Structure Deters a Child’s Whining

If you add this element to your day, you will help prevent your child from whining. If you have a child who whines, this is how to stop it.

Whining child

No one likes to hear a child whining. It can really lead you to lose your patience quickly as a parent when your child whines at you.

Of course we as parents need to reflect what we expect, so we need to keep our cool even if circumstances don’t lend themselves to being calm.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This means you can accomplish so much more with a mere ounce of preventative effort than the pound of effort it will take to fix the problem.

Anything you can do to prevent whining will help keep peace and harmony in the home.

So let’s talk about a simple tip to stop this whining.

Make sure you have structure in your day.

Structure Deters Whining

First and foremost, let’s be sure we recognize that the title says structure “deters” whining and not “banishes” or “cures” whining.

But deters is better than nothing, right?

Structure actually does a lot for avoiding, or preventing, whining.

On the simple and obvious side, if you have a structured day, you will have nap time, a bed time, and regular meals. Structure lends itself to naps, consistent bedtimes, and regular meals.

A well-rested child whose tummy is satisfied is going to whine less. We all get that hungry, tired people are not as pleasant to be around.

But structure moves beyond that.

Structure Builds Attention Span

Adding the right structure to your day builds attention span. 

You don’t want to spend the day jumping from activity to activity as your child desires. There is a place and value to free play, but the entire day should not be free. 

On Becoming Preschoolwise says the parent should choose not only the activities of the day, but also the starting and stopping times of the activities.

“Left to choose for himself, a preschooler will generally spend too much time flitting from one activity to another or following Mom around expecting her to entertain him. Flitting and following generally lead to whining and discontent”. 

(page 119)

Preschoolers need guidance and encouragement to stick with activities longer than their natural tendancies desire.

For example, you might be working on a craft project with your preschooler. She might want to stop after about five minutes (not all would–some live for craft projects).

You can help encourage her to stick with it and finish the project.

This is great for a preschooler to do so she can learn to build her attention span for school and further learning. 

You need to choose age-appropriate activities and require an appropriate amount of time–neither too much nor too little.

“As your child grows and matures, work on increasing the length of time he spends happily engaged in each activity. This will increase your child’s attention span”.

(page 119)

Structure Provides Predictability

Structure also adds the element of no time spent wandering and wondering what to do. If you have independent play, meals, nap or rest time, learning time, family time, sibling time, outside time, chores, etc. planned into your day, your child won’t have to sit and wonder what to do next.

That leads to less whining.

Again, free time is valuable and should be a part of your structured day. It should not be your whole day. With structure, your child knows what to expect and feels secure in the day. There is no point to whining about wanting to go watch TV right now if you know every day, this is the time of day you do independent playtime.

Always remember, if your child whines and you acquiesce and change things up because of the whining, your child will learn that whining works to get what he wants.

Children are excellent scientists and he will quickly learn how to get what he wants. If you do not want it to happen, don’t let it work.


If you find your child is whining a lot, spend some time analyzing the structure in your day.

Do you have enough of it? Are you working to develop your child’s focusing and independent skills? Is your child getting the rest and food she needs?

Address this simple area first when trying to troubleshoot a whining problem.

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This post originally appeared on this blog January 2011

Structure deters whining with a picture of a whining child