How to Hold Your Ground Against Whining


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Q: What do we do about constant whining? We have two children and no matter what we do, it never seems to end. Help!

A: Parents can relate to the never-ending fussiness, unpleasant attitudes, crying, whimpering and pestering that seems to go on and on. As a parent you wonder when will it end and how you can make it stop.

As with all of the parenting phases you have already been through, keep in mind that this too shall pass. With love, understanding and patience, you can help your children learn to communicate more effectively. Consistently send the message that whining will not be rewarded. Some of it, of course, will simply take care of itself as your children develop and mature.

For starters, remember that the better your children feel each day, the better they will likely behave. In general, make every effort to ensure that your family’s lifestyle is as wholesome as possible. Are your children getting enough sleep? Are they napping (if age appropriate)? You may be surprised to find that just moving up bedtime for your children makes the next day more pleasant and manageable. Are you making healthy food choices for your children? Are you able to spend time alone with each of them every day? Unfortunately, in this stressed-out, busy world, many parents struggle to find the time to interact with their children each day. And children will resort to many different tactics to get attention.

As a parent, you can encourage more positive ways for your children to deal with negative emotions and thought patterns. Try not to give in to the whining! It may seem hard at that moment, but keep telling yourself that in the long run, if you consistently hold your ground and encourage other avenues of expression, you — and your children — will be rewarded. Always tell your children that if they will use words as opposed to whining and crying, you will be able to help them more quickly because you can understand them. If asking them to use words doesn’t help the situation, you may just have to ignore them. If you don’t give in to their demands when they whine, they will eventually get the message and use their normal tone of voice. And when your children use their normal voice, thank them for being polite with their requests.

Chronic whining may be an indication that you need one-on-one time with your children. Sometimes we think we are spending time with our children, when in fact we are so programmed to multitask, we are doing two or three things at the same time. Your intuitive little ones always know when there is more on your radar than just them!

One of my co-workers has a 3-year-old daughter. In order to establish ground rules, the parents decided to designate certain areas of their home as “No Whine Zones.” It puts boundaries on their daughter’s behavior but allows for some whining too, which is normal.

Stay consistent with the messages you send your children. Encourage them to use words. Keep in mind that most children whine. Just don’t let it get out of hand. And as with all parenting issues, keep your sense of humor. Your parents probably had to remind themselves of that when they were raising you!

Sherri Wall McMillen is with Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. Please submit your questions to “Is My Kid OK?” via email to

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