Replacing ‘fine whines’ with something better |

Replacing ‘fine whines’ with something better

Shirley Ritter
Parent Talk

Who doesn’t feel like whining once in a while? It’s not just kids who do it. Adults indulge too. So why does it drive us wild when our kids do the same thing?

Maybe it’s because whines sound so much like veiled accusations. If your son delivers “Mommy, can I have a drink?” in a cheerful voice, it comes across as a reasonable request. But if it’s said in a long, drawn-out, pleading whine, it can make you feel like he thinks you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t give a poor, parched kid a sip of water in the middle of a hot desert.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Kids can be helped to state their needs in a straightforward, non-whiny way. In the process, they might even begin to recognize and talk about what’s really on their minds, something they’ll find useful throughout life.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

1. Give your child basic information about what whining is. Surprisingly, most young children don’t have a clue, even though they do it.

Instead of mimicking your child when his whining is grating on your nerves, explain it at a time when you’re all in a happier mood. Do it without accusations. You might pretend to have a teddy bear talk in a “whiny voice” and then in a “regular voice.” Or, play a game of asking questions in different kinds of voices.

2. Whenever your child whines, remind him briefly that you’ll answer when he uses his regular voice. (Of course, you’ll have to use your regular voice when you remind him.) Then look deeply interested in something else.

The minutes spent ignoring whining always seem much longer than ordinary minutes, so use the time to think ahead. Figure out possible causes of his whining. Is he tired and doesn’t realize it? Has it been too long since his last meal? Is he disappointed that you had to stop playing and do something else? Is he worried about something?

3. Once your child talks to you in a non-whiny voice, take time to answer. If he’s asking for something that just isn’t possible, be sure to sympathize about how hard it is to want something you can’t have. Sometimes just feeling understood helps. A child’s effort to overcome whining is strengthened every time that effort is met with a loving response.

4. Sometimes you can help your child understand why he felt whiny in the first place. For example, you might have a hunch he was angry with you and that he wasn’t sure if it was OK to come right out and say so. You don’t need to go into long explanations. A simple, “You were sure angry at me for turning the television off” helps him label his feelings. It also lets him know that you won’t fall apart if he puts those feelings into words.

Remember when your child was a baby and you had to take something away from him because it might hurt him? It was easier to do if you replaced it with a toy or object he could have. It’s the same way with whining. Don’t just take it away. Give him something to use in its place: the ability to recognize and discuss what’s really bothering him. It’s a life-long gift.

Kids First provides information and funding for early childhood programs and families in Pitkin County. For information, contact Shirley at 920-5363 or

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