Someone Please Tell Me How to STOP the WHINING!!!!

Updated on March 12, 2010
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
40 answers

My son is 4, and God bless him, he's a whiner. And I am out of ideas for squashing this painfully annoying behavior. I've tried kindly asking him to speak like mommy is (exaggerating my proper speaking voice), so that I can understand what he wants/needs/is asking for. I've ignored. I've disciplined. I've positively reinforced proper speech. I've whined back so he can see how he sounds. And I've tried all these things for a sufficient amount of time for him to get the picture. Yet, he whines. Not just when he's tired (although it does get worse when he's tired), and it can be about ANYTHING. HELP!

I love my son more than life itself, but after a full days worth of whining, I'm ready to give him to the UPS delivery person. Kidding!!! Well, sort of. NO REALLY, just kidding. :) Really, though, he is a well behaved, active, but well behaved little boy. And I hate spending so much time feeling annoyed at his whining, when otherwise, he's behaving fine! It's taking it's toll...

Do you have a well kept secret for putting an end to whining?

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So What Happened?

In response to some of your posts, my son DOES go to preschool. His teacher says he's a perfect angel at school, which is good, but they're often on their best behavior at school, and let it all hang out at home! But I guess that's how it should be.

I do sit with him and read, do activities, play with his toys, etc. And to Donna S., he is not whining because he has some deep rooted or unspoken fears. He occasionally asks me if robots are going to come, or if gorillas are going to come, which I reassure him they are not, and he accepts that and shows no other signs of fears, no trouble sleeping, goes into his dark closet to play, goes into the dark bathroom on his own and turns the light on, he's not scared.

As for playing with him, we do sit and color, read, do activities, play. He has A LOT of one on one attention, probably more than a lot of kids.

And for those of you who said to simply say to him that Mommy can't understand him when his talks like that and walk away, I have done this, and it does generally work in that moment, but in 37 seconds, he's whining again about something else! I guess I just need to keep doing that and hope that eventually, the whining just gets less and less.

Thank you all for your responses. At least I know that I'm not the only mom out here who is tired of all the whining!!!

LOL - Sometimes commiseration is as good as a solution! Well, almost as good!

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answers from Austin on

Stop responding to it. My 3 year old does that from time to time and the only way to get him to stop is to walk away from him. If we are out somewhere I give him a warning then if he doesn't listen, we leave. I've had to leave groceries at the grocery store before (sorry, worker people).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I have an almost 4 year old boy too...preschool is where he learned how to whine! ugh. anywyas, i find that if i tell him "mommy can't understand you when you whine" and walk away (that's the key...walking away) he follows me saying "mommy...mommy" and asks/talks normally. that's what normally works for us :) gool luck and let me know if you learn any new techniques!!

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answers from New York on

hahahaha. oh my God. yes, got two here too. at least today it seems like we're on the full force whinning. god lord, i wish i knew how to make my house quiet for 5 minutes. just today. just for 5 minutes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

I have no help for you just co-misery. I have a 4 yo girl who never whined not once, and she has recently learned it from my 2 yo boy who just apparently learned it on his own. I try to ignore it in him as I have no idea how to stop it, my daughter on the other gets disciplined for it because she knows what she is doing and it is not a habit or anything for her yet, and I am making sure it doesn't become one, because I think I would go crazy with two whining. But I have no idea how to change it in my son, maybe it is a boy thing as my nephew did it alot too.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My 6 tear old whines too. I have tied everything and it drives me nuts. If you stop it please tell me what you did.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Hey, L.!
This is a hard one to stop. You have to enforce it like an important rule. Like it's swearing, or hitting, or anything else. Somehow he has the idea that he can get away with whining ALL THE TIME, when he understands you mean business for other things. This means his lesson wasn't firm enough regarding whining. You could even regard it as normal defiance, since you have made it very clear the rule is no whining. The light things like asking nicely. modeling, ignoring, whining back can be crossed off the list of past effort, and may have set you back by confusing the gravity, but it's not too late to start fresh.

Pretend he has never whined before. Start a new day. Sit him down and tell him he is 4 years old, and you are his mom. It is your job to make sure hes doesn't whine, it's not polite, he's a gentleman, and it will not be allowed anymore. Tell him what the consequences will be when he begins to whine. The next time he lets out the first peep of a wimper, give him a calm, firm warning not to whine. If he continues one more peep, calmly deliver a firm consequence. Let him cry for a moment, but not start a rebellious tantrum about it, and continue the discipline.

Do this every single time he begins to whine and do not ever let it slide. After several days, if this has had no effect at all (not possible, but just in case he's a medical oddity) begin to add further consequences on top of the initial harsh one such as toy removals and time outs-but never INSTEAD of the harsh consequence. Always deliver in the first moment before it escalates. Outlast him or it isn't a sufficient amount of time for him to get the picture. It may get worse before it gets better because he likes to drive you to your wits end and he likes to whine. He's used to getting away with it at least some of the time. This is normal.

You may feel completely worn out and ready to give up when suddenly you'll see him stop a whine in favor of speaking properly and acting well. You can do it! Then the fun begins as you see him get proud and happy and you can enjoy his company all day long. It does work. Once he is improving, and in times when hes being good, you can reward him with some fun activities and praise, etc, but don't bribe him with niceties up front.

No one is allowed to whine here, so they don't and they've never escalated into a full fledged tantrum at ages 2 and 4. The success is worth the hard work up front. It's not mean to teach your son to be a happy gracious non whining child. You're on the right path. He will be so much happier once it clicks.
Good work! Hang in there!

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answers from Jacksonville on

LOL, I have the saaaaaaaaaaaaaame problem with my 4yr old, drives me nuts. It is a magnified persistence. He asks for the same thing literally 100 times, sleep on it, get back up and remembers, and will NOT stop until he gets it, no matter how many times I calmly tell him he cannot have it, OR try to explain it in his terms.. Problem is, sometimes his whining IS valid, but I try to ignore him sometimes and often feel bad that that when he really had a point that I missed it or didn't give him attention he needed.....I am just happy I am not alone!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Curious to see any magical suggestions and tips you might get...after being snowbound with my son ALL LAST WEEK, I have had it with the whining as well! maybe we just have Natural Born Whiners?!

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answers from Dallas on

I agree with Christy, its the ONLY way to go. Completely ignore it ALWAYS, without exception, and it will pass. Don't even look his way, this will work, you just have to keep at it!

Good luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

I would like to hear some good answers too! Yikes..and tattling. I have a 3, 4, and 5 year old and they all learn it from the other.

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answers from Los Angeles on

LOL! I had to laugh about the UPS comment! All us Moms have been there for some reason or another!!
Although I don't have any suggestions other than what you have already tried just thought I would mention....Behavior charts seem to work best with my son. Basically he gets a star for good behavior, a sad face for bad, etc. You can choose your own format, what ever works best for your son. I did what you have already tried actually....When my son used to whine I would tell him he is a big boy and not a baby, but if he acts like a baby I will treat him like one. After about a week it started to work really well. It started to stop him in his tracks pretty quick but that is just what worked for me. However I remember feeling JUST LIKE YOU when he would whine! By the end of the day I would be exhausted. Every child is different.

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answers from Chicago on

Try reading the book 1-2-3 Magic. I found it very helpful.

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answers from St. Louis on

I have 3 boys and all of them were whiners. Every time they come and whine to me I tell them "Mommy can't understand you when you whine". I repeat that phrase until they speak in a normal voice. Then i respond to the request. It took a while but the whining has greatly reduced in our house. Hang in there and be consistent. ;)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

you are not alone, my kids are 7 and 9 boy and girl and when they play they talk like babies it drives me utterly insane!!!!!plus playing turns into fighting I am struggling as well. As far as your little guy goes, when he whines I would totally ignore him and I mean ignore and maybe when he realizes if he doesn't whine you will acknowledge him. When they are tired that is a different story all together I swear it changes their behavior and makes them different kids.Have you tried sending him to his room? Turning off the tv? Taking things away he likes? Just a thought good luck honey it will get better so I'm told.

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answers from Boston on

I completely understand! That whine goes right through me.
One day I got so fed up I got out the construction paper and together we made a big "No Whining" sign. This way I don't have to exasperatedly tell her not to whine. I point to the sign, and if she continues, gets louder etc., I begin counting with my fingers. If I get to 5, I point to time out. The silent approach has kept me from getting to aggravated, and for the most part has worked

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answers from Portland on

I feel your pain. One week ago I was sooo frustrated with my nearly 3 year-old's whining. I found myself grumpy and angry with him a lot, especially since I felt that I wasn't handling his whining (or tantrums) effectively. I bought the book "Whining" by Ricker and Crowder, have been following their 3 suggestions, and it has made a huge difference in just one week.

What really helped was to realize that I was inadvertently encouraging the whining by giving him his request after he stopped whining.

Now, I let him know the consequence of whining (which includes not getting what he asked for, and sometimes something else, like not being allowed to finish his meal if that was related to the whine). I also cheerily ignore him while he whines (I've found that putting dishes away or cleaning house is great for this... I get stuff done while he learns self-control!). I stay calm and happy during the ignoring/whining, and when he's done, I redirect (also in a happy tone).

I really recommend the book. I got that one and another one called "Getting Your Toddler to Eat". Both have helped me avoid power struggle situations, and have also given me tools to be firm and consistent! I realized that I was being too permissive, and that unless I changed my reactions, things were going to continue.

Best of luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Just another thing that has kind of worked for us, is to repeat back what our kids just whined to us to show them how impossible it is to understand it. Then we say the "correct" way they should have said it. It hasn't totally stopped the whining, but it has helped and they seem to understand how terrible it sounds when you repeat them.

Good luck!!



answers from Rapid City on

With a sense of humor like you have, I am sure that he is a great child who has a behavior you are tired of but that is fixable. Thing I noticed in your answers is that you tried this and you tried that and nothing works. I think you should chose one thing to try.. tickling, ignoring, just saying "use your big boy voice", all would work if it is the same all the time. Be consistant. Consisitancy is so important in everything we do with the kids.

Take the child who throws a fit at the store wanting something. Mom gives in to get her to stop embarrassing her with the fit, just to shut her up. Next time they go shopping and she throws a fit again, mom said No and means to stick with it so she sticks with it and punish her later for it. Next time they go shopping and the child knows one of two things can happen, she could get mom to buy her the toy or she could end up being punished. If she doesn't try she won't get the toy at all, no chance since mom said no. So she throws the fit and mom says no so she throws it longer and finally mom gives in. Now she knows she can throw a fit longer then mom can handle the fit. It works wonders... I know, I was that child!

Just as had my mom said no and stuck with it from the beginning, letting me know that fits don't get what I want, you need to let your child know from the beginning what is going to happen with whining, each and every time he whines. It can be being tickled, which is a distraction but he might whine just for the attention and getting you to play with him. Singing to him would be a good one cuz you can do that whatever you are doing, cooking dinner, cleaning house... whatever (might be interesting for those on the phone for you though). With my granddaughter and with my kids just saying "Please say it in your big boy/girl voice" worked. They all want to be big. We don't say it in anger, just say it as a request, but each and every time they whine.



answers from Washington DC on

When my kids used to whine too much, I used to tell them that they needed to ask me correctly for what they wanted or that I couldn't respond to them and then I would model the correct tone of voice. I didn't walk away or tell them I didn't understand them. If they asked me then for something that was realistic to give them (usually was) without whining, then I would immediately reward them by giving them what they wanted. If it was something I had to say no to, then I would tell them no and tell them that whining about it or asking me more times would not change the no -- but at the age of four, usually the whining was for juice or the park, etc., so the no's were few and far between. The idea is to give him a positive way to get the result he wants when it's reasonable that doesn't include whining and if you have to tell him no and he keeps whining, then I would suggest putting him on timeout for a few minutes for whining. Timeouts never worked for my kids unless they could tell me before they got off timeout why they were on timeout and how they would fix the problem.



answers from Los Angeles on

This is a little late but a great book that is simple to read yet actually hard to do but really very effective. It is called Back Talk - 4 steps to ending rude behavior in your kids. The authors are: Audrey Ricker, Ph.D and Carolyn Crowder, Ph.D.

Really this talks about back talk and i think they have a book about whining but talking back is the next phase as they get older and you can never start soon enough.
I think that we as mom's can get tired really fast of training our kids and then we wonder why we have rude and irresponsible "kid" adults running around!

It is a process but keep being consistent. Good luck!



answers from Miami on

I have found the best solution to eliminate the whining. Whining absolutely makes me insane and I was on the verge of a total meltdown when this solution came my way. It's from Gary Ezzo, "Growing Kids God's Way". Here it is: Usually kids whine when they want something right? So, make him say, "May i please...". This phrase magically changes the tone, teaches polite manners and is so pleasing to a mama's tender ears! That's my secret. Good luck!



answers from Richmond on

L. -

The best thing that you can do, is only say once, "Mommy can't understand and doesn't answer to whining." and then stop communicating with him unless it's a dire emergency (he's going to hurt himself, is hurt, the house is on fire, etc.) It will take some doing, but within a few days he should realize that you will not acknowledge him when he speaks in a whine. That should cut it out for you because he should want your attention more than he wants to whine.



answers from Tulsa on

Great question and I love your response to everyone! I have a 4 (going on 14) year old daughter who is quite the little diva and a handsome (but a handful) 2 year old boy. My daughter picked up the whining from her cousin and my son picked it up from his sister. LOVELY!! I deal with it too. You are so not alone!! I've pretty much tried everything you have and it helps but doesn't stop it. I'm HOPING that maybe it's just a phase that they're going through and that it will get better. I just keep reminding myself that they're only little once and I'm gonna miss this. LOL! It sounds like you're doing everything right so good for you!!



answers from Allentown on

sorry my post is a little late but let me share something fun & different we have done with our daughter, we tickle her. what you might say? when she whines, we tickle her, it is an easy way to remind her that she is whining, & perhaps more importantly, it defuses my frustration. It has been a win/win for both parent & child. Does she still whine? She does, but not as frequently, & know all we do is get out the tickle fingers & she stops.



answers from Philadelphia on

Could he be bored? My son does it when he is bored. Sitting one on one with him doing playdough or crayons, paints, stickers does help.

Does he go to pre-school at all? Might help him. Kids love structured activities and some need it all day long.

I wish you lots of luck!



answers from Beaumont on

I used to respond by whining my reply,"mom can't hheeeaaaar you when you whhhhiiiiiiinneeeee!!!!!!" in the most exaggeratedly annoying whiney tone I could create. My kids (now 21, 26, 29) really hated it, and stopped their whining. They still talk about how mad it made them when I served them back what they were ladling out to mom! They are all educated, employed, and loving adults...who don't whine!


answers from Salt Lake City on

One quick suggestion, When you do tell him you can not understand him, don't walk away. Give him a chance to try again, and even help him by demonstrating the proper way to speak clearly. (which you said you have done) you could say something like, "I can't understand you, could you slow down and make you voice sound a bit happier, like this..." " now try again please". Some times it takes my whiner four of five tries before it is acceptable to me:). Now, after years of working on this I just have to say, "stop and try again" as soon as I hear it turning into a whine.
If he won't try again then you can let him know when he is ready to come try again, and go about your business. It takes a lot of hard work and consistency, but it is so worth it. Think of it this way, if someone else really wasn't used to "his whining", and they couldn't understand him, they would ask him to repeat it. That is all you are doing. Teaching him to fluctuate his voice so he can be heard, and understood. It will take months perhaps even years, just start each day with the mind set that you have never taught this to him before:)
good luck,



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have to agree with the ignoring route. I always say "I can't understand you when you use that tone of voice" and unless he's saying "There is a saber-tooth tiger eating me right the hell now" I don't pay any attention to what he says until the tone comes back to a normal-speaking voice. You just have to stick with it-- even if it takes months. It took him years to build this habit, and it won't be broken in a couple of days. But if you stay consistent, it will be broken.

As to the daycare thing-- my mom used to complain that everyone always said I was such an angel at school and then I'd come home and act up, and my dad would say "Where would you rather she be bad?" Kids DO have to let off some steam, and I'd say if he's doing it at home it is a GOOD sign!



answers from Kansas City on

I know your post is old, but I just had to respond! I love your responce to everyone. I know we are going through the same thing, it most be a 3 1/2 - 4 year old "thing". So I love what Sandy said about tickle her.... I actaully start "singing" to my daughter (and I'm a really bad singer!) But you know that song, "you can't always get what ya want, you can try some times, you just might find, you get what you need".... Well I change it up a little, "whinning doesn't get what ya want, you can try some...." you get the point. Usually it distracts my daughter enough she starts laughing or signing with me. You could do this in combo with sandys tickleing idea!



answers from Denver on

My tactic:
"Oh, I can't hear whining. Take a deep breath and try again."
Repeated as often as necessary, careful not to let annoyance or frustration creep into my voice.
Good job mommin'!



answers from Casper on

I have not read all the responses, but I can tell you to QUIT IMMEDIATELY giving in to your son when he whines. It is fine to work with him on repeating his request properly but DO NOT give in. He will learn that whining is a way to get what he wants and will continue to use it to his advantage. AND it will NOT improve with age. I have a friend who constantly gave into her daughter when she whined because "it was just easier". Well now she has a 24 year old daughter who still whines to get what she wants. I've been helping her try to put a stop to this, but it is such an ingrained habit, it is VERY difficult to change at this point. DON'T ALLOW IT TO BECOME A HABIT. Put a stop to it NOW!!!



answers from New Orleans on

I haven't read any of the other posts, so please forgive me if mine is repetitve.

I think picking one consistent response, such as, "I need you to talk like a big boy," and sticking to it could really help over the long run. But, the most important (and difficult) thing about this strategy is backing it up. When he whines, you'll need to remind that, "I need you to talk like a big boy." Keeping this concept active in his mind and exchanges with you gives you a foundation that you can always go back to. Such as, when he comes in the room whining out a request, you can say, "You are not talking like a big boy. Would you like to try that again?" Or, "Can you try another way?" When he makes his request without whining, then give him an answer.

I have had this problem with my daughter. Now we are to the point where, "Hmmm. Can you try another way?," usually brings her around. She knows from experience that our conversation will not move forward until she carries on her side of it appropriately.

It takes time, patience, and consistency, but they will learn...eventually! In the meantime, hang in there. The going can get pretty rough, but it will be well worth it in the end!



answers from Memphis on

I just wanted to say that I like your question and response to everyone. I wish I had a solution for it because I have 2 boys (almost 7 and 4) and both of them drive us crazy with their whining! So don't expect it to end soon!!!We mostly just ignore them or tell them we are not going to talk to them unless they use their big boy voices. We have a 6 month old daughter and we keep telling them they have to stop so she doesn't follow their behavior. I don't think I will be able to handle 3 whiners!



answers from Albany on

I hate to break it to you but for some children, I think it's the way they are and while it is tiring and repetitive, we just have to stand our ground and not give in to the whining. I say this especially because my 6 1/2 year old has a similar behavior we are trying to break...his is to automatically cry and scream if he is told "no" about something and we are home. He doesn't do it in public which almost bugs me more I think because it proves he KNOWS how to make a better choice. I agree with the one mom who says if the whining doesn't stop, they go to time out. My son ended up in time out just last night for this AND lost his favorite game for today. (He lost the game first which is what he was whining about which sent him into scream mode which got him time out.)

I wish I had the answer for you but like I said, we are working on the similar here. It is just so frustrating. He doesn't get that whining will keep him from getting his way and it doesn't change a "no" into a "yes".



answers from Philadelphia on

my daughter is 8 and still 'forgets' sometimes and whines. The only thing that worked for me was to tell her as soon as she started whining that 'Mommy can"t hear you when you are whining.", and then ignore her till her speaks properly.



answers from Washington DC on

Whining is so annoying...and I don't know why kids think it will work, but so many kids pick it up even worse from other kids at school that think it's cool or have parents that allow them to whine...or talk like babies. My almost 9 year old girl still tries that with me, but I just give her a look and she cuts it out because I have already told her to stop whining or she won't get what she wants. Young ones are worse because they have less self-control and try to push their boundaries a bit more, but just be consistent...the 'mommy doesn't understand whining' will eventually work....but it will take some time and in the meantime, you just have to take a deep breath and have a sip of wine (the good kind of wine!).


answers from Allentown on

Hi, L.:

Sounds like your child is not feeling safe!

Draw a big circle, and ask him to draw each of the family members in it.
Have him tell you where the people are and wha they are doing.

Another drawing: Draw a little bed with him in it. Draw a big circle
over the bed and ask him to draw his dream.

Try that and see if you come up with anything.
Hope this helps, if not let me know. Good luck. D.



answers from Portland on

When my children begin to whine I tell them they must smile while talking. It's hard to whine when your smiling, and its also an easy gesture to make when they forget.



answers from Lafayette on

He is whining because it gets results! Everytime you hear whining, turn away and walk. Say nothing!! When he is not whining, shower with praise," You are not crying, GREAT JOB< NO CRYING!!! He may even follow you to get your attention. SHOW NO RESPONSE AND NO EYE CONTACT> At 2 years he does not understand what whining is but does understand that crying is a result of being unhappy. Repeat NO CRYING and WALK!!!!



answers from New York on

He is 4, tell him to stop. NEVER give him anything he whines for. Be consistent and he WILL stop. When he starts to whine remind him to talk in a normal voice. If he continues to whine, ignore him. Walk away, do NOT give in, no matter how annoying he is. It has become a habit and he probably doesnt even realize he is doing it.

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