Whining and the Whiner

For some reason, whining is one of those behaviors parents tend to ignore or overlook – at least until it grates on our nerves and we suddenly find ourselves reacting to the stress and pressure of an incessant child! There’s a lot advice out there for parents to follow, but for the Christian parent, what follows is a more focused approach; one that views the training and discipline of a child as a redemptive act on the part of the parent.

Whining is a child’s attempt to get their own way; it’s no different than a temper tantrum and our response should be the same: Calm, consistent “You may not whine to get your way. Talk to me and I will listen to you.”

This response does several things:

1.      It teaches appropriate behavior

2.      It strengthens the trust bond between parent and child, and

3.      It lays the foundation for trust in a loving, caring God, of whom you are a representative.

How can you stop whining?

1.      Listen to your child’s request; you should not ignore them nor be dismissive

2.      Dialogue with your child so they will feel they have been heard

3.      State your expectations for what is right

4.      Explain and give reasons for your answer

5.      Recognize and avoid triggers, but do not excuse behavior

6.      Plan ahead to help and avoid triggers:

a.       Have a regular bedtime

b.      Have regular meals, snacks and water

c.       Provide healthy meals and snacks

d.      Keep a predictable schedule

e.       Have back-up plans for the “messed-up schedule” days

7.      Never, never ignore bad behavior; but neither does it need to be punished 100% of the time. If your child attempts to talk without whining or fussing, lovingly honor that effort and encourage their attempts.

Distractions and tickling work, yes, but they do not teach. These can be effective techniques for the parent who is getting upset. The most effective mood breaker though, is prayer.

Remember, once the bad mood is broken listen to your child and dialogue. If the answer to your child’s petition is “No”, be prepared to give a reason. Giving a reason helps your child understand the “why” behind your answer; it helps your child realize there is loving and careful thought behind the “No” that truly is in their best interest. They won’t appreciate that information while they’re young, but it will go with them as they leave the nest and start a family of their own.

If your negative answers to a child’s petition is based on the fact that you’re the parent and you “say so”, take some time to re-evaluate the situation. Being arbitrary with your power as the authority figure will weaken the trust bond between you and your child – and ultimately between your child and God.

Finally, a couple of do’s and don’ts for the persistent whiner:

Avoid telling your child such things as: “You’re driving me crazy!” or “I can’t do anything with you!”1 Such statements give control of the situation to the child.

Avoid saying “I can’t hear you when you whine.” This is not a true statement and hence, you’re telling a lie and setting a bad example.

You can say: “Your whining is making me angry inside. I need quiet time with God to calm down.” This allows you the freedom and control to send your child to a quiet place while you go to your quiet place. It also sets an example for your child that only God can calm the angry sea of emotions.

You can say: “I cannot understand your words when you whine.” This is usually the case, isn’t it? It’s also a way to encourage dialogue and reasoning.

Remember, you are God’s representative to your child(ren). Be calm, be consistent, and be instant in prayer (Romans12:12).


© 2010, C. Gillan Byrne

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Complete Published writings of EGW

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1White, E. G. (1954/2002). Discipline in the Home (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 238, ¶1). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.