How to Stop Whining and Nagging

by | Sep 2, 2009 | Discipline & Behavior

REALITY CHECK: Did you know that the average kid whines or nags nine times–and then we give in? The lesson: Watch out – our kids know which buttons to push. Don’t let your kid get into this annoying habit! Here are four simple steps to curb your kids’ whines, nags or complaints

Rest assured, all kids whine occasionally, but the surest way to turn this grating attention-getter into a full-fledged habit is to give in, and let your little nagger “win.” Take heed: once you back down and surrender, kids usually continue using the technique as a way to get what they want. Worse yet, if not stopped, whining often escalates to back talk, arguing, and tantrums. So the bottom line is: don’t let your kid think it works.

Here are the four steps to stop your little whiner. To reap real and lasting change you must stick with your behavior plan. Remember: real change takes a minimum of 21 days of repetition – so track YOUR response. If you’re not seeing the change might it be your behavior that needs altering as well (just a thought! 🙂 Also, does your child have something to whine about? Is he whining because he doesn’t know another way to voice his needs? If so, that’s another behavior makeover.

Step 1. Establish a Zero Tolerance for Whining. The best way to stop the behavior is to flat-out refuse to listen to nagging requests unless it’s spoken with a polite tone. At the first whimper of a whine firmly say: “Stop! I don’t listen to whining voices. Tell me what you want with a nice tone.”  Then walk away or turn around and ignore your kid. Turn back when the whining stops (even for a few seconds) and say: “I do listen to a nice voice. Can I help you now?” The trick is to not to look irritated or to react. Hmmm. Easier said than done, right? Practice!!!!

Step 2. Demonstrate Appropriate Voice Tone. Next, show your child what a more acceptable voice sounds like. Don’t assume he knows the correct way to get your attention. Whining may have become such a habit that he simply isn’t aware of his annoying tone. For example: “Here’s my whining voice: ‘I don’t wanna do this.’ Here’s my polite one: ‘Can you please help me?’ When you want something, make your voice sound like my polite voice. Now you try.”

Step 3. Lay Down Your Rules. Announce from now on, he should expect an automatic “no” any time he whines. Then just flatly refuse to listen to even the first note of a whine uttered from your kid’s lips.  Usually whining stops when kids realize it’s getting them nowhere, so your child has to realize that your rule is nonnegotiable. Be consistent!!!!!!

Step 4. Set a Consequence If Whining Continues. You may be wondering: “What happens if my kid still whines?”  The answer is simple: you must set an immediate consequence so your kid knows you won’t tolerate it. . Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can wait until you’re home to correct your kid’s misbehavior.  If you really want to end the behavior, you’ll calmly say on the spot: “That’s whining, and you know the rule. We’re leaving now.” Consequences stop bad behaviors, only if they’re used every time the behavior occurs.

Take heed: if you don’t follow through, the whining usually increases. That’s because your child has learned you just might give in.

By the way, if you’re on the road, the best consequence is to use the brakes. Just pull over to the side (when safe) and don’t move. Bring a supply of water and a good book but pretty soon your kids will know you are serious.

Please remember to praise your kid when he uses the right voice tone. Breaking a habit takes time, so always encourage his good efforts. Remember, the fastest way to change a child’s behavior is by pointing out what the child did RIGHT. Aim for at least 2 to 1 — ideally 5 to 1 (five praise to one reminder).

Some moms swear that recording their kid secretly then playing it back so he can “hear” the tone, does the trick. If all else fails: use earplugs! But don’t give in.

Get more Parenting Solutions by following Michele Borba @MicheleBorba on Twitter or on her website.

Portions of this article are adapted from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. More specifics to the whine makeover are in the chapter devoted just to whining. The book is  my complete reference for raising 3 to 13 years olds– is on sale now!