How to Stop Your Child's Whining

You know that your preschooler is trying to manipulate you, but whenever he whines, he wins.

Why Kids Whine

Dealing With Whining
Dealing With Whining

Almost from the time my daughter, Elizabeth, could speak in sentences, she whined when she didn't get what she wanted: my attention, a snack, a repair job on a faulty toy. When she turned 3--and suddenly seemed like such a "big girl"-- her continued whining started to drive me crazy. I'd mutter angrily under my breath, clench my teeth, even whine back. Once I lost control and screamed "Shut up!" so vehemently that she burst into tears. But more often than not, I'd let her have her way just to make the shrill sound stop.

Like nails on a chalkboard, whining--an irritating blend of talking and crying--has the ability to make almost any parent get angry or give in. And preschoolers are pretty smart: They know that pleading in that pitch has a strong effect on their parents.

A whiny child, however, isn't deliberately annoying or spoiled. Whining is often the only way that young kids can express themselves when they're tired, cranky, hungry, uncomfortable, or just don't want to do something. Although 3- and 4-year-olds' language skills are rapidly improving, they still don't have the vocabulary to describe all of these feelings, explains Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of Parents Do Make a Difference (Jossey Bass, 1999).

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