, we muster up the two simplest words we can think of, not knowing that they are actually the 2 words we should never say to our whining kids.
Here’s why you should never tell your whining kids to “stop it”!
Whining is a Cry for Attention
Whining at its very base is a cry for you to give your child attention. Your child needs something that they have not figured out how to get on their own or even with your help without the shrill sounds of whining. By telling them to “stop it”, you are essentially telling them that they can not count on you to help with them their needs. Of course, that isn’t what your intentions are so to begin the conversation, you first have to figure out why children whine and what the underlying issues could be with your child.
These 6 reasons for whining are extremely helpful for getting to root of whining and understand your child’s needs before the whining begins.
Whining is a Desire to Connect
Unfortunately, our kids haven’t gotten the memo that whining is the absolute most annoying way to get our attention and to be close to us. Sadly, they haven’t learned the skills they need to have us spend more time with them. What they have learned is that when they whine, we listen. I mean, how can we ignore those sounds?
By getting closer to your children and being present in their play and their activities, you will find that the whining actually decreases. When we tell our children to “stop it”, we are actually telling them to go away. Seems pretty harsh, and not what we actually mean, right? Instead, find a time to pull up a seat next to them while they play Lego, sit at the table while they color and create, or just be there while they read their favorite book. Sometimes I find that setting a specific time in the day for my kids to have one-on-one attention from me, the whining is increasingly decreased.
Whining is a form of Communication
Remember, it works when they make those obnoxious sounds and grunts. We stop what we are doing. We ask nicely to “use their big voice or their nice voice” but it just doesn’t stop there. The whining seems to keep happening. Why?
Whining works. To a child, they are trying to communicate with us when their words aren’t working or they don’t possess the words they need to explain what they need. Whatever the case, we stop what we are doing and we communicate back with them. However, what message are we sending when we reach our breaking point and just tell them to “stop whining”? What is going to happen the next time they need something?
Instead, you could try one of these seven strategies to get your kids to stop whining.
I am here to tell you that this is not a perfect science. Whining might not end today or this might be just what you are looking for. I am not here to tell you that you are doing a bad job at parenting because goodness knows, I do not have this parenting thing figured out. My only hope in sharing this advice about these two words, is that it can help you the way I found it helped others I have met along the way.
I’m curious, do you have a go to phrase you say when your kids start to whine? What is it? Does it work? I’d love to hear about it!
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21 thoughts on “2 Words to Never Say to a Whining Kid”
In my daughter’s case it was how she said something, not just whining noises without words, so I would stop and say, “can you say that without whining?” And she would say the same thing without the wine and usually then remember to add a please too. I would smile then and pleasantly respond. I think it was helping her realize what she was doing, and that it didn’t take too much effort to say things without the whine. I didn’t have to do that very often, I think I was quite fortunate!
I am a preschool teacher with a nine year old I use I can’t hear you when you whine and I use it with both preschoolers and my nine year old and yes it works 🙂
I simply say, I can’t hear you when you talk like that. They usually stop and say it in a regular voice and then I address the need!
Oh the whining! My almost-ten year old has been on a full hormonal rampage this summer, constantly melting down into hysterical whining and complaining about everything. The drama! The tears!
It would be easy to dismiss it as pubescent mood swings… but then I rmemeber that her father is getting divorced from his wife, and she’s changing schools and moving homes (at his house, anyway)… it’s easy to lose touch of how much scarier the world can be for our kids.
Her whining can also be viewed as regressive behavior; a coping mechanism meant to illicit caretaking. She simpoly doesn’t realize that it makes me want to shut her away in her room. I mean, I tell her that, but her stress, combined with her developmental stage… it adds up to drama and whining.
So I remind her to chill out, but I also give her extra hugs. Because she’s my baby, and this stuff is hard, poor thing.
Great post. 🙂
I teach 2 year olds. When our kids whine we say, “use your words, not your whines.” When they speak without whining then we listen and respond to what they want. They may not have the words, but they can communicate without whining.
Problem is most of my kids parents just yell at their kids, ignore them or do anything the child wants. As teachers we have to work with what we get. We do our best to give the children the words if they don’t have them, but they must speak or sign again without whining.
I actually say the very same thing to my kids “use words not whine”! Glad to know I’m not alone!
I am the mom of grown children in their 30’s. I am also a teacher and cannot abide whining. For my own children, I would remind them ” you have a sweet voice and when you use it I’d love to hear what you have to say.” Then I would pretend deafness until they used an appropriate voice (tone and level). It worked very rapidly because they really wanted to communicate. For whining that occurred as a result of tiredness or other discomfort, I would make sure the physical need was met (rest, water, food, etc) without comment. If whining continued I would say, “you must be tired. Go to your room and rest. When you feel better and can speak nicely you may come out. On occasion they would fall asleep because rest is what they really needed. The rest of the time it gave them a few minutes to gain control of their emotions and appropriately express what was on their mind. My two word reminder was ” sweet voice!” It worked!
I had never looked at whining like this before. Thank you for giving me something to think about 🙂
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My 3 year old daughter whines mostly when I’m taking care of her baby brother. We’ve talked about using whining voices and strong voices. She understands that people are happier to listen and help when you use a strong voice and good manners. I was constantly reminding her “use a strong voice” when she was talking to me in a whining voice, so we came up with a silent signal. If she’s whining I quickly flex my bicep and she knows it means to use a strong voice. She almost always corrects herself right away and seems to feel connected through our secret code.
My response to whining is very similar to what another commenter mentioned: I ask them to try again, with a more pleasant voice, and then I don’t respond until they speak politely. Sometimes I make it funny: “Mommy’s ears can’t hear anything whiny” If the occasion warrants, we also talk about gratefulness and practice thinking of things we’re grateful for.
My phrase? Stop it.
I will not tolerate whining. I don’t care why you are doing it. I don’t care if you’re hungry, or tired, or whatever. It’s not a reason to whine. If you have a need or a problem, I will listen if it is in a normal, inside voice. Not if it’s a whine.
I always tell my children and students I can see that you are upset. When you are ready to talk I am here to listen. But I can not understand what you are saying when you are upset.
Telling my child to shush or stop whining just results in it ramping up or her putting her finger on my mouth and telling me to be quiet.
I tell her to tell me what the problem is/what she wants because I can’t understand when she is whining. after 30 seconds or so we can discuss the issue clearly. Getting down to her level or picking her up works. She is 2.5yrs old.
I told my kids, and now my grandkids, “I can’t understand you when you whine”.
It was very effective in that it forced them to stop, think, and find a different way to tell me what was making them unhappy or what they wanted.
That single phrase caused them to understand that I knew they were frustrated, but whining was not the solution. The positive feedback always came when the whining stopped, and they reiterated in an age appropriate fashion, what they wanted…and I gave it them.
I reminded my daughter to speak nicely and then told her that whining meant she needed time out. I caught her being good, using a nice voice and gave tons of attention and gave none for whining. About 4 time outs (1 minute for each year of age) and it was gone. She is an adult now and an only child and got a lot of attention all her life. I think she knew it annoyed me because I made the mistake of telling her it did and tried to use it. She grew up to be a great person!
My mother use to say to all eight of her children, “I want to hear what you are saying so please go away for a few minutes and come back and use a normal voice. ” It worked!
It is difficult if you fail to help your child get rid of whining. Whining adults are not people you want to spend time with in any group conversation.
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Whenever my youngest, 5 years old, starts to whine, I would just stop whatever I was doing and just sit down and have him come to me. I would just hug him, read him a story or just be quiet with him. I would wait for him to express the best he can. However, whenever I happen to be busy at the moment, I would tell him that I am not ignoring him, just that the time isn’t right. Hold on until I tell him that I am not busy then he and I can have that quiet moment. It mostly helps. If he whine incessantly, then I would know that he would be very tired.
I think this article is lacking a major point. I have seen plenty of children whine simply because they do not WANT to meet their own needs, not just because they cannot do it. Kids will whine because they want you to do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. So to say that the only reason kids whine is to communicate their needs is just not true. When my child behaves like this and it is not something that needs my attention like whining because she doesn’t FEEL like getting her own drink out of the fridge and I won’t get one for her, I tell her in a nice way she has two very capable legs and the ability to get her own drink if she cannot ask in a nice voice. Not everything is black and white. Some kids whine sometimes to manipulate as well as to communicate needs they can’t meet for themselves.
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