1. Refuse to let it bother you. Pick a quiet time and tell your child that there's a new rule: If he whines, you won't respond. "From then on, whenever he whines, keep your facial expression absolutely neutral," Borba says. Calmly tell your child that you can't understand what he wants when he whines and that you'll listen when he talks in a nicer voice. You might also ask him to choose a signal for you to use as a warning sign when you're about to stop listening, such as pulling on your ear, suggests Nelsen.
2. Make sure your child knows what "asking nicely" means. She may not even realize she's whining--or she may not truly understand what the word means. The best way to explain it is to tape-record both her whiny and pleasant voices and then play them back for her. (Make it clear that you're using the tape to help her learn, not to make her feel bad.) You may also have to teach her the specific words to use when she wants to tell you that she's tired, hungry, bored, or frustrated. "Kids really want to do what's right," Borba says. "But too often, we mistakenly assume that they know what's right. When you show them, they have a model to copy."
3. Give praise where praise is due. "Parents always point out, 'That's not a nice voice' but often don't provide enough positive reinforcement," says Borba. You might say, "Thanks for using your normal voice" or "My ears love that voice." This worked wonders for my daughter. Whenever she asked for something politely, I acknowledged it and thanked her. At first, I felt awkward being so effusive, but her whining decreased dramatically.
4. Hang in there. "Many parents say, 'I tried it yesterday and it didn't help,' " Borba says. "But think of changing one of your own habits: It won't happen overnight." I noticed a change in Elizabeth within a month. Some kids may take more time, others less.
Unfortunately, if you don't help your child practice effective methods of communication, the whining may get worse and affect his future friendships. "Nobody likes to be around a whiny kid," says Borba. "Keep in mind that your goal is to help your child be the best he can be--and the time that it takes will be well worth it."
Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the May 2000 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.