Been There Done That – Tips for Whining

This month, our Been There Done That squad answers the question: How do you deal with whining when your child is asking for something? How do you approach the situation and help them to learn to better express themselves?

Erin B.

Oh…yes…we hit a whine-fest lately!

And my response totally depends on my mood!

Sometimes I simply say, “I don’t speak whine, I have no idea what you are saying or asking for” And I ignore the whining until she finds her words or gets distracted and moves on to something else.

But usually, I go for the honest approach, ‘My sweet daughter, it is incredible frustrating when you whine. It is also annoying. I don’t want to be around it nor do other people. So, your choice is to throw the squeak away and explain what it is you are after or go up to your room and whine to your stuffies”

So far, we have really lucked out with those options working.

However, on the rare occasion when it’s been a REALLY long day, I have been know to resort to a 3 year olds myself…she whines…I whine louder. She gets annoyed with me and gives up.

Naomi- mom of three boys (8, 3, and 8 months)

This is a great question, because I’m looking forward to some extra advice in this area! Whining for things is a tough one. Some kids just seem to be prone to whining, my oldest still whines and no amount of effort on our part seems to be able to stop it. I find ignoring it helps immensely, and works very well with my three year old. If that doesn’t cut it, I tell him that mommy doesn’t understand, or can’t hear whining. He usually changes his tone right away. With my oldest, I ask him to ask me what he wants without the whining. If he can’t, I guide him through verbalizing it. As for asking for something using a whining tone, I try not to use the word “no” too much, it is a scary word for most kids, and has a finality to it that they can’t seem to handle. “Not today, we don’t need any more candy,” or “maybe on Saturday we can go fishing, it is 7:30 and bedtime right now,” usually works for our kids instead of “NO!”. They do better when we explain things.

Sarah K.

I usually try to tell my kids that I cannot understand whining and they need to speak in a proper voice. That doesn’t always work. 😉

Christina M. (7 month old, 2.5 year old, 4 year old and 6 year old daughters)

I really struggle with this one because there is just SO much whining that goes on and it starts the moment I get up until I shut off the lights at night. I don’t care who you are, you can only handle so much whining. When I’m at my best, I take into consideration who is doing the whining. If it’s my 2 yr old, I remind her I can’t understand what she says when she doesn’t “use her regular voice”. When it’s my 6 yr old, I try to ignore her completely. At 6 she knows that whining rarely gets a favourable response. And if they carry on and on, I cue in with “use your regular voice”. I realize that in this house, there is a lot of competition for adult attention, but they need to get it in a favourable manner. Then there are the times when I’m not at my best which usually results in me mimicking their behaviour back to them (often exaggerative) and asking if they understand what I’m saying. This also gets the point across and helps me vent a bit, but it isn’t the ideal behaviour I want to model for my kids.

Elizabeth -Mom to 8yo boy, 5yo girl, 3yo boy and due with #4 this month

Generally we try and repeat the child’s request with proper tone/language. Sometimes it can take a number of tries and sometimes it causes the child to get more upset that they haven’t already gotten what they asked for (that’s another story). We try our best not to model or copy whining behaviour (but I do catch myself sometimes- “Oh pleeeeease will you hold my hand and walk to the park?”) and to recognize when the kids have asked properly and used polite language so that they get affirmation in that correct choice. Being consistent with this (and really, anything) is sometimes tricky when we just get sick of the whining.

I guess it’s a work in progress in our household but there are definitely moments of brilliance through the trials.

Marg S.

Whining I remember well. What worked for my kids was redirection – a favourite song, a tickle, something surprising to change it up a bit. When they were small, I picked them up and whirled them around, lifting under the arms and turning around , saying things like Lets be Airplanes, or the old Motor boat Motor boat go so fast, Motor boat Motor boat put on the gas!, whirling faster and faster. And then there were piggy back races. I would piggy back the youngest, and try to catch the other one. If you know something they think is really funny, this is the time to pull it out – and have a laugh with them. I once saw a kids clown who only said single words which cracked up the children. UNDERPANTS he would shout, and the kids would be hysteric. It never failed to cheer them up, especially when I finished with a bit of a tickle and a kiss for them. I had two children, a girl and a boy eighteen months apart – and the youngest was autistic. So finding things that worked was pretty important. The other thing I did was to ask my 4 year old to choose her redirection – should we do airplanes or motor boats? And when all else failed, we did pudding painting on the kitchen table, where they could paint and eat at the same time. Messy, but with a bathtub ready to go – filled, I would say we would go swimming afterwards – in the bathtub. Themes made it fun – cowboy baths, Barbie baths, lego baths, Shrek baths– you name it, my kids were cleaner than clean, and water is easy to clean up. And, generally after a bath and play, it was nap time and a break for me. You know what – when someone is whining, it isn’t the time to talk to them about their behaviour – they are grumpy. Why not just change it up a bit, and let them get over it. The time for talking about expressing themselves is when they are happy, well rested, not teething, and you find them expressing themselves well – wow you really did that well! I know just what you are saying ! Everyone responds better to positives than negatives – even adults – aren’t we all kids at heart?


Wow – this is tough! Some days I handle the whining much better than others! Right now I am saying things as “I don’t understand the language of whining so you can ask me again in your regular voice” or “the answer will definitely be no if the whining continues” If they are really tired or it’s been a long day then I do handle it better and not as tough on them but if I haven’t had a lot of sleep then I do have less patience for it.

I do remember when my daughter was a bit younger and whining lots I started to mimic her and she looked at me like I was out of my mind…she doesn’t sound like that and I assured her she did, it helps it to lessen for a while.

I will try to empathize with them, especially if they are tired. I understand you are tired, however, this is not the way to talk to mom or ask for what you want. I will say it my voice and then they usually repeat it back to me in their voice.

Tamara V.

Most times when my kids whine I am tired, I’ve had enough and I whine back. But, in my finer moments I use some humour and walk around like an animated goof with my hand to my ear and say “I think I hear something… did you hear that?”. I duck down and pretend I hear something coming from the vents, from under the couch, from the garage saying until they start using a regular voice. It usually ends on a good note with a laugh.


How timely. I have two girls aged 5 and 2.. most of the communicating done by them is whinging and it can drive a person crazy. First line of defence in this house is to try to avoid situations where they will whine.. aka.. nip at the bud. I ask myself why are they whining? Am I listening to them the first time they ask for something, or was I busy doing something else. Maybe I need to work on responding to them right away. Other factors I think of are… are they hungry, or tired, over stimulated etc? If that is the case we try to eliminate those things. Make sure they have snacks etc when needed, and make sure they have time during the day where they sit quietly and re-charge.

Consistency is important too. If I say no, I have to stick to my guns. Its frustrating for kids to be able to do something one time.. and then the next time they want to do it, they are not allowed. (example drinking juice at night. I only allow water and yet this seems to be a big battle in our house lately…)

Lots of times though, the reason they are whining is because they are children, and like the question states they need to be taught to express themselves. I like to start by saying to them that I see that they are frustrated and that it is ok to express how they are feeling, but that the way they are doing it is not acceptable. I offer suggestions like “use your words” or “I cant understand you when you talk to me that way, please try again in a calm voice” etc.. And after we have a conversation about what ever the situation was, I ask them what they could have done differently….(mostly this applies to the 5 year old)

SOMETIMES.. if they are just driving me up the wall and I feel myself getting really frustrated, I ask them to go to their room and tell them they are welcome to join me again when they are ready to speak to my in a kind way…

(these situation are not always handled perfectly by myself.. I have yelled at times… I think its important to apologize if I loose my cool, because thats a teaching moment for them too…)

Crystal – 6 year old daughter

When my daughter was a toddler/ preschooler who whined I would pull her aside and make her count to ten with me and then ask for what she wanted again. If it didn’t work the first time I would do it several times until she calmed down and that usually stopped whining. I found whining wasn’t as much of an issue  if I could fix the root of the problem, tired, hungry, sick, over-stimulated etc.,  then the rest would follow.   Although, some days the whining was just going to happen no matter what I did to fix it, so a long bath for myself when hubby got home made things  better.

Jodi – 2.5 year old daughter and 4 year old son

I’m going through this a LOT lately. If I’m well rested/in a good mood/feeling like a rockstar that day, then I *try* to tackle the whining with the following: Evaluate the originator of the whine – is it my younger child who may be frustrated at not being understood or my 4 year old for another reason? Then I check to see if they are hungry/tired/thirsty OR have they been asking me for something repeatedly and I have been subconsciously ignoring them. Then, I ask them to repeat what they want using a ‘normal’ speaking voice. If they can’t calm down enough for that, I ask them to take deep breaths and count to 10. Usually, though, I imitate them or ignore them and they get louder until I can’t take it anymore.