How to Stop Your Child’s Whining in Its Tracks

Yes, you really can make the whining stop!

The 4 Types of children each have a unique whine

We tend to think that whining just comes with the territory of parenting. But it’s actually a message. And if you know how to listen to it, you can turn whining into an exception, rather than a daily frustration.

In this episode, Carol impersonates all 4 Types of whining. (If you’re not sure which Type of child you’re raising, this will give you clues!)

This week’s Parenting Practice

Next time your child whines, use two simple steps:

    • 1. Notice the unmet need that’s driving the whine. Is it emotional or physical?
    • 2. Train your child to ask for what they need respectfully. (Consider using the toolbox of phrases that Anne and Carol share in the episode.)

Transcript of podcast episode

Anne: You’re just hungry. Everyone’s hungry. I’m just not even gonna go there right now and try and like solve this problem because it’s not even about that. Let’s go get some food.

Carol: Welcome to “The Child Whisperer Podcast.” I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the best-selling parenting book, “The Child Whisperer.” I’m with my co-host, Anne Tuttle Brown. What’s today’s question, Anne?

Anne: Today’s question comes from a Type 3 mom. She has three-year-old twins, Type 3 and Type 2. “I often feel overwhelmed by my twins. What has become most difficult is their whining. It starts in the morning with they wake up, crying and whining for no reason that I can see. Lately, the whining has taken over to an extent that I cannot bear with both girls, but more so with my Type 2. Her general tone of voice is whining, crying, or screaming, even if she just wants something simple, more water in her cup, a different puzzle. With her being a Type 2, I am trying to give her special mom time or kneel down when I speak to her, or touch her gently, but my patience is running out.”

Carol: Well, first of all, I love this question because whining is a part of the childhood experience. Being a parent, you deal with whining. So, we’re really gonna help you today with how to stop the whining, because I think part of it is we accept it as sort of normal kid behavior, but really, is it?

Anne: That you just put up with it and get frustrated with?

Carol: Yeah, that somehow whining comes with having kids. And what if you could eliminate whining? What if there’s a strategy that you could actually remove it from?

Anne: Tell us, Child Whisperer. How do you do it? How do you stop the whining?

Carol: How do you get rid of the whining? Well, in this case, I’m gonna speak specifically to this mom’s scenario, and then we’re gonna look at the four types of…You can actually type the whine. You can look at how a child whines. There’s different qualities of whining-ness that are actually very true to types. This will be interesting. You could profile your children according to their whining.

Anne: You can type everything.

Carol: That’s right.

Anne: In this mom’s case, she’s a Type 3.

Carol: Yeah, and the twins are Type 3s, so I’m looking at that right away saying, well, the Type 2 child, which is the more subdued, gentle nature, is sandwiched in between to higher movement, push forward, move swift energies. And so, there’s a good chance that her subtle clues and requests weren’t noted, and she had to amp it up to get her needs met.

Anne: And she’s been doing it for…she’s three years old, and so has just been used to doing it, communicating that way?

Carol: Yeah, could be. It’s like, “Well, my Type 2 children are more typical whiners,” because they have an emotional connection to the world. So, whining is this emotional expression of some need is not met. And an interesting thing that parents do with whining is they’ll respond to it because they wanna stop the whining. Yeah, and in responding to the whine, and kinda catering to the request to the whine, teaches your child this is an appropriate form of communication. “Yeah, it works. You’re listening to me now, you’re paying attention.” And so, in just kind of backwards way, we train a child to whine. It becomes a second language for them. And in an effort to stop the whine, you’re actually encouraging the whine. And so, that’s the thing, you know, how much have you supported a child’s needs when they whine, because you thought this will stop it, and yet it does train them to use that strategy again. And it’s a subconscious message that just says, “This is how you communicate and I will meet your needs.” So, you’ve got to re-train your children.

Anne: That can take time.

Carol: It can.

Anne: I think as parents, we can whine to the whine too. “What do you need? Stop whining.” You know?

Carol: That’s true.

Anne: What happens to the kid, they only get more defensive and…

Carol: You’re both…The parent’s whining and the child’s whining now because you’re expressing yourself through an emotional filter. It’s like it’s all emotional. They’re upset, there’s stress being expressed. And so, you’ve got to train yourself first, stay sort of stabilize yourself to not go into that emotional response of upset, frustration, however you go there to try to stop your child from whining.

Anne: I think it’s important to have like three phrases that you go to, that you can say calmly, “Use your voice, what do you need, I’m listening to you.” I have a Type 2 who’s almost two. He’s two-years-old and he…I know there’s a tendency for Type 2s to whine. Typically, Type 2s speak a little bit later, and mumble. They have a softer tone of voice, and so he has done a lot of like grunting or pointing and mmm-mmm, you know? And so, I tried teaching him some signs. That has been helpful. But also, I’ll say, “I’m listening. What do you need? Show me. Use your words.” And so, that has helped because he’ll just wanna say, “Mee,” and point and…

Carol: And so, you have a choice at that moment to just respond.

Anne: Yeah. And I’ve caught myself responding and being like, “Wait. No.” I wanna train him to use his words, to speak up, to voice that. And knowing he’s a Type 2 has helped me really be motivated to do that, so he has those words and tools.

Carol: So, rather than say, “Stop your whining,” what else could you… you know, those statements you’ve just shared, use your voice. Now, we have a family member that I consider a master at this. It’s my Type 4 son-in-law, our oldest daughter’s husband. I have witnessed him in every case, that children have used, emotional expressions through their voice that we could call whining. He stays very placid, very steady, and he tells them to approach it differently. “Talk to me, use your words.” He’ll even say, “You know that won’t work with me.” And he gives them his full attention. He’s engaged, he’s present, and he’s inviting them to get calm, ground themselves basically, and share what they want. And he’s right there. He will engage with them, he’ll show up for them. He’s not distracted doing something else saying, “Stop whining,” or…

Anne: “Tell me what you want,” while you’re doing…yeah.

Carol: Yeah. No, he’s fully present. I’ve told him. I’ve said, “You are so steady with this.” He’s trained his children that in order to be heard, they need to use a different approach.

Anne: I think that’s so respectful of the children. In a way, he’s saying, “I know that you can say what you want.”

Carol: Yes. And, “I will hear you.”

Anne: Yeah. And to be able to say, “I expect more of you and I know that you can do it.” Like, I think that’s really empowering to a kid to be able to say, “My dad’s looking at me. Okay, I wanna tell him. What do I need?” And in the long haul, as an adult, those qualities are really going to benefit you, to be able to speak up and say what you want clearly.

Carol: And they have four boys, one of each type, and they actually shift pretty quick to communicate in a more calm way.

Anne: Well, they know what dad expects from them. What about Type 1 mom?

Carol: She’s not as consistent. She knows it.

Anne: That’s why I think you need those three go-to phrases where you’re just like [crosstalk 00:07:37].

Carol: Okay, repeat those again.

Anne: Well, what I’ve used is this. “I hear you. Use your voice. What do you need? I’m here for you.” It doesn’t have to be long and short. You say, “Use your words. Use your words. What do you need?” And I will even say, “Say, ‘Mom, I’d like some water, please.'” Rather than just pointing, you know? And that’s not whining, but it could if I wasn’t listening. And over time, he would know, “All I have to do is just get mom’s attention through some sort of noise.” And so, even at that young age, saying, “What do you need? What do you need?” and give them the words to use back to you.

Carol: A setting I see this happening, and let’s say you’re shopping at the grocery store. Your child’s a little tired. You may have been running a bunch of errands and you run into a friend. And now your child’s tired and kind of like wanting to be complete with this experience, and you start chatting with your friend. And now they want your attention. And you, you know, give them a moment of, “Shh, okay, just a minute,” and keep chatting with your friend. And your child ramps it up, and they get more whiny because they’re not being heard. And there’s a physical issue now presenting itself. They’re tired, they could be hungry. They’ve reached their point of, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Anne: Yeah, they’ve been kicking in the car or the cart.

Carol: And moms, then, tend to give the priority to the friend…

Anne: Oh, I’ve been there for sure.

Carol: …and overlook the child, and then think, “My child is just interrupting me. He’s kind of a nuisance.” It’s like, well, not really, considering the scenario and the bigger picture in that child, yeah, it may be in the best interest to say, “Hey, it’s fun to see you. I’ll give you a call. Yeah, you know, send me a text.” You set up an opportunity to connect at another time and recognize. “I can’t put…My child’s met their limit.”

Anne: I’ve been in that scenario and I’m just like, “Quiet, quiet, quiet,” you know? Just like, pushing them to the sofa. If I were to say excuse me to my friend, give my child that attention and say, “Mom’s talking to her friend right now. It will be just a couple more minutes.” Like, give them that one-on-one attention and know that like…Because I’ve been like, “Oh, I’m talking,” I don’t wanna…It’s embarrassing or whatever to deal with this situation. Just talk to your kid, communicate, and say, “It will just be a minute longer. Thank you. I appreciate your patience.” Or, like you said, if it’s just gone too far, just cut it off and get out of the store as fast as you can.

Carol: There’s really two things to consider. Is the whine being driven by a physical need, tiredness, hunger, the child’s just susceptible to being cranky?

Anne: Hangry.

Carol: Hangry. We do that as adults because we haven’t gotten the sleep we need or we’re more quick to get emotional. Or is the whine being driven by an unmet emotional need? So, that’s the first question to ask yourself. Where is this coming from? Is it an unmet physical need at the moment? Is it an unmet emotional need of not being heard? They’re not being supported.

Anne: As far as the physical needs go, I’ve been there with my kids before where I’m like trying to resolve this issue and then I’m just like, “You’re just hungry.” Everyone’s hungry. I’m just not even gonna go there right now and try and like solve this problem because it’s not even about that. Let’s go get some food. And I always love when it’s that because it’s a simple solution with some food. All right, let’s talk about the different types of whine. Type 1.

Carol: Our Type 1 child is what we call in “The Child Whisperer” the Fun-Loving Child. They have an upward, bright, animated nature. They have an up and out movement. They have more bounce to their step. They have that rise and fall quality to their movement. And so, their whine is gonna sound very pitchy. Kind of squeaky, screaming…

Anne: My Type 1 nephew. I was on my phone with my sister.

Carol: Screeching. Screeching.

Anne: It was a squeal. He was a high-pitch going, “Waah,” so yeah, very pitchy. I think it could probably last shorter too, kind of connect, disconnect quality. The Type 2 whine is going to be more of the standard whine, long and drawn out, and it will be harder to distract them in getting them…

Carol: There’s some tears, possibly, crying, “Mooommm,” they’ll say…where they Type 1 would be like, “Moommm.” The Type 2 will be, “Moomm,” kind of falling down, like falling of the pitch.

Anne: Pretty amazing. It’s that wave, that S-curve, that looming…

Carol: Little bit of a martyr energy coming along with it, like the, “Poor me,” and…

Anne: The sad. Whereas the Type 3, it will be mad, is the feeling, and that will come out like whine [crosstalk 00:12:18]

Carol: Kind of put your foot down and demanding.

Anne: And it will be very, like, extreme. My daughter will do that where I’m like all of the sudden, now, like, “Today was the worst day ever.” Like, she goes big with her whining.

Carol: It’s not passion with the whine. Type 4 a judgment or a critique. It often sounds like, “I hate you. I don’t wanna live anymore.” There’s this extreme expression of judgment, that things are so bad, “This is so stupid. You’re not listening to me.”

Anne: “No one listens to me.” Yeah, it’ll be very outside those judgments and critiques. And so…

Carol: Now that you can type your children by their whine, you’ll be able to make that adjustment. And rather than judge it to be a nuisance, recognize you have some steps. So, let’s get into this week’s practice, Anne.

Anne: Step one, notice what’s driving the whine. Is the unmet need physical or emotional? And then, train your child to ask for what they need respectfully. Use that toolbox of phrases we gave you, come up with some for your own, and be patient in that process because it’s re-training both yourself and your child.

Carol: So, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use these tools this week. Count on it. Be glad you have them. And what if, what if you could have a whine-free or whine-less child? I think that’s an interesting concept to consider, that it kind of comes with the childhood experience, yet, is this mother, going back to our question, it’s become the norm. Whining should be the exception, not the norm. And in her case, where it’s now become the norm, sort of the set point, there’s an opportunity for looking at what’s driving this, what’s the unmet need, and then, I need to do some behavior modification and train my children how to ask for what they want. Because possibly you have trained them that the whine works very well.

Thanks for listening. For more support, go to thechildwhisperer.com where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly parenting practice email, and find the transcription and audio of “The Child Whisperer Podcast.”

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving your review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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