Dear Moms: If Your Kid's Whiny, You Only Have Yourself To Thank

If your kid is a whiner, you my friend, are to blame.

little girl crying on swing Yulai Studio / Shutterstock

As the youngest kid of four, I got my parents when they were good and tired, and not fresh into the “Hey we’re new parents” scenario. In some ways, this rocked: they didn’t have the energy to fight a very persistent me but on the other hand, this stunk for the exact same reason.

Sometimes, I needed someone to fight with me and say no. It’s not just my birth order that makes me persistent: that trait was handed down to me by my father, and in many ways has served me well, especially professionally. But sometimes, my whininess to get my way and my persistence turned into a bad thing.


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Now here I am today, raising a preschooler myself as an almost-divorced mom and trying to teach her how to push (but not push so much that you get under someone’s skin) and that it's good to fight for something you want (but not at the sake of everyone’s sanity.)

Nothing good comes from whining yet from time to time, I have seen my daughter, my nephews, and nieces, as well as all my friends’ children, complain until the cows come home.

Was moaning and groaning successful for these kids? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I admit that as much as I try to toe the hardline, there are days I'm too tired to fight my daughter's whining and just say, “Alright already.” But it’s a slippery slope and one I'm working hard to avoid sliding down. Because the fact is: if your kid is a whining, moaning, complaining mess there is only one person to thank for that — and it’s not genetics or your in-laws.


It’s you.

It’s you and your partner’s fault (and okay, maybe the grandparents, too) that your kid is a big fat whiner.

How did this happen you ask? Here's how.

1. You're so exhausted you cave in.

Have you ever been so tired that when your kid asked you for the same thing you already said no to for the fiftieth time you finally cave and say yes? Congratulations! You've taught your child to whine until he or she gets what he wants and no, this isn’t a victory dance I'm doing for you. Trust me, I've been the “caver” — here's an alternative method I've been trying in order to eliminate the “whiny” monster:

1. Say “asked and answered” each time my child repeats the question that I have already answered no to.
2. Ignore and say nothing.
3. Walk away for a few minutes in order to not have a mental breakdown.
4. Tell my kid she’s draining my battery with her whining and will need to do chores to “reboot” me.
5. Tell her I can’t hear whiny voices. It hurts my ears.


2. You constantly change your mind.

Do you tell your child no and then because they’re whining, modify your response? Like if your child asks for dessert after you’ve said no because he or she wasn’t listening, do you then say, "If you’re quiet for the next ten minutes, you can have dessert?” If you do, you’re grooming your kid to be a monstrous whiner. It’s okay to cut kids slack sometimes — when my daughter has not had a nap, I cut her a break — but bending too much shows your kid that whining will help get him or her way.

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3. You give your kid too many chances.

When your kid complains about her dinner or bedtime, or perhaps about which way the wind blew, do you nip it in the bud right then and there or do you give your kid chances to quit the whining?

Just like when you tell your kid to stop doing any bad behavior, if you give your little one too many chances to fix his or her whiny-pants behavior, your little prince or princess will realize that you’re not that serious.


Take no prisoners when it comes to whining for if you let this behavior roll on, your kid will be the pain-in-the-ass adult that no one likes. Do you want that? I think not.

4. You agree to things because Allison's parents said yes.

If your child loves to say how his or her friends, grandparents, or even father lets them do X, Y, and Z yet YOU, the evil witch won’t, do you give in so you don’t have to hear his or her nasally-pitched whine?

If you do, you’ve already given up on parenting. This is the tough part: saying no and being the bad guy while everyone else “looks” like the cool guy. Sure, maybe your kid’s friend’s parents allow their kids to do certain things that you won’t permit but perhaps your kid is lying. Maybe his or her friend says the parents are cool with it, but they might not be.

It’s not fun to be the party-killer, but if you let guilt and fatigue shame you into giving in to your sweet “wittle” whiner, you’re not raising a kid to tolerate the lows and highs of life. Instead, you’re setting unrealistic expectations that life will always say yes. Teach your children to tolerate hearing no today while the consequences are low and they’re still little.


5. You feel guilty.

Maybe your kid has special needs, you just divorced, your child is sick, you went back to work — whatever the situation — it's bringing you serious mom guilt. Mom guilt is powerful.

It was hard for me as a newly-separated and newly-working mommy to take away certain privileges from my daughter at night after school, on one of the few times (minus every other weekend) that I had her. What made me get past this mom guilt? I told myself that while she may be upset because I revoked a privilege today, I'm teaching her how to own her actions now so that later in life, she'll be a happy and responsible adult.

You may not even realize you’re doing this when you do. You might give in and say, ‘Just this one time,” or think to yourself, “But I feel so bad for my child,” or “He/she can’t really help it.” Don’t let these little mind games get to you. Resist the whining and your child will thank you when he or she is older.


Bottom line: Parenting is hard and it asks us to make tough and not-so-fun choices every day. Teach your child that tolerating no, speaking in a clear non-whiny voice, and accepting the responsibility for his or her actions is an absolute must — and I promise that your kid will enter the world (and all of its complications and drama) with a good head on his or her shoulders!

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Laura Lifshitz is a writer, former MTV personality, and Columbia University graduate who writes about divorce, relationships, women’s issues, and parenting for The New York Times, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.