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9 tried-and-tested tips for getting the kids to stop whining*

*And why they do it in the first place.

Image: Shutterstock

IN OUR HOUSE, like clockwork, whining tends to happen most often at dinnertime.

Both kids are hungry and tired from a long day of preschool and playdates, and they’re starving for extra attention from us parents. My daughter, who’s three, often gets stuck on a whining jag when she’s not stuck into a project or activity.

Meanwhile, the adorable one-year-old son whines because bedtime is imminent and he wants whatever is being cooked for dinner in his mouth faster.  

That painful routine continued nightly until I figured out that a dinner started earlier in the day (without the aforementioned one-year-old) resulted in less evening whining. 

If you’re a parent, you’ll know that dealing with whining – and attempting to make it stop – can be an endlessly tricky game. But there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel on this one, and there are parents who have gone before us, honing their own strategies along the way. Here are a few tactics to try out on your own whiners…  

1. Water the flowers, not the weeds  Put simply, this is a more poetic way of reminding you to encourage the non-whining behavior and not to give any air or attention to the more ear-piercing variety. It’s a great piece of advice that I try to remember when my blood pressure starts to rise. 

2. Distract, distract, distract So says fellow parent Angela, mum to kids aged one and four. Kids can quickly get into broken record mode, repeating their whine without really even remembering what it was they wanted in the first place. Distracting with a question about school or what they might like to do at the playground later can help.

shutterstock_760577371 Source: Shutterstock/Jasni

3. Solve the problem before it begins “We always try to set our kids up with activities that will keep them too busy to whine in the first place,” says Isaac, dad to a one-year-old and a five-year-old. “Anticipating when the whining might happen and sitting your child down with a specific activity while you fix dinner or put your other child down for a nap can save your ears in the long run.”  

4. Recognize the difference between a need and a want. “Does your kid the thing they are whining for? If not, try not to respond,” says Michael, parent to kids aged one and three. If it’s the case that your child is whining to express a need, respond with care. That’ll help your kid understand what’s going to get a reaction from you.  

5. Tell them, ‘When I figure it out, I’ll let you know’ If your child’s whines tend to start with “Why can’t I have…” or “Why can’t I do…”, grandma-of-six Lois recommends balancing a gentle joke with a dose of reality. Letting your child know that you don’t know the answer to the question they’re asking can help them understand that you’re not just withholding information from them. 

shutterstock_434394775 Source: Shutterstock/Maria Sbytova

6. Make positive examples of good behaviour “I try to remember to give my kids regular examples of the good behaviour I want to see,” explains Naomi, a mum of two. “Kids don’t always remember what they’re supposed to do and can get stuck in whining mode, so be sure to praise them when they do get it right.”  

7. “I’ll turn this car around…” Claire, mum to 3-year-old Saoirse often gives “a reminder of something we were going to do that day which will not happen if the whining continues.” As well as teaching your kids that actions have consequences, this approach also helps to redirect attention to that day’s plans.

8. Escape the cabin fever “When the whining gets too much, we just get out of the house,” says Ciara, who has kids aged seven and eight. Okay, this is easier said than done on a rainy day, but a change of scenery will do everyone good, even if it’s just a walk around the neighbourhood.  

9. Add it to the Santa list Whining about wanting toys in a shop is possibly the most brutal form of complaint your kids can throw at you, because there’s almost always an audience. Curb it quickly by agreeing to snap a photo of the toy on your phone, advises mum-of-two Cara. “If my kids see something they want in a shop, we add it to the Santa list that lives in my phone,” she says. 

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More: 10 things nobody tells you about your first few weeks* as a new mum>

More: 12 nifty organisation tips that’ll make the school year a whole lot easier>

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About the author:

Emily Westbrooks

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