How can I possibly stop my kids from whining and complaining about everything? Why does my 2-year-old still fuss for everything he wants? What does my seven-year-old whine when I ask her to put away her toys? Dealing with whining has some nuances, but a lot of it is the same whether you have a whining 2-year-old or a 10-year-old complaining about their homework.
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If you are asking these or similar questions, you are not alone. Whining is one of the most challenging and pervasive issues we deal with as parents of young kids.
Why does my child whine all the time?
First I want to say I am so sorry. If you are reading this article and have a kiddo at home struggling with whining, that issue can wear a momma down. So I empathize wholeheartedly with the days that seem endless because of the whining.
Hang in there! It will pass. You can take practical steps to help your kids mature out of this habit, so have hope! It will require some hard work, and it may feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but if you stick with it, it will get better, and both you and your kids will be happier.
One of the first things parents need to ask themselves when their child is consistently whining is, “Why is my child whining?” I know that may sound a bit obvious, but it’s important to make sure that the reason they’re whining is not something that you’re doing wrong as a parent. Persistent whining is often a symptom of some deeper issue. If it’s something they do every once in a while, that’s a bit different. But let’s dig a little deeper to help you determine where to root issue lies.
Stopping the whining starts with you.
Like most parenting issues, the fix starts with us, the parents! So often God is growing us at the same time he is growing our children. Since this is the case, I’ll start with our internal work and move out from there!
If I am honest, the last year has seen an increase of whining in my own heart. Yes, it has been a hard year, but my complaining hasn’t helped it become any less difficult. (Here are some things that do help in unstable times) I think this has been a human problem since the beginning of time. I am reading through the Old Testament, and time and time again, the Israelites main problem was their whining and complaining.
So the first thing I have to do is acknowledge that I am prone to whining and complaining, just like my kids! This way, I can view it as something we all need to work on together.
Alright, now that I have admitted to my own whining, time to help my kiddos tackle theirs.
Whining is annoying. So the first thing I do before I correct my kids whining is take a couple of deep breaths and make sure I am in teaching and training mode and not “you’re irritating me, and I just want it to stop” mode. I know this is challenging, but we can’t expect our kiddos to have self-control if we aren’t modeling it! So the first challenge is to make sure you are in a calm and loving space to bring instruction.
Identify the cause of the whining or complaining
We need to identify the cause of the whining. I deal with an overtired 2-year-old differently than I deal with a 7-year-old complaining about chores. So step 1 is to identify the cause. If it is a hungry toddler, deal with the underlying issue!
How to Deal with Toddler (1-year-old to 2-year-old) Whining
Let’s get a snack, but require a calm and polite ask first. This teaches your toddler that you will meet his needs, but whining is not the way we get what we want. Be consistent with this. I know it is a difficult day in and day out, but requiring courtesy from our kids helps them grow more into the people we want to help them become.
Is it a 3-year-old falling apart after a day at the zoo? Get them to bed as quickly as possible, but continue to remind them gently that whining does not get us what we want.
Giving in. Is it really helping?
Giving in to the whining almost always seems like the easy thing to do at the moment, and it is, but when you do that, you are building a habit with and for your child that they will maintain or have to break later, and that is so much more difficult than putting in the training now.
The hard truth about whining and complaining
The most arduous part and effective way of curbing whining is consistently refusing to give in to it.
We already know this principle, right? The important things almost always require hard work! I ran into this scripture the other morning in my Bible reading, and it was such an encouragement to me.
“And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.“
Rejoice! In all that we undertake! Even in training our kids to stop whining!
I can’t tell you how many times I would be halfway through a day and be so frustrated and not even realize why! This verse would be a great one for me to go to in those moments!
And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.Deuteronomy 12:18b
Let’s get to the root of the issue.
Okay, back to the cause. If it is not an issue of being hungry or tired, then we get down to the real nitty-gritty. The truth: Whining reveals an ungrateful heart. In our children and in ourselves.
We repeat that to our children often, so by now, they know it. Whining or complaining reveals an ungrateful heart. It is impossible to be simultaneously grateful and complaining.
Complaining reveals an ungrateful heart.
The Word says we need to do everything without grumbling or complaining — we are simply teaching our children and ourselves to agree with God!
Common causes for whining and complaining.
Here are the most common causes for whining at our house.
Whining for something they want
When your child is whining, they need to return to gratitude. I will often have my children stop and make a list if they are whining about something they want and don’t have (I do this for myself too). They sit and make a list of at least 10 things they are grateful for. Often this cheers their hearts, but even when it doesn’t, it has calmed their bodies and brought them face to face with truth.
My children also know that whining for something is a pretty good guarantee they will not get it anytime soon. It doesn’t matter if the thing they want is a snack or a new lego set. Whining does not produce the desired result.
Sometimes, mommas, we say yes too often. Our children need to get used to the answer being no every so often. Now, this might increase the whining for a season, but it will give you more opportunity in practicing one of our most used parenting phrases. Ready…Here it is.
We accept answers with JOY.
No negotiating, no backtalk, and definitely no whining.
Say this often to your kids. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are consistent, you will see a serious reduction in whining once your kids have become accustomed to the requirement of accepting answers with JOY.
We accept answers with JOY!
On the flip side, we can quickly recognize and rejoice when our kids accept a “no” graciously. We want to celebrate their progress with them! We will sometimes have a dance party to celebrate these hard choices. Their growth is worth celebrating.
Whining about work
The most prolific type of whining we currently have in our home is whining about work. This could be complaining about a chore or doing homework, or even stopping to pick up a dropped coat or shoes. This one drives me batty, y’all. I’ll be honest. But my aggravation has never solved a parenting problem, so here is what I try to do instead.
If you complain about something you are asked to do, you will be asked to do an additional task until you can do what you have been asked with joy.
This can make for a long day the first few times, but your kids will learn. Hard work is not bad. You want to raise kids who have grit and can work hard without whining or complaining, right?
Work is one of the things we were created to do. We might as well do it with joy when we can!
Getting your child to stop whining is hard, but so worth it.
It’s not easy, my friends, but it is worth it, and this really is how to stop your kids from whining. One of the universal truths about parenting that I have realized is that the best things for my children are often the hardest things for me. That is ok. It allows me to practice what I preach, right? To do the hard work without grumbling or complaining.
Be patient with yourself and your children.
Don’t get discouraged. You and your kids are growing in grace together. It will not happen overnight, and you will have days where you blow it, or they blow it. The important thing is that you all keep trying and growing.
Ask for grace continually. Let your kids see and hear you ask for grace. Teach them to ask with you!
Remind them often that you are not requiring anything of them that God doesn’t also require of you.
Remind them often that you are all working towards a common goals:
Becoming more like Jesus!
Having a home filled with peace and joy!
You’re in this together.
Positive parenting tools for every parent
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Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment.
We even offer an "Exemption Time" for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation
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Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids - FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid's Printable Journals -- created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child's daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks.
If you're looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable - Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer
If you're looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly "missions."
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
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