Friday, September 17, 2010


Hi Rebecca!

I read your blog all the time, and as a mother, I really value your insight and wisdom. I have a slight behavior problem and was wondering if you had any advice. Recently my four-year old daughter has begun whining.

She whines about everything and anything. On occasion, I have a hard time getting her to eat because it's not to her liking or she wants sprinkles or something else. I have set limits, I will give her say two options for breakfast and if she picks something else, well that's not an option.

I try to not give in to her every whim. We have let her know that whining isn't pleasant to hear, but lately it feels like it is getting a lot worse. Yesterday, she actually sat down on the floor and threw a tantrum, kicking and screaming!

I struggle with picking up toys, I struggle with getting her dressed. Everything is an issue.

Do you have any suggestions??


~ A

Thanks so much for keeping up with our blog and for your sweet note. I can tell you this- you are not alone. We all face whining. If it's not us, it's the kids. :)

Whining- and fits- can indicate a number of things, but quite often it simply means that our children don't like our answer. For that moment in time, their hearts are not submitted to what we are saying and they are rebelling against our will.

And while our goal is to gain the trust and respect of these little hearts we must, at the same time, teach them to exhibit self control when they do not agree. As adults, we may not always like the answer of the authorities over us, but we must exercise self control in our responses. How wonderful to learn that at a young age.

Here is what I would look to first:

1. How are the Heartstrings? As a family size grows, it can be difficult to connect with each of our children in a meaningful way. In cases where heart strings have been severed or never connected it can be very difficult for a child to want to comply with a parent's requests. One thing that helps a wide range of children is simply keeping your child with you. We have spoken with several friends that have adoptive children that suffer- in some cases- with extreme attachment issues. All the experts recommend the same thing- keep your child with you. That means that if you are in the kitchen cooking, your child is also in the kitchen either cooking or "helping" in some other way. This type of training, also called Tomato Staking, is a fantastic way to tie heartstrings in a busy home. You may also want to carve out fifteen minutes to read aloud, build a puzzle or something else to connect one on one. These will go a long way to help your little one want to obey.

2. How are sleep and diet going? One thing we cannot ignore is the effect of proper sleep and healthful food on attitudes- ours and theirs! We need to be aware of the things that make it harder and easier for our children to do well. Some children have severe allergic reactions to food colorings or other additives. Could this be the case for your little one? Be on the look out for this type of thing and just try to keep in mind what is going to be expected from them in the next hour when they ask for that cookie or cinnamon roll. We want to do all we can to help our children and not hinder them. In keeping with the goal of gaining trust, you may want to explain that she can have treats on a specific day, but because they are not good for her body (and you love her) they need to be limited to keep her healthy and happy.

3. How easy is it to disobey? The Lord has warned us in Proverbs 13:15 that: "The way of the transgressor is hard." As adults we have likely learned that principle. It is easier to obey than to transgress, right? Even unbelievers don't speed because they don't want the ticket, fine and traffic school- not because they wouldn't like to drive a little faster on the road.

Are you making it too easy to disobey? Does she get several warnings if she disobeys or is her consequence swift and sure?

Is she required to repeat and repeat a positive action until it builds a new pattern or is the old pattern intact (see training)?

4. How is your training going? Sometimes we wait to deal with issues- like whining- because we wonder if our child is really old enough to demonstrate self control or to "get" what we are attempting to teach them. One indicator that I use to determine if I have a training issue on my hands is whether or not I am beginning to feel frustrated with a behavior. Frustration is an internal flag that indicates that we know a particular child is capable of better behavior than what we are seeing demonstrated.

While I would never recommend demonstrating your frustration (James 1:20 reminds us that the righteousness of God does not come about by the wrath of man) these feelings may be a flag to let us know we need to carve out some special time with our little one.

Plan to have training sessions and tackle something that you can control. I would not start with food. (As an aside, in your note you mentioned giving options. For now, you might want to plan to eliminate choices and adopt a sweet, but firm 'take it or leave it' policy.)

Have a cheerful attitude yourself and be ready to praise positives. Make sure that your daughter is not hungry, over tired or has just had a dose of sugar (soda, juice, candy etc.) and that you are not in a hurry to get somewhere else.

Look her in the eyes and smile at her. Let her know sweetly that things have not been going so well. God wants her to learn to obey cheerfully so that He can bless her and that you are going to help her to learn how to do that! Pray together, then work on something she can succeed at-- like coming cheerfully or picking up toys to a song you can sing together.

You can call these sessions by some sweet name, like Blessing Practice, because you are practicing good behavior so that she can be blessed! Have her repeat and repeat the behavior until you have created a pattern (maybe ten times). If the command is to come cheerfully, then place her across the room from you and call her. Put her back in that same place again and again to practice. Reward negative choices (when done in rebellion) with a training swat and positive ones hugs and lots of praise. Make sure to win at least three times before you finish with the training session.

As she succeeds, add more things to the training. Prepare her and plan little rewards, for example you might say something like: "It's time to dressed. Let's practice getting dressed cheerfully so that Mommy can give you a star for your Blessing chart!" Of course, whatever you chose to tackle, you need to handle. If she begins to fuss, you start over. Take her outfit back off and say, let's try that again. Tell her what type of response you are looking for and be ready to spend the day cheerfully working until it happens. Stay calm. She has likely developed a strong will by now. Just start over- and over- until she gets her cheerful face on.

Training always sounds daunting, but she will soon realize it is a lot easier to obey and it will be much easier on you in the long run!

Give her lots of compliments in front of daddy whenever she chooses to do something positive. Let him know (when she is in ear shot) how well she did in her Blessing Practice that day!

5. How busy are you? Allow your schedule to reflect what you prioritize. If cheerful obedience is a priority, by all means do not feel badly for clearing the calendar. The more training and heartstring work done at home, the more pleasant going out will be anyway.

From personal experience, I know the feeling of dealing with a little strong willed little girl. In those moments we can be instantly transformed from the manager of our husband's home to a deer in headlights! But sister, my hearts desire would be to encourage you not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9)! Move forward in love, kindness and firm boundaries. Seek the Lord and He will reward you.

It is so hard for us to see why certain things are such a struggle for a particular child, but God knows and He can transform the heart. It may be that God will use this to transform you into the most valuable prayer warrior she could ever hope to have on her side! Stay on the same team. You have an enemy, but it is not one another.

Blessings to you!


  1. I feel like we just had this talk. :)I think I needed the reminder. Thank you Rebecca.

    Bobbie C

  2. Wow, your posts (and I'm so happy to see a new one!) always come just when I need them! My boys are 7 and 9, but we have recently entered into quite a trying phase. Time to put on my happy face and get to work!
    Thanks Rebecca!

  3. There are lots of complaints about whining children, so as a former teacher and grandmother of nine I offer the following suggestion: Frequently it helps for children to be read fun-stories that illustrate the unpleasantness of bad behavior and ways to correct it. Sometimes children don’t understand how annoying the sound of whining can be. My latest children's book, "Peter and the Whimper-Whineys" by Sherrill S. Cannon is a story of a little rabbit who does nothing but whine. This rhyming book should be read with alternating normal voice and whining voice, according to the character speaking. Children learn that Whimper-Whineyland is not a fun place to be, not just for all the whining and crying that goes on but for all the other unpleasant character traits exemplified!!! The book can be found on where there is the read-inside-the-book feature, as well as on I hope that this might help your child as well as it has helped my children and grandchildren!

  4. Excellent! Even though I have "trained" 6 - I forget so easily. My 4 year old is just starting to really test the boundaries. Thanks so much for succinctly reminding us of the basics.

  5. Awesome post! Thank you. Over the past month and a half we have had alot happen. It began with moving house and continued with a number of illnesses; not to mention being extremely busy. All of this has contributed to a couple of the children developing an amazing ability to whine! I can see that I have made it easy for them to disobey in recent times. Thanks again for this wonderfully timely reminder!

  6. You are wise!
    I also note that when I am taking more time to get down at the child's level, look in his/her eyes, speak calmly/sweetly, and perhaps hold a little hand...things go SO much more nicely in my home!
    I also have to remember to set my child up to succeed by firmly, briefly, gently setting up my expectations.
    Lastly, I've had to remember lately NOT to get into a contest of wills with my 18 month old...often a snuggle, a tickle, or a redirection will alter the mood positively and feel like a win-win.

  7. O The Blessings Practice sounds like a great idea! daunting yes, but so worth it!!

  8. This post was such an encouragement! Thank you for pointing me back to the scripture. Sometimes I can get so wound up in the problem and begin to try to "fix it" myself -- that I forget to focus myself and with my little one on the Lord first --- and move forward form there. I enjoyed this read!!!!

  9. Thank you so much for this. What wonderful, steady, precept-upon-precept encouragement from you.

    I have four boys and one girl. I am realizing that I often make it easy for her to disobey (point #3) because I do not recognize her sin as easily as that of her brothers. [Perhaps because it mirrors mine too closely.]
    I am encouraged to begin "blessing training" in earnest for both of us!

  10. Thank you for sharing your wonderful wisdom! What a blessing your post has been! Whining is something that I need to work on with one of my little girls, and your post has given me some fresh ideas and encouragement to tackle the task ahead of me.

  11. I'm so glad to hear this post was a blessing- apparently we can all relate to working through this topic! I know I can.

    And thank you so much for your kind comments ladies. As you well know it is all the Lord's Word, His wisdom and His strength. Without His grace we'd all be lost-- especially me!

    I think true wisdom is knowing what is right to do- and doing it regardless of the personal sacrifice. May we always encourage one another to love and good deeds for the glory of God!

    Richest blessings to you!

  12. I have seen a huge difference in my daughter in the last week after I was blessed to be reminded to mend those heartstrings that bind us. Thanks for sharing this wisdom, Mama Rebecca!