26 answers

"4 Year Old Not Listening and Whining All the Time"

Hello
My son is 4 years old and he seems to whine all the time. He'll ask me for something in a whiney voice and if I say that he can't have it, he'll whine even more. I have told him to not whine and to ask me the right way in his "regular" voice and I won't give it to him unless he asks me right. He'll just continue to whine about everything, that he's hungry, thirsty, wants a snack, that he wants to go do this, and that he doesn't want to do that, and it is wearing my patience. Sometimes I resort to yelling at him to get him to quit whining and I hate yelling but it seems that yelling is the only way he'll quit whining (sometimes). I have even tried explaining to him that when he whines he is not going to get what he wants and that he needs to be a big boy and not whine. I have also tried taking things away, to get him to stop whining and it seems that when I take things away, he says "okay I'll stop whining, give me back my toy" and I'll tell him that "it's too late he should have quit whining when I asked him to the first time." Then he'll really throw a fit and whine and cry, so I'll either just leave the room or put him in his own room and he'll continue to whine and cry for about 20 minutes. It seems that I have tried everything, and nothing works. I am just wondering why he whines so much, the first thing out of his mouth is whining about something almost all the time. Any suggestions on what I can do, or why he might be doing this? I would greatly appreciate any advice.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Okay, so first of all thank you all so much for responding. I appreciate everyones comments and suggestions. This weekend I sat down with my son and made sure he knew what it sounded like when he whined and showed him the difference between whining and talking in our normal voice. Then I explained to him that Mama likes it better when he doesn't whine and that I can't hear him when he does whine. So from now on I am going to ignore him when he whines. He didn't whine too much this weekend, but I only had him until Saturday. I think buying the book "Creative Discipline" is a great idea. Thanks again!

Featured Answers

I have not had that problem with my children. I remember watching Super Nanny once and the parents on that show had the same problem. The nanny told them that when their child wines at them, the parent should wine back instead of just talking.

1 mom found this helpful

the toy thing works right away - he needs an immediate consequence. take the toy away immediately when he starts to whine, give it back when he stops - even if you're not really ready to.

make an "I asked without whining" chart and provide a reward, or just verbally reward him when you catch him asking you politely.

When he does whine, smile and say "what do you say?" (please), and most of all don't let him get the best of you. If you have to, run away from him.

When my three year old cries because he can't do something, I help him practice making a nice request. I find that sometimes he really doesn't know what to say. I smile and say "Can you say 'Mom will you get me some juice?'" and he smiles and tries to say it too. OK, enough advice.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.-

We have three children under the age of 5. It is nuts and we simply have no time for whining. However, that didn't stop it from happening! What we did that seems to have worked is a "whining" chair. Whenever someone whined for soething, she had to go sit in the "whining" chair until she could ask without whining. There is no talking in the whining chair, and it is not a timeout space. It is ONLY used when they whine. That kept me from losing my temper, it was a consistent action, and it stopped the whining immediately b/c of the no talking in the whining chair rule. We have very little whining here now, except when we are hungry or are very tired. It worked for us, but all kids are different. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Most of it is age appropriate and you are doing the best thing by showing him you are the adult. But I think most of the whining is based on his mixed up life. If he had a full-time mom and dad he would feel more secure. Any chance of that happening? Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Just my opinion, but if he is living with his Dad most of the time, than you need to talk to Dad, if he is not doing it there, than your son is trying to tell you something. I was given advise about 5 years ago that worked great for me...If your kid is acting up there are 3 things that need to be fixed 1)hungry, 2)need a bath, or 3)need a nap. Even if your kid is whining, don't take away his food. Provide 3 stable, on time, meals everyday, with 1 healthy snack in between. All stable. My kids know that meals are at 8, 12, 6. They get snacks at 10 and 3. Otherwise the kitchen is closed...simple as that. When they know the rules it leaves little room for discipline. I would sit down with your son (I do this about once a year with my own kids) and write down all the rules and the jobs expected of both you and him and post it on the fridge or a special spot on the wall that he can see. He can't read, but you can add pictures. But just talking about it helps. My own four year old can't read, so he every once in a while will ask me about something on the list. It helps to know your boundaries. And yelling doesn't work. Just let him come up with consequences (both good and bad). Then you are not the bad guy here. Let him come up with the time out's location and time (within reason) and if they do something extra nice, they choose the rewards. It helps good luck

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.,
I have a four-year-old who is the same way! He whines constantly. I really don't have a great answer. If he persists in whining about something and I have to keep saying "no", I will put him in time out for four minutes. That used to work, but now he just keeps bawling through the time out. I've been told I should tell him I'm not starting the time out until he's quiet. But just so you know, I don't think it's anything you did, some kids are just more whiny than others. Another thing I thought of is - you mention in your "A little about me" that he's with his dad every other week. Maybe his dad spoils him. Just a thought. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.,
All kids go through this...isn't it fun..ugh. Anyway, consistancy is the key. As others have said, just look away and tell him you will be happy to listen to him when he talks to you in his regular voice and then praise him when that happens. I wouldn't take it any further than that. Just be absolutely consistant. The biggest problem you willl face is to make sure his Dad is doing the same thing. You will have a battle if Dad gives in to the whining. And as a divorced mother myself, I know that can be hard. But even if Dad doesn't parent the way you do your son will eventually learn what the "rules" are with you. It just may take a little longer.
Good luck to you,
B.

1 mom found this helpful

It's great that you and your son's dad communicate. But I think you both need to be on the same page when it comes to parenting. I suggest you both take a parenting class together so that your techniques are the same.
Good luck....

1 mom found this helpful

All kids go through a whiny stage and for different reasons. Perhaps your son is telling you he needs more Mama time or just attention. Does his dad spend good quality time with him? Maybe every other week is not a good schedule for him at this age? Could you and his dad work out a different schedule? 3 days with you, 3 days with dad, etc?? Just a thought.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I have not had that problem with my children. I remember watching Super Nanny once and the parents on that show had the same problem. The nanny told them that when their child wines at them, the parent should wine back instead of just talking.

1 mom found this helpful

Kids will always be whiners and complainers there is like ways to choose a certain way instead of playing 'take away',yelling,and getting both of you frustrated because he proably didn't think your listening if he says 'hungry & thirsty or states that if he is bored that means your not listening to him if walk away & you take away something that is not part of the issue & yelling will make kids more prone to not listening behavior or wait until you lose control because that means their in charge they made a adult lose it.

best way is ask where is his big boy voice is can you show me it for food/drinks/to do stuff/ get down to eye level otherwise without paying full attention he will whine & that gets your full attention for awhile til you walk away because all they want is 'focus ' to know they are there'

1 mom found this helpful

If you figure out how to make it stop completely let me know! My son used to be really bad with the whining but now it has gotten so much better. The whining back does work, usually because he will think you're crazy, but I found ignoring him worked the best. When he would start whining I would ignore him and then after a couple moments just say "I can't understand you when you whine". Then I just continued to ignore him until he gave up. It will take patience for both of you but it will eventually catch on. When he does speak correctly tell him that you appreciate him acting like a big boy. Also watch when he is whining. Is it after a full day or if he hasn't ate in a long time? If so try and cut back on some activities or make sure he snacks. Of course if it is an all day thing that won't work. My son was an all day whiner but now he only does it when he is tired or needs my attention since I have the new baby. Also I don't know how long he it has been since it started that he was with you one week and his father, but my son also started his whining when things started changing for the baby. He may be acting out because of the change. Don't feel too bad about the yelling. We all do it. Just try and keep calm. Also my mom just keeps reminding me just to have patience! It is a phase and the important thing is to not give in and encourage it.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.,
What worked really well for me, was: "I'm sorry, I can't hear you when your whining!" If they continued to whine, I'd simply use the broken record method... "I'm sorry, what? I can't hear you! What did you say? What? What?" AND... NEVER EVER give in... no matter how long it takes to get a proper response. If he escalates, ignore him. BUT, the instant you get the response you're looking for, praise him all over the place. Give him lots and lots of praise.
It sounds simple, but it worked really well for me! Hope this helps!
Good Luck,
M.

1 mom found this helpful

T.,
I don't have much advice, but just to let you know you are not alone. My 4 year old son does the same thing!

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds to me like he knows how to push your buttons.
LOL Had one like that.
Of course my three boys were with sitters all day.
It can be wearing.
But I bought a pack of disposible diapers.
They sat in plain sight, and mine knew if the whining didn't stop, then the diaper would go on..
Because big boys don't whine, only babies do.
I never tried to demean him, just let him know in a normal voice that I would be glad to have my baby back at any time.
It was up to him.
Also let him know I was perfectly happy with my big boy.
It is extremely hard to be a full time worker with small children that do not understand why Mommy is gone so much.
Whining back at them also helps.
But do it before he even starts.
Mosts times you will get a good laugh together over it. And that definately is good.
Good luck dear and God Bless you.

1 mom found this helpful

He's doing is because it gets a response. 4 year olds are smart. For starters, he's 4 --- he needs to start doing things for himself. He can get his own drink and snack, etc. You are not his servant. I don't hear whining. I don't hear anything unless it starts with a please and ends with a thank you. You are the mom and he is the kid. You don't need to go into all the explanations you are doing. Tell him he is a big boy now and is too old to cry and whine --- that's what babies do. Also, make sure you are a good role model. Teach this boy some independence and problem solving.

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter had a hard time knowing when she was whining. If she'd whine, I'd say, "wait wait wait--PAUSE GAME!" (even if we weren't playing a game. "OK, listen to this:..." Then I'd ask her a question in a REALLY whiny voice...and ask the same question in a loving voice. Then I'd ask if she could tell the difference between the two and which she liked better...or how it made her feel. Then, "ok, I'm gonna unpause the game now and you can try asking your question again." Then I'd yell "unpause".

1 mom found this helpful

the toy thing works right away - he needs an immediate consequence. take the toy away immediately when he starts to whine, give it back when he stops - even if you're not really ready to.

make an "I asked without whining" chart and provide a reward, or just verbally reward him when you catch him asking you politely.

When he does whine, smile and say "what do you say?" (please), and most of all don't let him get the best of you. If you have to, run away from him.

When my three year old cries because he can't do something, I help him practice making a nice request. I find that sometimes he really doesn't know what to say. I smile and say "Can you say 'Mom will you get me some juice?'" and he smiles and tries to say it too. OK, enough advice.

1 mom found this helpful

ok, got the same problem with my three year old. first, i cut her off as soon as she starts to whine about something and tell her if she needs something she can ask like the big girl she is. making sure she(and i) say please and thankyou. then i get on her level and tell her that it makes me feel(insert emothion) when she whines and that i really really like it when she asks like a big girl. works about 80 percent of the time with us. good luck

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 9 year daughter that whines as well. She is old enough that when I tell her stop whinning she usually does, however she whines to get her way. She has special needs so my husband and I took a parenting class called "Parenting with Love and Logic" I've been a mom for 27 years and boy did this class help. One of the things we learned was to sing the "utoh" song. OK not so good with a 9 year old, but it will work on a 4 year old. When he whines sing "utoh time to spend some time in your room" be happy and don't yell, make him go to his room until he stops whinning. It will probably only take a couple of times before he will stop whinning when you tell him to. Anyway the class is excellent.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.-

We have three children under the age of 5. It is nuts and we simply have no time for whining. However, that didn't stop it from happening! What we did that seems to have worked is a "whining" chair. Whenever someone whined for soething, she had to go sit in the "whining" chair until she could ask without whining. There is no talking in the whining chair, and it is not a timeout space. It is ONLY used when they whine. That kept me from losing my temper, it was a consistent action, and it stopped the whining immediately b/c of the no talking in the whining chair rule. We have very little whining here now, except when we are hungry or are very tired. It worked for us, but all kids are different. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Look into "Love and Logic" discipling philosophy! Excellent!

1 mom found this helpful

Have you ever tried whining back? I've heard this many times over, and always thought it sounded childish and silly. However, I tried it with my daughter (nearly 4) and it actually helped her understand why I always say "no whining." I don't mean "whine" back at him. I'm just saying to show him how it sounds and tell him that it hurts your feelings or hurts your ears and is not fun to listen to. Maybe say something to him in your normal voice, and then tell him "now this is how it sounds when you whine" and say it again in a whining voice. Ask him if he could see the difference, and ask him which one sounds nicer. Then, when you're positive that he knows exactly what whining is and that it hurts your feelings to hear him whine, tell him that you don't understand him when he's whining, or you aren't going to listen to him until he stops whining or tells you in his normal voice. That tactic really helped with my daughter about your son's age. It doesn't mean he'll quit whining for good, but it might make it easier to get him to stop next time. Also, when my daughter whines about something, I've also taken things away. She would then say the exact same thing your son does, "Okay, I'm not whining anymore." And when she says it, she truly is not whining, but talking in her normal voice. When she does, I give her back the toy (or whatever I took) and told her the next time I hear her whine, I'm putting the toy in time out. I have found that this method actually works a lot better than taking it away without warning her first. She will talk normally and not whine for quite some time. Until the next thing comes up. If it hasn't been more than a few minutes since the first whining incident, I'll take the toy away and tell her that I already told her that if she whined again I was going to take it away, and now it has to be in time out. If it has been a long time since the first whining incident, I'll give her another warning. Kids at this age don't have much concept of time or consequence. I consider the hour or more of a break between whining to be an accomplishment, so I start the warning/taking toy away process over when she immediately corrects her behavior the first time. Hopefully this wasn't too confusing. I'm writing it kind of fast. Anyway. In my opinion, taking the toy away "forever" (even if it's only for a few minutes/hours whatever) is too harsh a punishment with no warning first. This is probably why he breaks down so hard when you do that. He doesn't see that he will get the toy back. He just knows it's gone now, and he's not happy about it. But if he knows ahead of time (or is reminded) that if he whines, the toy will be taken, I think he won't react so badly once he's used to it. Hope this helps. Good luck. Whining is so annoying.

1 mom found this helpful

go to the library and get "Creative Discipline", and "Smart Discipline". They work really well for my whining-not-listening 4-year- old :-) Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Children at this age do whine . But what I hear you saying is that if he will quit whining then you will give him what it is he is asking for . But then you turn around and tell him no anyway .That is probably why he whines because either way he is told no .Take a deep breath get down on his level stay calm and tell him you like it when he talks like a big boy . A lot of praise is good too .

1 mom found this helpful

Just ignore him, act like you cannot hear him until he talks normally. I remind my kids once or twice a day, I will not acknowledge them until they talk to me correctly. As far as if you say no and he continues to whine, walk away from him or ask him to leave the room as you said your answer and it isn't up for discussion, period. Once they figure it out, it lessens. I honestly believe it becomes a unconscious habit if they do it too long, hee hee.
My daughter is almost seven and I still have to just ignore her whining or remind her that I won't respond to whining....
Takes some time....

1 mom found this helpful

Ear plugs work WONDERS! ;)
Definitely ignore him til he talks nicely. I like the whining back idea- I've done that too sometimes. Sometimes I'll be sarcastic and tell them, "I need a lot more whining than that!" I praise them for doing it too. The reverse psychology works great at this age anyway. My kids almost immediately stop the behavior because they don't want to keep doing what I'm actually "asking" them to do! Funny!
There's also timeouts and room time til they're ready to change their ways. My children start losing priveleges if they misbehave in certain ways multiple times in a day- no videos today, no desserts today, no computer time today, certain toys are taken away today....

1 mom found this helpful

Kids are very good at figuring out what to do to get what they want. My daughter will ask my DH for something and if says,"No" she will come to me and visa-versa. Then she progresses to whining.

I would talk to your son's dad and see if he is pulling this same behavior on his dad. If the answer is yes, then you both need to sit down and figure out a response that you both do when your son starts to whine.

What we ended up doing was telling our three-year old that we didn't understand her when she whined. If she continues to ask or whine, then we will tell her a few more times and then tell her that if she asks or whines again, we will put her in time-out.

After time out, we sit down with her and tell her that we don't like whining and we ask her if she is ready to try using her words and asking like a big girl again.

The big key here is making sure that his dad and you are both doing the same thing when he whines. Whether you agree on time-outs or taking away toys/privileges. It needs to be consistent otherwise your son, who is a bright child, will figure out that he can eventually get what he wants by sheer volume or tantrums.

You can expect some real rough patches at first until he figures out that you both won't cave in.

1 mom found this helpful

OMG, I too have the same problems with my 4 year old boy, seems it started on his 4th birthday but now it's out of control especially while out of town to visit the in-laws last week now were wondering what did we do for him to get so out of control with his emotions, all we can think of is we might have spoiled him, now we have to start all over again. I'm at a lost with what to do until I found this blog and I'm very thankful for the ideas. I'm at a lost, my little boy was the best listener, non-whiner but now after he turned 4 in June I'm seeing another side of him that has made me wonder what happened. I'm going to try to use the rewards system and my husband and I are going to try to ignore him when he whines and even try a no whining chair, all recommendations are going to be used. I hope something happens soon because I'm exhausted!

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