How to Discipline Your Children When They Are Whining

Just as adults occasionally find themselves in a bad mood for no apparent reason, preschoolers are sometimes whiny and cranky even though their physical needs have been met. This behavior is usually the result of your child wanting attention or wanting her own way. Though it may be hard to do, ignoring the whining does help wind it down. Your child will soon learn an important rule: Asking nicely speaks louder than being cranky and non-communicative.

Preventing the Problem

Catch them being pleasant.

When your child is not whining, tell her how much you like being with her. Your attention teaches her the rewards of a positive attitude.


Keep her needs met.

Make sure your child eats, bathes, dresses, sleeps, and gets plenty of hugs on a regular basis, to prevent her from becoming cranky because she’s wet, hungry, overtired, or too upset to tell you her feelings without whining.

Solving the Problem

What to Do

Define whining.

Make sure your child knows exactly what you mean by whining. Then explain how you’d like her to ask for something or tell you what she wants without whining. For example, say, “When you ask nicely, I’ll give you some apple juice. Here’s how I’d like you to ask: ‘Mommy [or Daddy], may I please have some apple juice?'” If your child isn’t talking yet, show her how to indicate what she wants by using actions or gestures. Let her practice requesting things pleasantly at least five times. Make sure you fulfill her request, to prove your point that asking nicely gets results.

Create a “whining place” if necessary.

If your child’s whining continues even after you’ve taught her how to express her wants nicely, let her know that she has the right to have feelings and frustrations that only whining can relieve. Tell her that she can whine as much as she wants, but that she must do it in the winning place, an area designated for whining. Let her know that you’d rather not be around a whiner who can’t tell you what she wants, and when she’s done whining she can come out. Say, “I’m sorry you’re so upset. You can go to the whining place and come back when you’re feeling better.”

Ignore your child s whining.

Because your child’s whining is so nerve-racking, you can easily pay more attention to her when she’s whining than when she’s quiet, even though that attention is not affection. After you’ve put her in the whining chair and given her the go-ahead to get the frustration out of her system, put on headphones or do something else to help yourself ignore the whining until it’s over.

Point out non-whining times

To show your child the vivid contrast between how you react when she does and doesn’t whine, immediately praise her quieting down by saying, “You’re being so pleasant! Let’s go get a toy!” or, “I haven’t heard you whine for the longest time!” or, “Thanks for not whining!”

What Not to Do

Don’t give in to the whining.

If you give your whining child attention by getting upset or giving her what she’s whining for, you’re teaching her that whining is the way to get what she wants.

Don’t whine yourself.

Adult complaining may sound like whining to a child. If you’re doing it, your preschooler may think it’s okay for her. If you’re in a bad mood, don’t get angry with your child because you’re angry with the world. Simply tell her that you’re feeling out of sorts; don’t whine about it.

Don’t get angry with your child.

Don’t get angry with your child because she’s having an “off” day. She’ll not only mistake your outbursts for attention, she’ll feel a sense of power over you because she’s made you mad. She may continue to whine just to show you she’s the boss.


Don’t punish your child for whining.

The old retort “I’ll give you something to really whine about” only creates conflict between you and your child. It tells her that it’s never okay to whine, which makes her feel guilty for having disgruntled feelings. Allow whining with restrictions, because whining may be the only way your child can vent frustrations at the time.

Remember, this won’t last forever.

Your child may be having a bad day or going through a period when nothing seems to please her, so she may spend more time whining until she gets back in sync with her world. Tell yourself, “This too shall pass,” while you try to lift her spirits by praising her good behavior.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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