Why does my child whinge so much?

How to stop your child from whingeing

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You’ve already said no to chocolate for breakfast and then to letting him go swimming at the beach on a freezing winter’s morning, but now he’s demanding he watches Paw Patrol all day long. Every time you say no and try to put a firm boundary in place, cue the incessant whingeing — and it’s only 11am. 

Yep, whingeing is the soundtrack to so many parents’ lives. And like most of the curve balls we get thrown in parenthood, it’s not something you can ever fully prepare yourself for. Nagging, whingeing, whining — whatever you want to call it — can wear you down! 

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle and is all par for the course of kids just being kids. We spoke to Clinical Psychologist and the Director of MindMovers Psychology Jaimie Bloch about how we can best manage whingeing in our children. 

Why does my child whinge so much?

“Whingeing is all about attention. Children struggle to express their emotions through words, so they often use their behaviour as a way to signal their needs,” Jaimie explains. 

How can I stop my child from whingeing? 

Jaimie suggests implementing the three-step process below to limit whinging. 

  1. Focus on filling your child’s ‘needs bucket’ during the day. What is under the whingeing behaviour? Is it attention? How can you connect with your child and give them attention during the day so they aren’t needing it later in the evening when you are busy? Spending 20 minutes a day stepping into your child’s world and engaging in an activity they enjoy can be enough to fill this need.
  2. Connect to your child’s emotions. When a child is whingeing, they’ll be in their emotional brain. When in this brain, it’s very easy for them to become dysregulated and escalate, which is why we always need to validate and listen to them before moving them into a boundary. Remember, we must always connect to their emotion before redirecting their behaviour. You can use emotion coaching in four simple steps: 1) acknowledge they are struggling with a problem or emotion; 2) validate and empathise with their emotions; 3) normalise their frustration or hurt; and finally, 4) thank them for sharing with you how they are feeling. 
  1. Teach them about “asked and answered”. This term was coined by psychologist Lynn Lott who wrote the book Positive Discipline.  It’s a technique to stop the cycle of repetitive lecturing and the power struggle when a child wants a different answer. How does it work?

Parent: “Have you heard about asked and answered?”

Child: [They’ll most likely say no.] 

Parent: “Did you already ask me a question about ____?”

Child: “Yes.”

Parent: “Do I seem to be a parent who will change their mind if asked over and over again?”

Child: [They may ask again.]  

Parent: “Asked and answered.”

“Being consistent in this approach is key,” Jaimie stresses.   

Is whingeing good for kids?

Whingeing is a normal part of your child’s development and a tactic they often use to quickly get what they want from parents. Make sure you’re supporting your little one by dealing with their emotions but not succumbing to their demands. Giving into their whingeing demonstrates to them that it’s an effective way to get what they want and they’ll keep doing it. 

There’s no denying just how tough whingeing is on the whole family (that’s why they invented noise-cancelling headphones, right?) but i​​nstead of shutting your child down and telling them to be quiet — listen to them, ask them what their anger or frustration is trying to communicate, and empathise with them instead. 

Starting a genuine conversation as opposed to trying to sweep it under the rug is where true connection begins. In time, your little one will feel safe and secure enough to share their thoughts, feelings, and worries with you — and the whingeing should subside. 

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