Why Kids Whine?
Why Do Kids Whine? Because… It WORKS! Kids are smart!
They recognize patterns and only continue ones that work for them.
Children Whine = Parents Give-in.
All children recognize whining gets them the attention that they crave.
Could even equal
brownies for breakfast,
a candy bar in the checkout line,
or a video game, or
not going to bed on time,
A new puppy?…
1 more tv show…
1 more scoop of ice cream…
Whatever their labor focus is pinpointed on at that point in time.
Any response at all, even if it’s to reprimand them, gives them the payoff.
Stop whining… Behave! Be quiet (or worse)!
Picking them up… Coddling them?
All of these responses equal giving them attention and now they have a solid habit and success strategy to do this again and again to get results.
What is the best action we as parents, teachers, or mentors can take?
Most kids possess the skills to argue with your best decision. You try everything. And you are not alone. Around the globe, parents and teachers fall victim to children whining daily.
So Why Do Our Kids Whine?
Because, kids negotiate to secure a chunk of your time and attention, by whining.
All humans are wired with 2 essential emotional needs:
Kids don’t whine to irritate us
They just whine to get our attention.
You’ve tried everything from time-outs to earplugs, but the whining won’t end. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Parents worldwide fall victim to their child’s whining daily, but this doesn’t mean you can’t stop it.
By learning why your kids whine, you can discover how to put an end to it for good.
Why Do Kids Whine?
Because it works! (For your kids, that is.)
When your kids whine and negotiate, they secure a big chunk of your attention.
Positive Parenting is based on Adlerian Psychology which asserts all humans are hard-wired with two basic emotional needs – belonging and significance. One of the crucial ways parents can meet a child’s need for belonging is to give kids sufficient amounts of attention.
Kids don’t whine to intentionally irritate us—they whine to get our attention.
Parents are Earth’s busiest creatures and when kids aren’t getting as much positive attention as they need, they’ll seek it in negative ways.
While they prefer our positive attention, negative attention (corrections, reprimands, etc.) will suffice because it still provides a deposit of attention in their buckets.
So cue up the whining and badgering and negotiating and complaining to get your attention—over and over again—because it’s the next best thing to getting the positive attention they really want.
The truth is, children only continue behaviors that work for them.
When kids whine and parents give in, kids realize that whining gets them what they want—the attention they crave and maybe even that candy bar in the grocery checkout line.
How Can You Make the Whining Stop?
Now that we know why kids whine, we can learn how to make it stop. Parenting expert Amy McCready says there are 3 steps we can use to curb whining:
1. Make it NOT work
Remember the main reason why your kids whine? It works! By removing the payoff—attention and maybe the reward of getting what they’re whining for—you’ll cut back dramatically on this annoying misbehavior.
First, stop giving in to the whining. Whether you’re in the grocery store or at the dinner table, say “no,” and stick to it. If a tantrum happens, calmly let it happen in a safe place (like the car)—and your child will soon learn that whining, and even a tantrum, won’t get him what he wants.
2. Pay No (Negative) Attention
By refusing to give attention to the whining, you’ll remove a big part of the payoff. Here’s a simple 3-step training process to make it work:
Step 1: Set the expectation
In a calm moment, tell your kids:
“You’re growing up so much! You’re big enough now to ask for what you’d like in a normal voice without whining AND be okay if you don’t get it. If you ask me something in a whiny voice, I will put my hands over my ears which will be a gentle reminder to use your regular voice. Then, you can try again with your normal voice and I’ll be happy to talk about anything that’s on your mind.”
NOTE: You may have to do some role-playing about the difference between a normal voice and a whiny voice.
Step 2: Reveal how you will respond
“If you continue to use your whiny voice, I will not respond. Instead, I’ll just go about my business until you want to talk in your normal voice and then I’ll be happy to listen.”
Step 3: Confirm understanding
“Just so we’re on the same page and we don’t have any surprises, can you repeat back to me how we’ll talk to each other and what I will do if you decide to use your whiny voice?”
Okay, you’ve laid the groundwork. But, once you’ve made this bed, my friend, you MUST lie in it (don’t worry, it’ll be really relaxing before you know it).
Follow through EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. your children start to whine. Stay calm and walk away – even a negative non-verbal reaction to whining can be a payoff. When your child uses her normal voice, be sure to respond RIGHT AWAY, calmly and pleasantly.
3. Provide Proactive POSITIVE Attention.
For these steps to work, you must also provide plenty of positive attention to meet your child’s need for emotional connection.
Each parent should shoot for 10 minutes of quality time every day with each child. You can play their favorite card game, shoot hoops in the driveway or whatever they love to do! During the special one-on-one time, Ignore the email notification. Don’t respond to the text. Hold off on the dinner prep.
When you fill your child’s attention basket positively and proactively, your kids will become more cooperative and less likely to resort to whining as a way to gain your attention.
Life is busy for everyone, and finding extra time in the day may be daunting at first, but think of this as an investment in your relationship with your children and in improving their behavior.
For more info on how to get your child to grow into
a passionate and compassionate leader