Real Life Solutions: Keeping Whining at Bay

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: The other day, I took my daughter to a park and we played most of the day. As soon as we came home, she began to whine and said she had nothing to do. I have noticed that no matter how active we are, she complains. I don’t like this behavior and when I lecture her on being grateful, she just rolls her eyes. Any suggestions?

A: Whenever you try to change a child’s behavior, first look at your own. Do you whine and complain and model this behavior? Think about your conversation at meals, in the car, and on the phone. Sometimes parents are the culprit and need to get a handle on their own complaining behavior.

If that is not the case, consider this: Most children today have grown up with loving parents who provide lots of toys and stimulation. They aren’t used to being “bored.” So no amount of lecturing will do.

Instead, you have to do something about the whining that does not involve words. Tell your daughter that Mom and Dad made a mistake by paying attention to her whining and complaining. From now on, you will both ignore that behavior when it happens. You will walk away from her when she whines.

Then do it. Do not give any attention to that behavior when it happens or you will reinforce it. It is OK to give one warning when she says she is bored. Say something like: “It’s up to you to find something to do” or give one suggestion. After that, ignore complaints. Remember that whining usually means she wants to do something other than what is available, she wants you to change your mind, or she wants to do something she can’t do at the moment. So be resolved to use this ignoring strategy.

Keep in mind that when you begin to ignore an obnoxious behavior, it may escalate at first because the child is used to you responding. Do not give in when she escalates and the behavior will soon disappear. But you have to be consistent and give it a week or so.


Great advice, Dr. Mintle! I may give these tactics a try with my own whiny kid. (Anyone else feel like they might scream if they hear, "Mom, I’m hungry!" again today?) How do you tame whining? — Jessie