Create an Incentive
Put a jar on the kitchen counter. Put 10 nickels in it. Tell your child that every time she whines or fusses you will take a nickel out of the jar. Any nickels left over at bedtime will be hers to keep as a reward for remembering to use her “big girl voice.”
Often children aren’t really aware they are whining. Have a discussion about whining and demonstrate what it sounds like. (Put on a good show!) Tell your child you want to help her remember not to whine, so every time she does you are going to put your fingers in your ears and say “yuck!” and make a funny face. That will be her signal to find her regular voice.
Tell your child that you’re going to set the timer for three minutes. She can fuss for three minutes and then she must stop. Some children will complain, “that’s not enough time!” Then ask, “How much is enough, four or five minutes?” Typically, of course, five will be chosen. Make a big production of setting the timer for five minutes, and announce that she must stop when the timer rings. Most kids will stop before the timer rings. If your persistent whiner doesn’t stop after five minutes, you can put her in time-out, or put yourself in time-out, until the fussing ends.
Stop Whining (That Means You!)
Don't set a bad example, such as, “Will you pleeease stop whiiiiining! It’s driving me craaazeee!”
Praise your child’s attempts to use a regular voice. “Ariel, I really enjoy hearing your pleasant voice!” Try to say “yes” to a request made in a regular, polite voice. For example, if your child normally whines about having a cookie after lunch, and today she asks pleasantly, try to give her at least a piece of a cookie to reward her for her appropriate manners. Make sure you tell her that’s why you said OK: “Yes, you may have a cookie. I’m saying yes because you asked in such a nice voice and you didn’t whine about it. Lucky you!”
(Published with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips, by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999.)