Why do kids grizzle and whine?

Why do kids grizzle and whine? Because it works! Like chicks in a nest that pester and peck until their parent regurgitates worm bits down their throats, kids have learned that whining gets them what they want. Do you want to spend time trapped with grizzly, whiney kids? No? Then promise yourself, “I am never going to give in to a request made to me in a whiney voice. Or a cranky, bullying one either.”

When they come at you with, “Gran, Gran, Grandmaaaa!” say, “Sorry, I’m not listening to that. If you want my answer now, it’s no. Pop away, practice your nice polite voice and come back and ask me again.” I doubt it will work straight away – they might just notch up the volume and unpleasantness. But stand your ground and repeat the ‘nice polite voice’ instruction.

And you know what? They will – they will come back and ask you in a nice polite voice. Then you can say, “No!” I’m kidding – you don’t have to be cruel. Listen to them. When they discover that well-mannered requests work well for them and whining never works, you will start to see a shift in tone at your place.

Remember also when they speak to you, be fully present. Stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. If they can see that you are listening to them and are fully present, then chances are they won’t need to repeat themselves over and over again.

240_f_158494530_0nsxfced4rrbyiui3gp3ro0xawpwt8fkBy the way, it is important you model the voice you want. Many parents and grandparents ask me, “Why does my child grizzle and whine?” – in a grizzly tone of voice of their own. Some mysteries are not that deep. If you whine and grizzle back at them, guess what they will learn? Drag up the acting skills you use for job interviews and visiting relatives, switch on a soft lilting voice without a hint of edge or threat, and say, “When you can speak to me as softly and politely as I’m talking to you, I will listen.”


By John Cowan, The Parenting Place

Improving and equipping families to thrive.

Read more from John and The Parenting place here.