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Whining: What's a Parent
to Do?

By Ginger Plowman

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.

I participated in a four-day interview with Dennis Rainey on FamilyLife Today concerning one of my books. During the course of the shows, a poll was conducted to help determine which behavior problem among children was most prominent in the home and the most difficult for parents to address. “Whining” took the poll by a landslide. In addition to the conclusive evidence of the poll, as well as my personal observations after strolling through Wal-Mart on any given day, as a national speaker and parent educator, I have listened to parents all over the country express heartache over their inability to control whining. Clearly, whining has become an epidemic in America.

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 out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (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 Mommy for juice with a self-controlled voice?” You might add, “Mommy 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 Mommy is going to do to help you learn self-control. You may wear the No Whine Watch, 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.

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!     

No More Whining: Three Easy Steps to Whine-Free Living comes complete with parent’s manual, children’s book, and “No Whine Watch.” Order your copy today at

More marriage and parenting articles

Ginger Plowman, author of Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Heaven at Home and No More Whining: Three Easy Steps to Whine-Free Living, speaks at women’s events, parenting conferences and home school conventions across the country. Visit her Web site at

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