New study: Whining is most annoying noise

While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. He loves war movies, obsesses over his fantasy baseball team and makes a mean stir-fry. You can e-mail him at ajcmomania@gmail.com.

There’s a rule in our house: No whining.

It’s not written down on a stone tablet or anything and there isn’t a stringent punishment if it is broken, but if someone is whining, which occasionally happens with Lori and much more often with Ty, it’s usually stopped by a two-word warning:

“Don’t whine.”

I was raised not to whine, have never enjoyed whiny friends or co-workers, hated Doug and Wendy Whiner on that old “Saturday Night Live” skit, and don’t want Ty to get used to the idea.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

I’ve always thought whining to be annoying, and now I have proof.

A new study has proven what all parents already know. The noises coming from a whining child are some of the most distracting sounds on this planet says research published in the latest edition of the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology.

Rosemarie Sokol Chang of the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz and Nicholas S. Thompson of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., the paper’s authors, had volunteers try to complete math problems while listening to an assortment of sounds in their headphones, according to Reuters.

“Six different sound conditions were created through the headphones: toddler whines; baby cries; motherese; the more neutral speech of two grown-ups in conversation; the screeching table saw; and silence.

“All of the speech used in the recordings was in languages unfamiliar to the volunteers, to ensure that the effect of the speeches’ prosody, and not its meaning, was being tested.

“The volunteers completed the fewest problems and made the most mistakes while trying to block out the sound of a whiny infant, regardless of whether they were male or female, or whether they had children of their own. The error rate was nearly twice that of the problems completed to the backdrop of the screeching saw.”

Motherese, which was described as the baby talk that parents say to their children, and crying babies also drove the volunteers to distraction, but couldn’t compete with whining.

That’s why our house is a whine-free zone. At least some of the time.

Does a child’s whining get on your nerves? Is it the worst sound your child makes?

How do you keep your child from constant whining?

- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

33 comments Add your comment

catlady

June 27th, 2011
1:24 pm

One thing worse than a whining child is a whining adult! You know who I am talking about! I have noticed whiny kids tend to have a whiny mother (not around the dads so much). Whining CAN be stopped, but by the time kids come to school it is usually well-ingrained. However, parents can break the habit if they employ this teacher tactic: Refuse to listen. Turn away, walk away, send the child to their room (desk). DO NOt EVER reinforce the subject of the whine. If your child whines, examine how you speak to your own family, and help the child practice how to ask for or report something without whining.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 27th, 2011
1:36 pm

When I was growing up, my parents had a rule against my older brother beating me up. Generally speaking, he was punished for pounding on me. There was one exception when I came to them crying about him hitting me and it went a little like this…

me: “Dad, Steve is hitting me”
dad: “Steve, get in here!”
Steve: “Yeah dad?”
dad: “why are you hitting on your brother?”
Steve: “He’s whining like a girl”
Dad: “ok..(to me) stop whining!”

Didn’t take long to learn that lesson.

Tad Jackson

June 27th, 2011
1:38 pm

… or tell the whiner (adult or child) if they have an idea to improve the thing they’re whining about that you’ll give them your fullest attention and deepest consideration! Call their bluff!

http://www.adixiediary.com

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 27th, 2011
1:38 pm

I swear my parents preferred me telling my brother to go $*@# himself than to say “dooooooooonnnnnnnn’t!”

justmy2cents

June 27th, 2011
1:44 pm

My girls are guilty of it from time to time, for that matter so am I…typically on a Monday morning when I don’t want to drag my butt outta bed for work. :o) I give them vocal cues to knock it off, starting with the loud sigh, next up is “seriously, are you two whining again?”, and the last warning “don’t make me flip my b*tch switch”. The last one works like a charm and dead silence ensues. When they whine they are bored, I point out all the chores around the house that need done, and suddenly they find something to occupy their time. Amazing how that works! :o)

shaggy

June 27th, 2011
1:48 pm

Tiger,

You had wise parents. I always got a double dose if I whined about whatever wrong I had committed, (which were many) and you are right. I stopped whining at light speed and began to accept responsibility. It didn’t make it hurt less, but I had discovered courage. To this day, I can’t stand whiners…and they are everywhere.

Tad Jackson

June 27th, 2011
1:51 pm

… or just tell kids when they want to be heard … no matter what it is … to use better words and phrases as they get all up in our grills. For example, “I have a concern I want to talk about …” or “Could I go over my side of the story ..” or “I’m feeling funny about this …” etc., etc.

Just guide them to speaking to adults a little more maturely and respectfully and they’ll find out pretty quick we will listen like crazy.

http://www.adixiediary.com

justmy2cents

June 27th, 2011
2:04 pm

My “favorite” whine…but MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM that’s not fair!!!

My response: Life isn’t fair; suck it up and deal with it, cupcake.

Lady Strange

June 27th, 2011
2:08 pm

My son is 3 and it is certainly his whinning that gets on my nerves. I’m trying to get him to stop, which I imagine takes time but any pointers would be great.

catlady

June 27th, 2011
2:10 pm

Actually, Tad, I like your 1:51. That is what I model and practice with my own family and the kids at school. They are amazed that it “works.”

One time I made the mistake of telling a student,”I can’t hear you when you talk like that,” to which he responded (you figured it out) with the same whine A WHOLE LOT LOUDER!

penguinmom

June 27th, 2011
2:17 pm

Whining just drives me crazy! It is the one thing my youngest can do that pushes me over the edge. We have been working on getting him to stop by sending him to his room until he can speak normally and not giving him whatever it is that he asks for in a whiny voice. Since my other 2 kids are not whiny in general it has been a real struggle to deal with this phase he is going thru.

motherjanegoose

June 27th, 2011
2:22 pm

The thing I hate, worse than whiners, is parents who give IN to whiners:

If you stop, I will get you a 3 scooped chocolate ice cream cone!

WHAT….

Razz

June 27th, 2011
2:26 pm

my parent loved to say “we don’t speak whinese” or “do you want cheese with that whine”

Tad Jackson

June 27th, 2011
2:28 pm

You’re welcome, catlady!

Really, if kids and young people know the best and right words and phrases to say in certain key life moments, then they’ll see things progress with an adult much quicker and calmer. It’s so simple … but it’s up to us as parents and teachers to stop and tell them … “Hey, I know a better way you can say that …” and then tell them exactly the words and pharses that work best and more maturely and respectfully … and then role play it right there on the spot. I don’t care if you’re in aisle 7 at the Publix. Deal with it right there without embarrassing the child.

It comes down to real parenting .,.. and something I think is happening among some well-meaning folks … and that’s they’re afraid of their children. That they’re so afraid of the child’s potential reaction. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sorry if I’m being a little preachy … but in my tutoring service I tutor adults, too … and with great respect for their challenges and lack of information about certain kid-related things, too!

http://www.adixiediary.com

Lori

June 27th, 2011
2:56 pm

I can’t stand whining. We teach our son to solve the problem. If he is whining because he is thirsty, and I’m too busy to get him a drink, then I ask him how he can solve his own problem & he usually will find that he can provide his own solution (in this example, that’s what juice boxes are for, so he can get them himself)! Whining in our house gets zero results. Asking for help politely, or coming up with his own solution (with permission of course) is what allows him to get what he wants/needs. Whining over silly things, like video games & TV, will land him without the privilege for a while.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

June 27th, 2011
3:19 pm

@shaggy….yeah I think my parents just figured if they beat me for whining they’d get child protective services called on them…but letting my brother do their dirty work was a great loophole!

lb

June 27th, 2011
3:44 pm

Well Tiger, at least you’re not whining so much today….did you get some or start your prozac back?

catlady

June 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

When my younger daughter was in 7th grade, she believed the girls in a certain class were not being given equal treatment/responsibility. She could have gone whining to the teacher, but took another tack. She compiled data for a few days on questions asked, hands raised, and who was called on. She also noted who was sent on errands. Then, she asked to meet with the teacher after class, stated her perception of the problem, and presented her data to him. He was shocked, but agreed to be more aware of his disposition to call on the boys. She learned something (an adult way to address a teacher and present concerns) and he had information that caused him to review how he conducted his class. A win-win!

catlady

June 27th, 2011
4:45 pm

Good point, MJG. And you see it/hear it all the time!

JATL

June 27th, 2011
5:10 pm

@Tiger -that’s pretty much the rule at our house! If one boy is being a whiney pain, the other one can certainly “discipline” him ;-)

Our two whining rules are a) no whining and b) if you insist, I will make sure you do NOT get what you’re whining about or that you get double (in the case of chores and other tasks). We have very little whining, but the 2.5 year old is still learning. His 5 year old brother has caught on quite nicely though -in the car the other day he told his brother, “You better not whine or pitch a fit about it or you’re guaranteed not to get it!”

motherjanegoose

June 27th, 2011
5:33 pm

@ JATL…that is too cute. My son is home now and he has told my husband that even though he was not happy about getting a job at 16, he now sees the value of it as there are so many out there who do not “get” how things work. My husband told me this yesterday.
It is WONDERFUL when the lightbulb goes on and your kid’s light bulbs are going on at a REALLY young age. Good for you! I just wish the lightbulb would go on here for replacing the paper towels and toilet paper :)

catlady

June 27th, 2011
6:10 pm

JATL, that reminds me of something that happened at school. One year I had a kindergartener who had found that pitching a kicking, screaming fit on the ground worked real well, at home. Thought I would play the game too. He straightened out, and I ended up retaining him. The next year, another tantrum-pitcher. First time he tried it, we were on the playground. I walked away, and the other boy (who had been with me the year before) stood over him and said, “You might as well give it up. It doesn’t work on her. No matter how loud you get, she can’t hear you.”

Rose

June 27th, 2011
8:05 pm

We have four grown children….they were taught from early that whining got them nothing. If they whined, they were absolutely not going to get what they wanted. It takes mental resolve on the parents’ part. It also means that parents must have a commitment to raising their kids in a way that is what is best for them, and that being their parent rather than their friend is more important. Today’s parents are so afraid of their children’s rejection of them. Get over yourself! Your kids need you to parent them, not coddle them. My kids are now, that they are grown, my friends. Kids need to work hard, play hard, and experience disappointment.

Tuckergirl

June 27th, 2011
8:15 pm

On the rare occasions my son whines, I whine right back at him and it sounds so irritating to HIM he stops right away.

motherjanegoose

June 27th, 2011
10:05 pm

@ Rose…thanks for the voice of reason.

JATL

June 27th, 2011
10:34 pm

@catlady -fantastic! I’m picturing you just walking away…

@MJG -it truly becomes all worth it when those light bulbs click on!

Chas Foster Kane

June 28th, 2011
12:59 am

If whining were prohibited, this blog would end.

Jack

June 28th, 2011
6:05 am

As a stranger and a bystander, I would gladly use whatever physical means necessary to inflict as much pain as necessary to either cease the whining or cause the source to now be focused on the pain they were experiencing. Shut up or I’ll give you something to really whine about. The noise may persist but the personal satisfaction makes it worth it from my point of view.

MomOf2Girls

June 28th, 2011
7:41 am

Razz – are you my daughter, by any chance? :-) Those are the two phrases I use all the time (plus one I stole from my daughter’s teacher – this isn’t a fair, it’s a school, or house, or whatever).

However, there was one time the phrase “would you like some cheese with that whine?” backfired on me. We were in the car, in the middle of nowhere, and the whining started. “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” was answered – with 20 minutes of my daughter whining “I want some cheeeeeeezzzzze!!!!!!”

Sk8ing Momma

June 28th, 2011
8:19 am

Whining definitely sends me over the edge. I have *NO* tolerance for it. Whining ranks right up there with being wimpy ~ Grrr! I don’t tolerate it from my children. In the event they wine, they must immediately remove themselves from my presence, i.e. go to their rooms w/ the door closed, and may only reappear when they’ve gotten themselves together and the whining has ceased. Whining is NEVER acceptable.

JJ

June 28th, 2011
9:40 am

We have a saying in my house “Do you want some cheese with that whine???”

JoDee

June 28th, 2011
9:51 pm

I have asked middle school students if their whining works at home—because it doesn’t work on me—-and they often smile and say , “Usually”. Parents…..please note!

Alexa

June 30th, 2011
7:45 am

I work in a specialty toy store and get to hear it nine hours a day. It’s honestly horrible.