What to do:
Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it when my child whines, nags, and complains, but I can stand it. It's just annoying."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "It's normal for my child to try to get my attention any way she can. I know how it feels to want to complain when you're upset."
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to get what she wants without whining, nagging and complaining-the more kind tone of voice and language that she uses, the better she and others will feel."
Ignore Whining, Nagging and Complaining. Because these can become easy ways for your child to demand your attention, ignore the noise. When he asks for things nicely, give him lots of praise and attention.
Model a Polite Voice. Even if she cannot yet talk in words, your very young child is listening to your voice and hearing the tone you use. Model the polite tone and words you want your child to learn from your example.
Practice Empathy. When your child whines, nags or complains, kindly ask her, "How would you feel if your friend, Kiki, whined to beg you to go to the movies? Would you like it?" Giving her the opportunity to put herself on the receiving end of whining helps her see how it feels to others when she whines. The lesson? Treat others how you want to be treated!
Make a Rule. Say, "The rule is that if you want me to change a decision I made, you need to ask me to discuss what you want without whining, complaining or nagging about it."
Repeat the Rule. When your child is trying to manipulate you by nagging about something to which you've already said "No", stick to your original rule by asking, "Tell me what the rule is." This takes the power out of nagging and builds trust that your child can count on you to mean what you say.
Model and Praise. Tell your child, "When you want something, ask me in a nice way, like this: 'May I please have a glass of water?' Then have her practice asking for things without whining. Say "Thanks! That was so polite!" when she does.
Define What Whining Sounds Like. Your child may not know what you mean when you ask her to "not whine" or "not nag". Give her examples of what you don't want her to do by asking for something in a whining voice...and then what you want her to do, by asking for something in a pleasant, non-whining voice. Have her practice both, too...so she can feel the difference when she does both, too.
Praise Non-Whining Times. To show your child the vivid contrast between how you respond when he does and doesn't whine, immediately praise his quieting down by saying, "Your voice is so pleasant! That's not whining. I'm glad you asked to read a book without nagging or whining. Let's do it!" or "I haven't heard you whine for the longest time!" or "Thanks for not whining!"
Use Calm Time to Teach. When your child's whining continues even after you've taught her how to express herself positively using a pleasant voice, tell her that she can whine as much as she wants but that she must do it in Calm Time. Accept her feelings by saying, "Sometimes it just feels good to whine and complain when we are feeling sad or frustrated. Go to Calm Time to help you get it out of your system and get calm. Then you'll feel better." So, let her whine away...away from you!
When Calm Time is over, talk with your child about how to ask for things in a kind voice, not a harsh and demanding tone. Tell her that it's good manners to use a pleasant voice when asking for things, and that not whining, nagging and complaining will feel better for her and for those who hear it. It's the whining you don't love. You always love your child!
Play the Gratitude Game. To refocus your child on what he can be grateful for, instead of what he's missing, say, "Name two things you're grateful for! Your nose? Your eyes?" Also, simply asking him to tell you some good things in his life will help refocus him on the positive, instead of complaining about what's wrong.
What not to do:
Don't "Give In" to Whining, Complaining or Nagging. If you give your whining child attention by getting upset or giving him what he's whining for, you're teaching him that whining is the way to get what he wants.
Don't Whine, Complain or Nag Yourself. Adult complaining may sound like whining to a child. If you're doing it, your young child may think it's okay for him to do it, too. If you're in a bad mood, don't get angry with your child because you're angry with the world. Simply tell him that you're feeling out of sorts; don't whine about it. Change your negative self-talk to positive to show your child how to change moods. (HINT: You may want to go to Calm Time, too, sometimes, when you feel like whining and complaining!)
Don't Get Angry with Your Child. Don't get angry with your child because he's having an off day. He'll not only mistake your outbursts for attention, but he'll feel a sense of power over you because his behavior created your angry response. He may continue to whine when he knows it gets your attention-even angry attention is better than being ignored, in your child's eyes.
Don't Punish Your Child for Whining, Complaining or Nagging. Responding sarcastically by saying, "I'll give you something to really whine about," when your child whines only creates conflict between you and your child. It tells him that it's never okay to whine, which makes him feel guilty for having disgruntled feelings. As with your own behavior when you are upset, whining may be the only way your child can vent frustrations at the time.