FamilyLife Today® Podcast

No More Whining!

with Ginger Plowman | August 29, 2008
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Do your child’s persistent pleas find you giving in to his requests? Today on the broadcast, award-winning writer and author Ginger Plowman offers helpful suggestions for breaking the whining habit in your child. Hear about a helpful resource that will let your child know that it’s time to stop whining.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Do your child’s persistent pleas find you giving in to his requests? Today on the broadcast, award-winning writer and author Ginger Plowman offers helpful suggestions for breaking the whining habit in your child. Hear about a helpful resource that will let your child know that it’s time to stop whining.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Do your child’s persistent pleas find you giving in to his requests?

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No More Whining!

With Ginger Plowman
August 29, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

[child whining]

Ginger: Some children just whine as a general means of communicating.  That's the only voice they know.  And so say that the child just comes up and says, "My truck's not rolling right," or something like that.  It's okay for mom to say, "Honey, here is how you could have said that.  Try it this way – 'Mom, my car is not rolling right,'" and so then you're modeling what is the right way for the child who is really struggling with it.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 29th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Help is on the way if you have a whiner at your house.  We've got some ideas and some resources.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. 

Dennis: Bob, have you seen my new watch I've got?

Bob: (whining) I don't want to see your new watch.  I don't want to pay any attention to your stupid watch.

Dennis: That's because you need to wear this watch.  It's a No Whine watch.

Bob: (whining) I don't like your No Whine waaaatch.

Dennis: I'm sure you don't, because it gives you three minutes to get ahold of yourself.

Bob: To get my act together, huh?

Dennis: Before you can come back and ask me again if you can play with my toys.

Bob: Now, the reason for this watch is because our listeners have said this is THE issue, right?

Dennis: We did a poll.  We actually asked our listeners to go online to and tell us what were the big issues?  Whining, tattling, sibling rivalry, griping, complaining.

Bob: And in a landslide …

Dennis: I'm telling you …

Bob: It was whining.

Dennis: It's not like we really needed to do this poll.  I mean, our youngsters wore us out when they were little with whining and complaining.

Bob: And we've talked a little bit about whining already this week, but we want to circle back around because it is the issue that parents are having to address, and so we brought in …

Dennis: The queen – she is the queen of knowing how to handle whining and complaining, and someday I want to interview her kids.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: I really do.

Bob: I'm just glad you didn't call her the Whining Queen.  You know, because that could be …

Dennis: I didn't call her the Whining Queen, no.  Ginger Plowman joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Ginger, welcome back.

Ginger: Thanks, Dennis, great to be back.

Dennis: Ginger, as we mentioned before, is the founder of Preparing the Way Ministries, she is an author of a book called "Don't Make Me Count to Three."  My daughter, Ashley, was just here, Bob, just a few minutes ago with her three youngest, and said, "I love this book."

Bob: Yeah, I bet she does.

Dennis: "I love this book."  Ginger speaks at homeschool conferences around the country.  She also homeschools her two children, Wesley and Alex, and she and her husband, Jim, live in Opelika, Alabama.  Did I get that right?

Ginger: You got it right, very good, A+.

Dennis: Let's talk about whining.  What's at the heart of whining?  Why is Bob such a …

Bob: (whining) I don't want to talk about whininnnnnng.

Dennis: Why is he a whiner.  What's going on in his heart?

Ginger: Well, Bob, whining is an issue of self-control.  It's the heart that we're after, and if you look past the outward behavior of whining, you see that there is an issue of self-control going on.  Children who whine in an attempt to get what they want or just as a general means of communicating, are in bondage to their emotions and their lack of self-control.  And inflating addiction to whining doesn't make for a happy child, and it doesn't make for happy parents who have to be around that child.

Bob: Are children adapting that vocal pattern?  Is it innate in them?  Or do they hear their parents whine?  Where does it – I'm just trying to think where it comes from and where a child learns how to whine in the first place.

Ginger: Well, children who whine in order to get what they want or just a general means of communicating, they lack healthy communication skills.  And, really, parents can't blame their children for this behavior, because children whine simply because they are allowed to whine, and so the fault lies with the parent not with the child.

Dennis: We reinforce the words, the attitude, and even the – what would you call it – the decibels or the …

Bob:  (laughing) The tone?

Dennis: The tone of their voice.  I mean, parents are rewarding it somehow or they wouldn't keep doing it, right?

Ginger: That's right.  And that goes into some of the ways that we should not handle whining.  One being we shouldn't ignore the child when they whine, and we shouldn't give in by granting them what they're whining for.  When children whine, it should be viewed as precious opportunities to train them in what's right, not as frustrating moments of inconvenience for Mom or Dad.

Bob: Now, you say we shouldn't ignore them.  A lot of parents will do that.  They'll just say, you know, "If I just ignore the child, they will learn that this isn't working, and they'll quit."  Why do you say that's the wrong way to go?

Ginger: Because to ignore them is to shirk our responsibility to train them in righteousness.  God has called us to train our children not to ignore them and not to get them to hush by indulging inappropriate behavior.

Bob: But the parents who says, "Well, by ignoring them I'm training them this doesn't work."  You're saying there's a better way to train them than simply to ignore them."

Ginger: That's right.  To ignore them, we're not training them in righteousness.  We're just letting them get away with it.  They may not get what they want, but we're still not training them in what's right, and God has placed parents as the authority over children to teach them what's right, to train them in righteousness, not to ignore them and not to get them to hush by giving them what they're whining for, because all that does is reinforce that wrong behavior.

Dennis: I have to tell you what happened a couple of years ago at our house.  We now have 14 grandchildren, and one of the advantages of having 14 grandchildren – I can't remember which one did this, okay?  But one of …

Bob: I don't know that that's because you have 14 grandchildren …

Dennis: Oh, now, wait a second!

Bob: It may have to do with Grandpa's memory.

Dennis: It may have to, but I do remember this – it was really funny.  One of our children came home, brought one of our grandchildren into our playroom, and this grandchild was really addicted to whining, okay? And it had the parents wrapped.  Mom and Dad just, bless their hearts, they, too, will remain anonymous at this point, but the child had the upper hand.  And so I knew this was getting ready to happen.  They had already told me that they were really having a problem with whining.

Bob: And this child was only two years old at the time?

Dennis: Something like that – walked into the house and immediately began whining, and I went, "Huh-uh, huh-uh.  This is a no-whine zone."  A no whine zone.  "This is Papa's house.  I won't allow whining here."  And, of course, I'm a new card in the deck at this point.

Bob: This two-year-old is looking up going, "Who are you and do I have to obey you?"

Dennis: "I think I know you, but aren't you the guy that gives me ice cream and chocolate and all that?"  Now, what you start doing – so the child started to pucker up and began to whine again.  I said, "Huh-uh, huh-uh, no way!  Huh-uh!  This is Papa's house.  This is a no-whine zone."  And the frown and the whining melted, Ginger.  I wish I'd had that kind of power as a parent.

Ginger: Right.

Dennis: I didn't.  We got mugged just like our kids did.

Ginger: But that's the thing – you didn't allow it.  Parents are allowing whining, and it has – it's become an epidemic in America.  I mean, not just the conclusive evidence of the poll tells us that, but also my personal observations.  After strolling through Wal-Mart on any given day will show you that whining has become an epidemic.

Bob: So with the poll information and what you already knew from Wal-Mart, you decided …

Dennis: A designer watch.

Bob: It's time for a designer watch.

Dennis: She's made a designer watch for Bob.


Bob: Tell our listeners about this tool you've come up with here.

Ginger: The No Whine watch is one of the items that's included in the No More Whining Kit, and it actually – that involves Step 2.  It's a three-step plan for teaching children not to whine.  Also included in the kit is a children's book called "Whining Will," about a little boy that struggles with whining and how his mom teaches him to communicate with self-control through the use of the three-step plan.

So Step 1 is where Mom asked a heart-probing question.  In the story, the child whines for a cup of juice, and the mom says "Sweetheart, are you asking for juice with your self-controlled voice?  Because God wants you to have self-control even with your voice."  So, see, Mom is asking a heart-probing question.  That helps the child take ownership for what's going on in his heart, and then you asked about the watch.

Well, Step 2 is where Mom has the child wear the No Whine watch, and she says something like, "Sweetheart, I love you too much to allow you to speak foolishly.  I'm going to help you learn to talk the right way.  So go ahead and start the timer on your No Whine watch, and when the beeper goes off in three minutes, then you may come back and ask" – for juice or crackers or whatever the child is asking for the right way.

Dennis: Now, I'm noticing here in this designer watch, which is a snappy color of purple, I might add …

Bob: With a yellow face and Velcro.

Dennis: And it says "No Whine" on the face of the watch, which the kid is not going to be able to read, obviously, but it's Velcro.  This little thing right here will fit perfectly on an 18-month-old or a two-year-old, or a three-year-old, four-year-old.  That was brilliant.

Ginger: Well, thank you.

Dennis: I think it might even fit on Bob's wrist here.

Bob: I've tried it on mine, it won't go.

Dennis: It won't fit.

Bob: But you say this is something you can start to correct as early as 18 months, two years old?

Ginger: You know, actually, we're saying that it's for ages 3 and up, just to be on the safe side, but I have had several parents tell me that they're using it on their two and a half year old.  The child just needs to be old enough to understand the concept of pushing the button, waiting for the three minutes, and then when the beeper goes off, coming back and asking the right way.  So it just depends on the maturity of the child.  Certainly, there are two year olds that can use it.  I would say 18 months, the child would have to be pretty brilliant to be able to go through that.

Dennis: Well, you don't know some of my grandkids.

Bob: The way this works, a mom will put the watch on the child's wrist, or the child will put it on his or her own wrist.  They press the button, it starts a three-minute timer.

Dennis: Which I just …

Bob: You just started?

Dennis: A few seconds ago, yeah, and so in another 39 seconds, you're going to hear the sound that reminds the child now they have a chance to come back and re-ask the question or re-respond.

Ginger: Right, or sometimes children, it's not necessarily that they're asking a question.  It's not, you know, "I want some juice," or "I want some crackers."  It's not necessarily that they're asking for something, they might be.  But some children just whine as a general means of communicating.  And so say that the child just comes up and says, "My truck's not rolling right," or something like that.  You can lose the plan there as well.  You can use the No Whine watch – "Oh, honey, you're not using your self-controlled voice.  Go ahead and start your timer, and then you may ask again."  There goes the beeper.

Okay, Bob, now you may ask the right way.

Bob: And now the child is thinking about how do I ask the – how do I say, "I believe I'm having a problem with my truck and how it's rolling here."  Can you turn that thing off?  There is a button for that, isn't there?

Dennis: Yeah.

Bob: I can still hear it.  Yeah.  Yeah.  There you go.  Now you found the button.  So the child, when the alarm goes off, now has a chance to ask again.  What if the parent says, "No, you're still not there."  Do you press the button again in three more minutes, is that how you do it?

Ginger: Right, and it might be necessary for Mom to demonstrate what a self-controlled voice looks like to the child.  Sometimes children – that's the only voice they know, and so it's okay for Mom to say, "Honey, here is how you could have said that, try it this way – 'Mom, my car is not rolling right,'" and so then you're modeling what is the right way for the child who is really struggling with it.

Bob: And you're saying a child can be asking an innocent question completely unaware that there is a whine in his or her voice.  They might say, (whining) "Are we going to the library today?"  And …

Dennis: Well, Bob, I think that's what happens to a lot of children.  I think parents drop their guard.  They allow their children to whine; it becomes a habit; it's ingrained; it's their style of relating and, as a result, they are unaware that their tone is unacceptable, and it may take some correction, and maybe even modeling back to them how they sound in return.

Ginger:  I think that's right – "This is how you're saying it, honey, that's not using self-control.  Here is how you could say it that would show your self-controlled voice."  So it's okay to model that for them, and parents are telling me that when they use this method of just having the child wait three minutes and then ask the right way that when parents are consistent with that, they're telling me that their children are absolutely transformed in the way they communicate in one week or less.

Dennis: Well, it's kind of fun, honestly.

Ginger: Yeah, it's fun, it's easy, and it works.

Dennis: You can picture what happens with the child.  What happens is they are left to think about their attitude, but the watch becomes a bit of a – almost a distraction to give them a moment to kind of catch their breath and to rethink how they're doing it, and so they're watching it count down, as I was, and you can picture a child probably watching this little watch for the entire three minutes thinking about how they're going to respond and what they're going to say.  And after you've used it a few times, I could imagine the lessons are really learned at that point.

Bob: You said that Alex was more your whiner than your son, right?

Ginger: Right, she was.

Bob: And you didn't have this watch when Alex was growing up?

Ginger: That's right.  With Alex I used the kitchen timer when we were at home.  But the downside to that is it was not portable.  But with a watch, it's easy to be consistent because the child is wearing it, they're familiar with the plan because of the little children's book, and so even when you're driving the van, it's "Oh, honey, you need to start your timer, and when the beeper goes off, then you can ask the right way."

Dennis: I was going to ask you that question.  Is this something you have the child wear all the time?

Ginger: Some children are enjoying wearing it all the time because the little boy in the children's book – it's a very fun story – and the little boy in the book, Will, wears the watch, and so a lot of children are – they prefer to wear it all the time but, on the flip side, there are some children who don't want to wear the watch and, in that case, I wouldn't get into a power struggle about it.  I would just keep the watch in my purse, and when the child whines, I would hand it to him and say, "Just go ahead and start the timer and when it goes off in three minutes, then you may ask the right way."  I wouldn't get in a power struggle about wearing the watch.

But, like I said, most of what I'm hearing is the children like wearing the watch because the children's story is fun, and the little boy in the story wears the watch.

Bob: So the three steps again – the first one, you have to address the heart issue, you have to say, "This is a self-control issue."  You're really teaching as well as admonishing here.  Then the second step is "Here is the watch, press the button, you've got there minutes, you can ask again," and the third step is …

Ginger: Where they come back and ask the right way, right.  And then you're going to have some children that are – that's going to be a power struggle.  What about the child that the beeper goes off, and they refuse to come back and ask the right way.  Well, they're just not going to get what they wanted.  So that's sort of a natural consequence.

But then if they come back 10 minutes later and whine, well, you would just go right back through the steps again.

Dennis: I have to ask you about this – if it does become a power play where it really is the child's will versus your will as a parent, at what point would you say, "You know, I think I need to move to another level of discipline here rather than just a fun little watch to remind them to do what's right."

Ginger: Right, so when is it an issue of just training them in what's right and when does it become an actual discipline issue?

Dennis: Exactly.

Ginger: Well, in the parent's manual that comes with the No More Whining Kit, I do specifically list when is it appropriate to use the No Whine Watch, when is it an issue of disobedience.  But let's say that the child comes and asks for something, and the answer is no, and then they whine.  Well, see, that's not an appropriate time to use the No Whine Watch.  That's an issue of defiance and disobedience, and there would need to be loving consequences for that.

Bob: I asked you about Alex, and you said she was your whiner, growing up.  Were you able to cure that with the kitchen timer in a week or less?

Ginger: It would have been – you know, it was pretty quick once I figured out that I needed to not allow whining and have her come back and ask the right way.  I don't remember, it's been years ago, but I do remember once I started doing that, you know, making her wait the two to three minutes and them coming back and ask the right way, it was pretty quick.  I believe it would have been faster had I had something that was portable.

Bob: Right.  I guess the question is once you dealt with it in that week, did it ever reappear?  I mean, I would imagine it's just kind of a natural thing to slide back into, isn't it?

Ginger: Sure, it did but, again, I was just consistent.  When we're consistent then we're going to see change in our children.

Bob: And Alex is 12 years old now, right?

Ginger: Right.

Bob: Doesn't whine?

Ginger: Oh, no.

Dennis: You know, back to breaking a habit – with children in this age range, 3 to 5, I think a mom and a dad who decide together to be consistent and to get their game plan together, say, "This is how we're going to respond when it happens, we're going to stick to it, we're going to do this every time," I think you can expect things to be radically different at the end of seven days.

Ginger: Absolutely.

Dennis: Now, you can expect some pain in between the …

Bob: Day one and day seven?

Dennis: That's exactly right, especially – probably day one and day three, okay?  Because some habits are difficult for human beings to break, whether you're a child or an adult, but I've found in coaching and encouraging young moms and dads, if they will sit down together and say, "Okay, here is our plan.  We're going to do this, this, and this, we're going to stand by each other, we're not giving in, this is what we're going to do every time," and if you've got this watch in place and know what you're going to say and how you're going to say it, then, as a couple, it will be different at the end of a week.

Ginger: Absolutely, and I would also encourage the parent – there might be some people listening thinking, "My kids have been whining for so long, it's such a habit, and I just think it's too late.  We should have started this sort of teaching when they were much younger."  But I think the first step is to come together, like what you're saying – for Mom and Dad to be on the same page and administering the same plan for dealing with whining.

But I would recommend that they actually sit down with that child and begin that new training by asking that child's forgiveness and just saying something like, "Honey, I love you too much to allow you to speak foolishly.  It's my responsibility to train you to communicate the right way with self-control, but I've been allowing you to whine.  Would you forgive me for that?"  And then I would go over this method, this plan that is going to be used, and I would help the child to understand that while whining has been allowed in the past, it's not going to be accepted anymore.

Dennis: You know, and I'll just summarize what we've talked about today with a story from going on vacation when our kids were little.  Whining had become such an issue with our kids, we just decided, you know what?  We're about to travel several hundred miles across kids with our kids in a van, and I really am not looking forward to the whining from the back two-thirds of the – I think it was a van that we had at that point.

And so at the beginning, I got a quarter jar, and I told the children that in the quarter jar, I was going to put $10 worth of quarters.  Now, this was back when 10 bucks would buy a few things, you know, for kids, and ice cream cones and celebrate on the other end.  We talked about how good that was going to be.  But I said every time you whine, I mean every time, we're taking a quarter out. 

And it was really interesting – the first few times we took a quarter out, the kids said, "Oh, man, we can't do this.  We've been doing this for years, Dad.  We can't break this habit."  I said, "That cost you another one.  That's whining."  And it was interesting – it didn't take long of starting to empty that quarter jar out.  We never emptied those jars out, we never did, because they got the point that it really was an issue of self-control, and that's what the No Whine Watch does and, frankly, Bob, I wish I could have bought about three or four of these back when I was a parent.

Bob: Back in the day, right?

Dennis: I may buy a few right now for …

Bob: For when the grandkids come over?

Dennis: Well, no, for the parents just so they'll have it as – in fact, I know where this one is going.

Bob: Yeah, I bet you do.

Dennis: I'm going home to cook for three of my grandchildren and my daughter, Ashley, and I've got a feeling when I show her this, she's going to get the biggest grin on her face.  We're going to have some fun with this.

Bob: We have the No More Whining kit that includes the watch in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with copies of Ginger's book, which is called "Don't Make Me Count to Three."  We haven't talked about this, but I love the picture that's on the front of the box of this pouty girl who looks like she needs the No More Whining Watch.

You can find out how you can order one of these by going to our website,  On the right side of the home page there's a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where there is information about these resources, and there is also a link there to a new Mom Blog that we have here at FamilyLife, and you can read what several young moms are saying as they deal with parenting issues, and I think this week they are blogging about the subject of discipline with toddlers.

Again, our website is  You want to click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast" to get to the area I'm talking about.  Or if it's easier to request resources by calling us, the number is 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you contact us, someone will let you know how you can have the resources you need sent to you.

And then let me also thank those of you who have this month participated in our Family First challenge campaign.  We've been encouraging listeners to help us end the summer by making a end-of-summer donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and many of you have done that.  We appreciate it. 

In addition, it's been fun to hear some of the challenges that have come in from listeners to have, in addition to making a donation, challenged other listeners to join with them.  We've had some young people who have called in to make donations and challenged others their age – 11, 12, 13 years old – to consider making a donation to FamilyLife Today.  It's been fun to hear from you guys, we appreciate you listening, and we appreciate you helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  It's a great partnership, and it's been great to hear from you.

There is still time for you to join the Family First challenge campaign.  Make a donation either online or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, and we do look forward to hearing from you, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back again on Monday when we're going to talk about how, as parents, our role needs to change as our children are growing.  As they change, we need to be changing, as parents.  We'll talk more about that with our guest on Monday, Bruce Johnston.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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