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Whining: What’s a parent to do? | I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU JUST SAID THAT!

**Note from Jamerrill: My friend Ginger Hubbard is sharing her thoughts on teaching children about the topic of whining. She shares how she suggests teaching children in clear communication instead. I appreciate Ginger’s wisdom and insight in the post below! Please note (Grace for moms ?), I don’t do any of this perfectly in my world. Also, note that whining may also be a result of tired children or kiddos who don’t feel well. It’s always best to follow your momma’s heart and see if 1.) your kiddo is just whining to whine or 2.) if there’s another need they are having trouble communicating. It’s always nice to hear thoughts from other mommas! ~ Jamerrill xoxo


Whining What’s a parent to do?

Mooooommyyyyyyy, I want some juuuuice…

I don’t wanna go to sleeeeeeep….

I have to go to the baaathrooooooom…

Is there anything more annoying than whining? Perhaps, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of it.

Children who whine in an attempt to get what they want lack healthy communication skills. Parents mustn’t blame the child for this behavior. Rather, they must understand that children whine simply because they are allowed to whine. Moms and dads who permit their children to whine (by ignoring or giving in) hinder them from learning to communicate appropriately, in a way that pleases God and brings happiness to all involved. 

Children who use demanding forms of communication to express their wants and needs are in bondage to their emotions and lack of self-control. An enslaving addiction to whining does not make for a happy child. However, children who learn to communicate properly learn that self-control is a prerequisite for contentment, joy, and good living.   

While parents agree that whining is an annoying and inappropriate form of communication, many simply do not know how to address it.

Wrong Ways to Handle Whining

Scolding.  According to the Bible, scolding is an angry response that will stir anger in the heart of your child: “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).  A mom who responds to whining by yelling, “Stop that whining right now or you’re going to get it!” is training in anger and not modeling the self-control that she so desperately desires her child to learn. Correcting wrong behavior should never be an “I’ll show you” or a “Boy, you’re going to get it now” mentality.  It should be given with an attitude of “I love you too much to allow you to live an undisciplined life.”     

Ignoring and/or Giving In.  Parents have a responsibility to train their children in wisdom for daily living. When children whine, it should be viewed as a precious opportunity to train them in self-control, not as a frustrating moment of inconvenience for mom or dad. To ignore them is to shirk your responsibility to train them. To give in by granting them what they whine for, is to reward and reinforce wrong behavior. 

So, what’s a parent to do?

The Bible teaches that wrong behavior is merely the outward manifestation of the real problem, which is the heart: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of out of ” (Matthew 12:34b). A wise parent will reach past the outward behavior and address the issue of the heart, which in the case of whining, is self-control. The Bible also teaches that parents are to bring their children up in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This requires that we not only correct them for wrong behavior, but that we instruct them in right behavior. Therefore, we must take it a step further than merely telling them not to whine. We must teach them to communicate with self-control.   

Three-Step Plan to Whine-Free Living!

Step One.  Ask your child if he is speaking with a self-controlled voice. You might ask, “Sweetheart, are you asking for juice with a self-controlled voice?” You might add, “I will never give you what you want when you whine. God wants you to use self-control, even with your voice.”

Step Two.  Explain that it is love that motivates you to train him. You might say, “Honey, I love you too much to allow you to speak foolishly. Here’s what I’m going to do to help you learn self-control. I’m going to set the timer (might use a kitchen timer or stopwatch), and when the buzzer goes off in three minutes, you may come back and ask for juice the right way.”

Step Three.  Follow through. When the buzzer goes off, have the child come back and ask for juice with a self-controlled voice. It may be necessary to demonstrate the correct way to speak to help your child along. In doing this you are correcting him for wrong, and more important, training him in what is right.

If your child asks for something with a self-controlled voice and the answer is no and then the child whines, you have an issue of disrespect and defiance on your hands. This is not the time to have her ask again but to administer consequences. After consequences, however, I encourage you to walk the child through how she should have responded to your answer.

This method is effective for teaching children who ask for things in whiny voices as well as for children who use whiny voices as a general means of communicating. For example, if a child says in a whiny voice, “I don’t like that color” or “My doll stroller isn’t rolling right,” she’s not necessarily asking for something, but she is inappropriately communicating her thoughts and feelings. Whining, in this case, is simply words spoken with a bad attitude, which also reflects a lack of self-control. Don’t indulge the child by responding to her topic, but guide her to an acceptable form of communication.

Begin with the same sort of question, “Are you talking with a self-controlled voice?” Let her know that “Mommy will only talk about this with you if you speak with self-control.” Then follow through with biblical reproof and training in right communication, modeling it for her if necessary.

Avoid Power Struggles

If the child refuses to come back and ask the right way, perhaps deciding that he doesn’t want the juice after all, don’t force him to come back when the buzzer goes off, as that can encourage a power struggle. Simply don’t offer the juice and let it go. However, the next time he does ask for juice (or something else) in a whiney voice, repeat steps one through three again. 

Be consistent in training, never give in to whining, and follow through with this plan each and every time an opportunity presents itself, and you’ll have a whine-free life and a more joyful, self-controlled child before you know it!  


Pre-order Ginger’s new book I Can’t Believe You Just Said That: Biblical Wisdom for Taming Your Child’s Tongue today and receive four exclusive bonus gifts!  This revolutionary book lays out a practical, three-step plan to help parents reach beyond the behaviors of tongue related struggles—such as lying, tattling, and whining—to address your child’s heart.



Ginger Hubbard, author of I Can’t Believe You Just Said That and Don’t Make Me Count to Three, speaks at women’s events, parenting conferences and homeschool conventions across the country. Visit her website at www.GingerHubbard.com

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