How to respond to whining by Camilla McGill

Does the sound of your child’s whining voice drive you up the wall?

I don’t know about you but when I hear a child whine – and my youngest daughter who is 17 is still occasionally capable of it – it TOTALLY presses my buttons.

My initial response is ‘You’re spoilt, ungrateful and immature’

If I continue along that thought process, I get more and more irritable

When they ask ‘What’s for dinner?’

Do you get a whiny response in return when you tell them – it’s chicken and potatoes and they say.

“But I want pasta pesto, I don’t want chicken” – apply your kids tone of voice and you’ll know how it sounds.

These kinds of conversations can get more and more heated can’t they?

We wind up shouting ‘For god’s sake, just stop complaining and whining and eat what you’re given’

What happens then? We get disconnected, angry with each other and our kids feel misunderstood.

Here’s an alternative response that validates the child’s feelings and allows us to stay firm.

“I get it, you wanted pasta pesto, that’s your favourite.  Maybe you were hoping for that tonight and you’re really upset that it’s chicken and potatoes. That’s tough’

Then change the subject.  Easier said than done I know!

With little children, there will be other reasons they whine –

Can be:

A bit of a habit

Because they’re testing the boundaries that we’ve not been very clear on

Because they have to do something they weren’t expecting and they feel upset about it.

It gets results – we give them attention pretty fast (even if it’s negative attention) when they whine and kids need to get our attention.

So, what can we do about it?

Below are three things that really don’t work 

1. Don’t imitate them sarcastically and whine back – that only serves to shame them

2. Don’t sigh and give into the whining (‘Oh for goodness sake, ok I’ll make you pasta then’)

3. Don’t use negative labels like ‘You’re so spoilt, bratty, whiny and annoying’


  1. Empathise (as described above), even if we don’t like the sound of the whining, or agree with them,  we can remind ourselves, they are feeling something strongly.
  2. Get them to do a ‘replay’ – ‘I’d like you to say that in a tone of voice I can listen to, try that again without the whine’
  3. Use a bit of humour – rub your ears exaggeratedly and say something like ‘Oh, there’s a noise coming out of your mouth which I can’t hear.. I’m sure that isn’t Isabelle speaking… who is it?’

These tips are brought to you by Camilla McGill of My Parenting Solutions.
If you’d like to talk to Camilla about her private coaching packages, you can book a free discovery call or send her an email [email protected]