John Cowan - Whine Time

Publish Date
Thursday, 10 August 2017, 2:49PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Why do kids grizzle and whine? Because it works! Like chicks in a nests that pester and peck until their parent regurgitates worm bits down their throats, kids have learnt that whining gets them what they want.  Do you really want to spend the rest of your parenting years 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 in a cranky, bullying one either.” When they come at you with, “Mum! Mum! Mum! Mu…u...u…u…u…u…m!”, say, “Sorry, I’m not listening that. Pop away, practice your nice polite voice and come back and ask me again”. Straight off, I doubt if it will work: they will just notch up the volume and unpleasantness. But stand your ground. “Hey! If you want my answer now, it’s ‘No!’ But if you can ask me with a nice voice I’ll listen to you. Pop away, and come back and ask me again.”  And they will, they will come back, and ask you in a nice polite voice, and then you can say, “NO!!” No, you don’t have to be cruel. Listen to them and if they discover that polite, well-mannered requests work well for them and whining never works, you will start to see a shift in tone at you place.

By the way, it is important you model the voice you want. When parents ask me, “Why does my child grizzle and whine?[in a grizzly tone of voice]”, some mysteries are not that deep. If you whine and grizzle back at them, guess what they will learn. Once again, you have to drag up your acting skills that you use for job interviews and visiting relatives, switch on a soft lilting voice without a hint of edge or threat, and say to your child, “When you can speak to me as softly and and politely as I’m talking to you, then I will listen”.

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About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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