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Help! My Child Won’t Stop Whinging

The unique sound combination of both crying and talking. Every parents knows it and dreads it, and ultimately parents respond in one of two ways: getting angry or giving in. Neither leads to a pleasant parent / child interaction. While most parents are terribly irritated by whining, typically there are developmental explanations for the behaviour. It is however, the way in which parents respond to the whining that determines whether it continues.

From a very young age a child can produce a “whining” sound which often aligns with their emerging verbal communication; when a child has a limited vocabulary but experiences a range of big emotions, a whine forms an important part of their communication as a way to get certain needs met. T

his often becomes an effective communication method, as the sound is particularly difficult for parents so they will regularly meet the child’s needs to reduce the whining. There are times that it may be easier to quickly hurry past that “difficult parenting moment” and quieten the whine; however, it may be important to look past the whine / behaviour to gain a better understanding of what the child might be really trying to say: “I’m tired, and hungry”, “I really want a toy”, or “I don’t know how to be patient; waiting is hard for me”.

Whining is one of many difficult parenting moments and reacting within frustration at these times is very common and also understandable, when possible, by taking a moment to respond with kindness (or even playfully) can help to uncover the real reason for the whiny communication, show the young person more effective ways to communicate and get needs met, and build a stronger parent-to-child connection. It doesn’t feel nice being in a cycle of disgruntled communication and where possible to reduce the occurrence of this, is a far better cycle to be in for the longer term.

Research has shown that both connection and consistency in parenting behaviours and home-based routines can be very helpful in reducing how often children whine and assist parents being more able to respond within kindness. Having set routines helps the whole family understand what to expect and also what is expected of them. When parents do reach their empathetic limit for the day and it can be quite helpful to pause (even if it is just for 5 seconds) and ask yourself, “In thi

s moment, what does my child truly need?”. Calmness and consistency are also helpful in reducing whining when setting (and trying to stick to) consistent boundaries within the expectations for routines and behaviour management. Children are very clever and will quickly learn that if they maintain their persistence in whining their caregivers will eventually give-in. However, if you have determined that your response is “No”, stick to it and tell your child that it is non-negotiable; maintaining that boundary of a “this is non-negotiable” or certain activities or behaviours are non-negotiable. In time, whining will decrease as it has become an ineffective form of communication and way to get needs met. In life thought, there may be times whe

n you either change your mind later on or they’ve asked in a whiny tone but their request is reasonable, it may be helpful to clearly explain that “You’ll let them have it this time because you are on holidays. But they need to ask again in a polite speaking voice, not their whining voice.”

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