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Young children whine. Even the most well behaved child will whine on occasion. As parents, we want to help our children mature into adults that don’t whine. And let’s face it, the sooner they learn to stop, the better.
Will they grow out of it on their own? Perhaps. But we can never simply just assume that they will. In fact, in our present culture we only need to really look around us to see adults that still have not “grown out of it.”
But there is good news. We don’t have to simply wait it out. The parent who desires to intentionally deal with this specific issue can come at it with a plan. It won’t be easy, and it will take time—but most things that are worth it take time.
Steps To Take To Help Your Child Stop Whining
1. Identify Why A Child Whines
Whenever someone goes to the ER with a fever, there are two options. First, you can treat the fever, which elicits an immediate response of a normal temperature, and is usually what the patient (or parent of the patient wants). Or second, you can look for the cause of the fever—and then treat the cause. This isn’t always what the patient/parent wants, unless she understands why this is really the best option.
In the first option, immediately treating the fever is only a quick and temporary solution. It makes everyone happier for now. But in a short amount of time, the fever will return and the same problem will be present all over again.
In the second option, the patient spends more time in their room, undergoes an exam, gets asked pertinent history questions, is observed, and possibly has tests run. This option is inconvenient, and very often not met with eagerness. It takes time, careful observation, and a diagnosis of the underlying cause.
In this second option, the underlying cause of the fever is found. Once it is, it can be treated and future fevers are stopped.
With the first option, the root cause of the fever persists. Although the fever itself is treated, it will come back and no progress has been made.
Any remedial approach we take with our children should start with finding the underlying cause of the condition. When our children whine and we have the desire to stop it, we can either stop the whining itself right then and there without addressing the underlying cause and wait for the whining to happen over and over and over again, or we can take the second option.
We can take the time, careful observation, and answers to pertinent questions and develop a diagnosis for the underlying cause of the whining. Once we do this, we can treat the underlying cause. Yes, Mothers, you can treat the underlying cause and prevent future whining.
You may be thinking to yourself, I have no idea why my child is whining. I have help. Get a pen and paper, and read Why Children Whine. You may immediately recognize a cause in your child right away, or you may need to take notes on each section and pray over it for awhile. But I promise you, identifying why your child whines before moving forward will make this journey much easier.
Once you’ve identified the cause, then you can continue to the next step.
2. Teach The Child Why He Is Whining In A Non-Demeaning Way
You’ve finally figured out why your child is whining—hallelujah! Now what?
Believe it or not, the next step is not to treat the condition—not yet. Now that you understand the root of the problem, it is important for your child to understand the problem.
And it’s vital as a loving parent, to do it in a loving, non-demeaning way. Yelling at your child, calling her a whiny-baby, or other demeaning actions may stop the whining in the immediate time, but they also cause lasting emotional damage.
For the youngest of children, this may start before they reach their first birthday, by interrupting them when they start to whine. When a babe is crawling around and begins to whine because she wants something, you may need to immediately interrupts and say, “Ah, ah! When you do that, that’s called whining.”
Toddlers can be gently interrupted and told, “Honey, when you talk like that, it’s called whining.”
With toddlers and preschoolers, we can also teach them why they are whining so that they understand what they are doing. “Honey, are you whining because [fill in the desired response you believe the child wants]?” Again, it’s important to ask this in a loving way, and also in a way that won’t embarrass or shame the child. It may be appropriate to take them away from other children at the time to address the situation.
3. Teach Your Child What To Do Instead Of Whining
In Why Do Children Whine? we learned most whining is done to meet a need. If children do not learn how to appropriately meet their need, they have no choice but to continue to use the only option they do know that works to meet their needs.
With your pen and paper, write down the needs you child feels he has that need met. Now, write down how you want that child to learn to meet those needs. This is going to be different for each child.
If your 6 mo. old whines when he is hungry, maybe your goal will be to teach him to sign “milk.” (Don’t know sign language? This could help.) If your 3 year old whines when he is hungry, your goal may be to teach him to tell an adult he is hungry. If you have a 6 year old who is whining when he is hungry, then your intervention could be leaving a list of snacks he is allowed to get for himself.
4. Start Intervention And Shepherding Early
It is never too early to start. The longer you wait to begin interventions, the harder it will be break a habit.
5. Be A Consistent Parent
If you just got done teaching your child not to whine when he is hungry, and that he should instead come and tell you, then it becomes your duty to not only address his hunger each and every time he does, but also not to give in to his whining the next time he whines for food.
This can be really hard to do. After all, your child learned at one time that by whining to mom he would get a snack or otherwise be fed when he was hungry. He has a habit that will need both of you devoted to in order to break.
6. Utilize Character Building Lessons
If you have the ability, I highly suggest doing character building lessons with any and all children—even if they don’t whine, and even if they attend public schools.
Teaching a child how to interact with the world around them and appropriate ways to speak to and treat others is an invaluable skill and characteristic to develop. If you have the means to teach your child how to cope with messy situations and needs they will have ahead of time, they will be prepared to take on these situations in a more appropriate and mature means.
My personal favorite character building curriculum are part of the Character Foundation Curriculum. They are designed in such a manner that although the different grade levels have different lessons, they are all working on related topics at the same time.
I do these lessons with my children once a week. I do not use a different book for each grade. Instead, I group the children close to an age. For instance, children 3-8 all work on the 1st grade curriculum. Children 9 to 11 work on the 5th grade curriculum. I personally find the teacher’s editions to be essential to my teaching this curriculum. This works pretty well for our family.
Here are the lessons I recommend by grade level:
- Kindergarten: Character Found, Getting Started Grade K
- 1st grade: Doing What’s Right–Grade 1
- 2nd grade: Character Found, Grade 2 Student
- 3rd grade: Building a Life–Grade 3
- 4th grade: Willing to Wait–Grade 4
- 5th grade: Praising the Lord–Grade 5
- 6th grade: Living to Serve–Grade 6
It’s Going To Take Time And Commitment
This approach to finding the root of the behavior, teaching the child to recognize their own ill-behavior, and then addressing it, is not a fast and easy process.
It will take commitment and consistency from the parent just as much as it will take recognition and the drive to change from the child. Regularly asking God to help is going to be one of the best tools you will have. Teaching and encouraging your child to also go to God with all frustrations along the way couldn’t be more important.
When you and your child are committed to the process, and you let God guide both your hearts, this is absolutely do-able.
Don’t let frustration get the best of you. You can do this Mama.
Do you have any specific techniques that have helped you address whining in your family? I’d love for you to share with our readers techniques that have worked for you.