Will you please STOP WHINING!

Feb 02, 2021
Frustrated mum with head in hands

Researchers say they may now have scientifically proven that a child whining is one of the most distracting sounds on the planet.

Worse than the unpleasant screeches of a table saw catching repeatedly on a piece of wood. Even harder to ignore than cringe-inducing exaggerated baby-talk of caregivers known as “motherese.”

The sound of a whining child tops them all as the most distracting, according to new research published in the latest edition of the online peer-reviewed Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology.

So short of advising ear defenders, I thought I'd give a bit of background info.

  • When your child whines - it is usually out of habit - they don't know how to get their needs met without using that tone
  • They know that that tone gets a reaction from us, so the whining does work. It gives them the attention they want
  • They don't distinguish between positive and negative attention - any attention is good
  • We often get in a cycle of responding to the whining by giving them what they are asking for, making their unconscious strategy effective
  • They may be testing boundaries that we haven't been very clear on, they may have a strong emotion they can't control or we may have asked them to do something they weren’t expecting and they feel upset about it
  • Know that they aren't doing it on purpose. They don't want to feel whiny or unhappy
  • They get in a pattern with whining and find it hard to get out of it. We often get in a pattern with nagging or shouting and also find it hard to change

So how can we change things:

  • Describe to your child how whining makes you feel 'When you use that tone of voice, I really find it hard to listen to you and it makes me feel irritated'
  • Describe how you want to feel 'I want to listen to you and see if I can help'
  • Stay clear in your mind about what you are prepared or not prepared to give them and really try not to cave in because of the noise.  (‘Oh for goodness sake, just be quiet – here’s another chocolate biscuit’ will not help in the long run!)
  • Don’t use negative labels like ‘You’re so spoilt, bratty, whiny and annoying’ - it only serves to shame them
  • Use a bit of humour - exaggeratedly rub your ears and say 'Do you know, I just can't hear what you say when you use that voice.  Try another tone of voice and see if I can hear you'
  • Get them to do a 'replay' - say with a positive tone of voice 'Whoops. I think you need to rewind there and try again with a polite request'
  • You can also press pause 'I am going to press pause and walk away to give you a bit of time to calm down.  When you are ready, you can ask me again'
  • Instead of giving the lecture about how life isn't fair, or that they have to because you say so just empathise 'Yup, I know it doesn't feel fair. That's tough isn't it?' - don't use a sarcastic tone of voice though.
  • If they say 'Nobody else has to...' Respond with 'It often feels that way doesn't it. That you are the ONLY one who gets asked to help with chores'.  Don't get involved in an argument.  Leave it at that.

I really hope you have found these ideas and insights helpful.

There is a selection of FREE resources to download from my website and if you would like to talk about how we can work together book a free Discovery Call here.


Stay connected with my parenting tips, inspiration and special offers. 

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from me.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.