There are few things more bothersome to a parent than a whining child. How do you get your child to speak in a normal tone?

Credit: Frank Heckers

Q: My 6-year-old's whining is more than my ears can bear! How can I get him to change his tone and speak in a normal voice?

A: The answer is simple: Ignore the whining. "It might sound easy, but it's incredibly hard to do," says Rex Forehand, Ph.D., Athens, GA-based coauthor of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child. "Most parents feel that it's necessary to discipline their child when he misbehaves; they think that doing nothing will make the behavior worse."

The truth is, it will-but only for a while. "Once your child realizes that there's no way he's going to get your attention by whining, he will stop," says Dr. Forehand. "But to reach that point, you must be consistent." First, explain to your child that you will no longer respond to him when he whines. Then, the next time he tries it, say, "I'm sorry, but I can't understand what you are saying to me when you speak in that whiny voice," and then remove all your attention. Don't talk to him, look at him, or touch him; if necessary, you might even try walking into another room to resist responding to his whines.

If you stay committed to ignoring the whining, "eventually, your child will rephrase his request in a more normal voice," says Dr. Forehand. As soon as he does, acknowledge the improvement, even if you can't fulfill the request. For instance, you might say: "I really appreciate the way you asked me for that cookie, but we'll be eating dinner soon, so I can't give you one right now. How about after dinner?"

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.