Where There's a Will There's a Whine

Dear Parentworks,

My 7 year old's whiney behavior is getting to me. Whenever I ask to do anything whines and complains and drags her feet to get it done. She will actually do it what I ask so I should be glad about that but when does the whining stop? I thought she's outgrow it by now.

- Wondering about Whining

Dear Wondering,

Your seven year old is letting you know that she doesn't like what you've asked her to do. On one hand someone may say that she's communicating and that this is a good thing. On the other hand someone could make a case that kids have a need to rebel a bit and as long as she's doing the task what are you complaining about.

However, I think that it's a family's job to define what rules apply in their own household. Parents seem to forget they can get creative about these things. If you don't like her using the high, sing-songy, complaining voice that generally defines whining - make a rule about it. For example you could say that if she wants to use that tone, no one wants to hear it and when she's done doing the task she can do it in her own room. You can use the technique where you acknowledge feelings and work to build her skills in more appropriate communication: Let her know that you see she is upset/frustrated/tired/angry but that she needs to use her words in a tone that you can understand to tell you. If she doesn't/won't you can ask her to calm herself down, in her room and when she has done so, she still needs to do the chore and then she can talk to you about it afterwards.

These are just some ideas. At seven, she does need to learn to communicate in ways which are more effective - life is still frustrating to kids this age so it is important to know that and allow some appropriate expression. Getting out of the chore is not an option but as long as you allow being spoken to in a whiney tone, she'll probably continue unless and until someone else gives her a consequence (friends are notorious for this) which will make her stop.

We all know adults who are prone to whining. If only their parents had realized that they didn't need to put up with this then neither would we. It is an important skill for her to have and equally important for you to know that you deserve to be spoken to with respect and in ways that you want to be treated. Same goes for her though. You are setting an example for communication in this process so decide your rule, communicate it clearly to her and follow through.