General Question

Warpstone's avatar

How do you get a preschool-age child to stop whining?

Asked by Warpstone (149points) June 2nd, 2009

Bribing just seems to make the whining worse and I’m afraid the child will turn into one of those complainer adult if I don’t address this now. Obviously my tactics are large of the problem getting worse, so what to do?

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39 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

hugging and giving him affection should work.
if not, sedate him :P

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I need more details – what kind of whining? what is the usual situation when they whine?

Facade's avatar

some Benadryl should do the trick

dynamicduo's avatar

What tactics other than bribing have you tried?

shilolo's avatar

[mod says] Please let us leave snide remarks aside. This person is seeking genuine answers, not ridicule or judgmental responses. It takes a lot to admit something is wrong and seek help. Let us try to be constructive in our comments.

marcosthecuban's avatar

the good news is that there lots of good training materials out there; please don’t rely on fluther stranger’s random thots for something this important!

the parenting with love and logic materials are solid and have worked for me:

babiturtle36's avatar

get an old cell phone(not actually working) and have it so it’s at the childs reach. Explain to the child that if she/he feels the need to whine and get something off of their chest, to leave you a message and you will check it later. (pretend of course) this makes them feel better, like they actually told someone.

Warpstone's avatar

Sorry I guess I should have provided more detail: the child is a good kid. I’m just worried that he’s just beginning to complain too much about nuisance things. It’s the sort of the thing where I’m sure he’s just trying to get a lot of mileage out of basic setbacks (i.e. being corrected on a mistake, or being denied permission to do something). It just seems like an inordinate response to trivial issues. But then again, he’s a kid so I guess these may not be simple for him. I just want to make sure that I’m doing something to train him OUT of this whining phase as I would hate for him to grow into a pessimistic and agitated adult (i.e a whiner).

By tactics I just meant the usual spectrum of carrot (a reward chart at the best of times, bribery with candy at the worst) and stick (well not hitting, but punishment such as timeout through “goto your room”).

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback everyone.

EmpressPixie's avatar

“I can’t hear you when you whine.”

My parents let us discuss things rationally, but not in a whiny voice. And the conversation often ended with “well, life’s not fair.” If we tried to whine about something, my mom simply said, “I can’t hear you when you whine.” Or sometimes, “Gosh, I almost thought I heard something, but I must not have” if the first can’t-hear-you comment didn’t work.

MissAusten's avatar

Ah, the whining. One of the most common sounds a parent has to put up with! I have three kids, and each of them has gone through the whining stage. It’s kind of like the temper tantrum stage and the nose picking stage—you just have to wait for it to pass. It will pass more quickly if you ignore it.

If the whining is an attempt to get something, don’t give in. If the whining is a complaint about something, try to offer other ways of looking at the situation. As an example, if you had planned on going to the playground but it turns out to be a rainy day, don’t let your son get the chance to whine about. Say something positive, like, “I was waiting for a rainy day like this so we could have a picnic in the living room!” Then do it. He’ll learn to look on the bright side from your example. You can even ask his opinion on ways to turn things around.

My youngest turned 4 not all that long ago, and he is a Class A Whiner. If they gave out medals for whining, he’d have a huge collection of them. Mostly he whines about things not going his way (God forbid the Lego Star Wars ship falls apart and I can’t fix it), or he whines about things he wants that he doesn’t have. Most of the time, giving him something to do will help. We’ll call Daddy to make sure he knows to help fix the broken ship, or write out a Christmas or birthday list for the things he wants (it doesn’t even matter if those events are months away). If it gets to be too much, I remind him to talk like a big boy. Or, I’ll leave the room and tell him he can’t talk to me until he stops whining. He is getting much better about it, and now only the biggest 4 year old catastrophes bring on a fit of whining.

I only send him to his room or take away toys/treats if he crosses a line. No name calling. Just because Mommy can’t reassemble the Death Star doesn’t mean Mommy is stupid. If he starts to say things that are rude or mean, he gets sent straight off to his room. Which I don’t know why he hates because it’s full of all his favorite crap.

Just be patient and don’t give in, model and praise the behavior you want to see, and he’ll outgrow it.

cyn's avatar

Don’t all kids whine?

elijah's avatar

I was going to say the same thing as @EmpressPixie. Just say very calmly “I can’t hear you when you whine” and walk away. @MissAusten gave great advice. The only reason kids whine is because they’ve figured out it produces results. Every time you give in or offer prizes to buy good behavior the kid mentally notes it. I really can’t stand children that act like brats. Im not saying your kid is like this, im just saying in extreme cases. All kids have bad days but how a parent handles the behavior is key. My nieces screamed, stomped, whined, threw stuff. The parents coddled them and laughed it off and called it “strong willed”. No, it’s called bad parenting.
All kids will whine, but just stay strong and you can put an end to it. Good luck :)

Dorkgirl's avatar

I agree that tell the child you can’t hear him when he whines is a great approach.
Another is to tell him that you understand his frustration, disappointment, etc., but if he wants to whine he has to do it out of ear shot (in his room) and when he is able to talk to you about his feelings in a clear voice you are there for him.
In moments of frustration I admit to having whined back at my son, which he found both annoying and amusing, and usually got him off the whine train.
I would not bribe a child to stop a negative behavior—that’s like rewarding him for being bad.
Be clear about your expectations. Tell him why whining is non-productive and ineffective. Tell him an alternative to whining (speaking to you about what’s bugging him), then let him choose how he’ll proceed. If the whining persists, send him to his own space until he gets tired of that, and make the choice to whine his own.
My son had a habit of getting pissy during family functions. I finally told him that the only person he was hurting was himself because he was being left out of activities through his own actions. Once he got the message that he was responsible for his own feelings/emotions and understood that I was not going to “fix” it for him, things got a lot better.

Darwin's avatar

I also do what @EmpressPixie does, respond to whining by saying that I cannot understand what the child is saying and walk away. I also have been known to insist that I am allergic to whining and so I have to go into another room if the one the child is in is going to be full of whining. Now that they are teenagers I might ask if they want a little cheese with that whine. I also agree with @MissAusten that you should never give in and that you can set up a situation to more likely be whine free.

You can also keep tabs on your child’s physical condition. Tired children and bored children are more likely to whine. Thus, don’t try to go shopping when your child needs a nap, and always tuck a little activity away to whip out in case boredom strikes.

And @Dorkgirl also has a good point: you are not responsible for your child’s emotions. Your child is. And until your child feels he can express a congenial emotion, perhaps he needs to go sit by himself for a while.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I’ve told my daughters “I don’t speak whine, I’m sorry”. After saying it about 2–3 times, they finally get it, then tell me what they want in a calm voice. I’ve also told them they’re not allowed to question me when I say “no”. My saying “no” is the end of the discussion. If there’s arguing about the “no”, a favorite toy is removed for 3 days.

MissAusten's avatar

I think I suddenly became allergic to whining! Woo hoo!

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a education expert named Alphie Kohn, who argues strongly against bribing, and, I believe, against punishment, as well. He argues that we want our kids to behave due to intrinsic motivation, not due to rewards and punishments. We want our kids to do the right thing because they figure out, on their own, that it is good for them, and to trust that if they don’t do what we want them to do, they don’t think our way is good for them.

In this, everyone is responsible for their own behavior. If a child does something I don’t like, I treat them the same as if an adult did something I don’t like. If someone isn’t nice to me, I don’t try to be nice to them. They’re my kids, but I don’t owe them a free pass just because of that. In any case, it’s not helpful to them.

If a child wants to do something you don’t want them to do, it’s best to try to understand what they want, instead of just saying no. Then, once you understand, you can suggest a more acceptable alternative way to get what they want. If they want you to buy something for them, you discuss ways they can earn money to buy the thing.

If it’s a toddler, and you’re going to Toys R Us, you set the rules before you go in. With my kids it was that they could enjoy looking and wanting as much as they wanted, but we weren’t going to get them anything. I read somewhere that the average parent gives on, maybe, the fifteenth time a child asks for something. Maybe it’s only the seventh time, I don’t remember. Don’t give in just to get the kid to stop asking (whining). Whining is designed by evolution to be an excellent tactic for gaining access to more resources. It works, but it doesn’t have to.

Instead, try to redirect the child towards something else, or to an understanding of what our purpose right now is (in age appropriate terms, of course). Even appeal to imagination “what would you do if you had that?” As with the lottery, what toys are selling, mostly, is fantasy. Redirect them to the fantasy without actually using the toy. I’m sure there are a hundred alternatives one could use, but the point is that if you are patient, and use your imagination, and have a child-rearing principle in mind, you can find other ways to respond besides bribing. You’ll find the ways that work in your family.

Supacase's avatar

I have also put on my Mommy Ears, which cannot hear whining. Another thing that has sometimes worked with my daughter is to tell her that one of her favorite stuffed animals is a good listener and to go talk it out with Care Bear then come back to tell me about it when she can stop whining. Sometimes I just look her in the eye and calmly but firmly say “Stop. Now.” I initially did it out of frustration while trying to keep my cool and it turned out to work better than I thought it would.

Whining is annoying and can make for a very frustrating day. It is also normal. You are aware of it and that it is not an acceptable behavior to continue beyond a point, plus you and the other adults around him truly set the example for what kind of adult he will be. I wouldn’t worry too much about him growing into a complainer as an adult.

swtsally's avatar

obviously you’re doing something wrong to make the child whine in the first place. you either say no no no no no no no 23896922x in a day to where the child doesnt give a crap what you say and wants what he/she wants when he wants it ORRR you spoil the kid rotten to where he/she thinks anything and everything is his/hers so when he/she doesnt get it the child goes off into a crazy fit. FIX YOURSELF BEFORE YOU TRY TO FIX YOUR CHILD.

Jude's avatar

I tend to distract them with something. Distraction works wonders for when they’re upset, whiny or doing something that they shouldn’t be doing.

Judi's avatar

2 naps a day. Most of the whining is when they’re exhausted.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It’s hard when you have a pre-schooler to reason with them DURING the whining
therefore I don’t say much until it stops and the way it stops is once the whining begins, all else stops and he’s put by the staircase to calm down and no one pays attention to him and there are no toys around or anything really to distract him – eventually he gets tired of yelling and asks if he can go play and then we talk about whatever the problem was – I never give him bribes though I do talk about how because he’s whining and behaving like an ass (I don’t use that word), he will not get the candy he usually gets at night and I FOLLOW THROUGH

Jude's avatar

My niece had full out melt down and was crying inconsolably. I tried a bunch of things to get her to calm down, then finally said “Look at Frankie (my cat)!”, he was walking around with a party hat on! Much to my kitties chagrin, I placed a High School Musical party hat on his head. Then he was slinking around (out of humiliation, ha!) while sporting it. She stopped crying, was silent for a moment; and while looking right at him, she started howling (that laugh from the tips of your toes). By this time the hat had slid off of his head and was now a “beard” under his chin. Hilarious for a 5 year old. ;-)

hearkat's avatar

I would look at my son and tell him, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you… I don’t speak Whinese.”

cak's avatar

Of course you child is a good child! I feel terrible that you prefaced your details by telling us your child is good! Please, don’t ever let anything make you think your child is bad because he is whining, he’s just being a preschooler! :)

Empress Pixie and Miss Austen swooped in and saved the day! There is a lot of great advice on this board. Trust your instinct and stop the bribing! That will just bite you in the rear…none of us want that.

Whine is a language I just never bothered to learn! ;~)

YARNLADY's avatar

Depending on the age, I suggest when they are very little, give them the attention and hugs they need, and ask them to talk to you clearly. When they get older, you can limit the hugs, but they need to be listened to and answered. If you don’t have time to listen, have them record it on something for later, then get back to it when as soon as you can.

Jack79's avatar

every child is different so I can’t tell you what to do without meeting the child, but here are some basic rules of thumb:

1. You can never give “too much affection”. Love should be unconditional, and hugs or other signs of affection should never be missed. Often what a child of that age needs is attention, and someone to spend time, answering questions and so on.

2. Rules are rules. Children actually like rules. So, if you say “no chocolate unless you eat all of your food”, stick to it. If you don’t, things will be a lot worse next time. And of course, never give in to their blackmail, the “I’ll cry until you buy me that toy” scenario. You need patience but you have to beat them there. Ignore them the first few times, and your life will be a lot easier in the long run. My daughter never cried. She knew it wouldn’t get her anywhere.

3. I know it’s a bit like #1, but spend time with your child, as much as possible. Explain things, talk to them as if they’re an adult, discuss everything with them, even if you think they’ll only understand a portion of it.

Dorkgirl's avatar

@swtsally—wow, harsh assessment. Since @Warpstone is asking for assistance she (presume you are the mom) knows things have gone to a point she’s not happy with. How about not going with the stomp down?
And, are you a parent who’s never made a mistake?
Take a chill.

cak's avatar

@Dorkgirl what is scary about her answer…besides it’s tone, is someone gave it lurve.

Dorkgirl's avatar

@cak eek, did not notice that

Warpstone's avatar

Thanks for the responses everyone. @Dorkgirl, I’m actually the dad but appreciate and echo your response to @swtsally nonetheless :)

The wisdom of “I don’t speak whine” is profound and while I’ve tried similar ideas before, I don’t think I’ve ever had such an easy way to explain it to him. Brilliant!

I also appreciate the rest of the ideas which reinforce that patience and consistency and communicating are basically the keys. It’s funny because I think I do a good job with most other behavioral issues—I guess this discussion helped me get clear on how whining is just a particular pet peeve of mine that I have to regulate my response to.

BTW, @cak, the reason I prefaced my second post with a mention of him being a good kid is just that I didn’t want anyone to assume that I was so frustrated that I didn’t see the forest for the trees on this matter. I want to be a good parent and ultimately I think that I’m probably hyper-critical of my own mistakes and lapses. Sorry if that comes off defensive, I just feel a minority of the responses perhaps failed to understand the worrywart nature of parenting. :)

Judi's avatar

@Warpstone ; don’t forget the value of sleep too. Keeping a regular nap schedule really really helps. I was so caught up in life that I didn’t recognise it. Now that I watch my daughters raising my grand kids, (they’re doing a way better job than I ever did) I can understand how important those naps that I often skipped are.

Warpstone's avatar

Sorry @Judi, good call on the sleep too. You know we’re coming the point now where he’s beginning to slowly outgrow his midday nap and no doubt that the change in sleeping habits will factor into potential irritability.

Judi's avatar

It’s just one of those things that my busy self didn’t pay attention to. One of those, ‘mommy guilt” things that seem so clear in retrospect.

Dorkgirl's avatar

When my son was not wanting to nap at the pre-school age, we would take a break. I would have him hang out in his room for some quiet time and a lot of the time he would fall asleep on his own for a nap, even though he’d tell me he wasn’t tire. So rather than fight with him to nap, I’d just let him wind down on his own.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dorkgirl oh yeah that always works too

cak's avatar

@Warpstone – I understand! I felt something like that on another thread. BTW, asking this question, shows that you are being a good parent. Willing to look for ways to help your child or to understand your child…that’s a good parent, in my book!

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

… a sock and an orange… problem solved with no bruises…

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