Whining and whingeing

Question: My child has started whining for things and about things. The sound just gets on my nerves. I know I am over-reacting. Got any ideas?

Call it what you like- moaning, complaining, grumbling, bleating, belly-aching, being grumpy, griping and sounding querulous- it gets every parent’s attention and jangles your nerves. This grating voice is guaranteed to get your attention and to wind you up. The bad news is that it is, without doubt, one of the things that ‘gets’ to most parents. You are not alone!

The good news is that this wears off and older children rarely resort to whining. You can accelerate this process by the way you react so that your child does not resort to using this tone of voice when they are unhappy about something.

Children do not whine to deliberately get on your nerves. They whine to attract you attention because, for whatever reason, they don’t feel heard. When they see your reaction to the sound of the whining- they can see what a brilliant strategy it is!

You can get change by starting to think about what is going on in your child’s life. If your child showed more mature behaviour in the past, then ask what is going on that is prompting a phase of ‘babyhood’ behaviour. Often whining comes with the arrival of a sibling. If the sibling appears to get rewards for being ‘little’ then this can prompt toddler reactions in your child, whatever their real age. So check any transitions, demands, changes that are going on and adjust any routines to increase a senses of security.


  • This has to start with you keeping the ‘blank’ face, the one that you used to use when your toddler did something very funny but you couldn’t let them see you laugh. If they see you affected by the whining this will only increase the problem. Children take their cues from the adults. Stay calm.
  • If you don’t want whining, then don’t allow it in any situation. Allowing it sometimes will only prolong the problem. It may be easier, in the short term, to give in to the whining at the supermarket check-out by buying the treat but it perpetuates the behaviour.
  • Refuse to converse with your child whilst they carry on the whining tone- only when it stops. If the child is young you might then give the reward. With a child of 8 or more, you can also point out the improved relationships that follow- that the smiles and pleasure in each other’s company is rewarding.
  • Be careful about imitating the sound of whining back to the child. It does show the child how upsetting it is but this may be construed by the child as you making fun of them. Children are deeply distressed by mockery.

Every parent reading this blog is wishing you well. Lots of us have been in this situation. Tell us how it goes. You can always write in again about this or new questions.