Long before they are developmentally able to take the feelings of others into consideration, children are very self-centred. As such, a young child feels that all her wants and needs should be met immediately.
When that doesn’t happen, she may resort to whining. If she still doesn’t get her way, the intensity of the whining increases until either the parent gives up and gives in, or parent and child become locked in a frustrating power struggle.
A child may become whiny when he is hurt or not feeling well, so rule out these possibilities first. If your child is whining as a means to get his own way, you can help him find more effective ways of communicating.
Try not to respond to a whiny voice. When your child starts to whine, you could simply say, "I don’t like to hear you whine. When you want to ask me something, please use your speaking voice." When she stops whining, give her your full attention and a fair answer.
If possible, provide a slight distraction to change his focus. "I wish I could stay home with you today, but I have to go to work. I can’t wait to see you later and hear about all the fun you had at daycare. What do you think we should do first when we get home?"
Whining is more likely to occur when a child is hungry, tired or bored, so you can help avoid this by keeping consistent daily routines. Regular bedtimes and mealtimes not only ensure that she is always well fed and well rested, but also provide a good basic structure to the day.
Make sure that he has lots of time for play. Try to get outside every day to run and burn energy, as well as spending time playing with toys and books.
Know what triggers whining in your child and be prepared. If your child asks for treats every time you go to the grocery store, make sure she eats right before you go. Let her make some choices as you shop, "Would you like to get apples or bananas today? This cereal or that one?"
If he finds it difficult having to finish an activity he is enjoying, give him plenty of warning time. "In 10 minutes it will be time for us to go back inside." Help him change his focus to what is coming next. "In five minutes we will go in for lunch. After lunch, would you like to read a book or draw some pictures?"
Often when children whine, it is their way of asking for attention. Be sure to set aside some one-on-one time together every day, whether you are playing actively or quietly or just having a cuddle.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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