How to Stop Whining, Teasing and Bickering

By Ginger Hubbard
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If you want your kids to stop whining, teasing and bickering, you need to better understand what your kids' words say about their hearts.

“I want some juuuiiice! Right nooowww!”

“She was mean first!”

“No, I’m not cleaning my room!”

Years ago, whenever I imagined my future children, I pictured happy, well-mannered darlings who
always obeyed. That kid screaming for a treat at the store? Not my kid. The kid bickering with his
sister over a toy? No way.

Needless to say, I was in for a rude awakening. What caused my children to speak tender words in one
breath and say something terrible in the next? At the time, it made no sense to me. I had instructed
my children not to whine or talk back, and I administered consequences whenever they disobeyed. Why
didn’t they learn?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself these same questions. And maybe you’ve come to the same conclusions that
I have: It’s because we’ve been taking the wrong approach. Consequences for outward behavior
certainly have a place in parenting, but they are no substitute for training and instruction that
address the root problem. And while the words our children speak alert us to that problem, the heart
is where those words are conceived. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” Jesus
explains (Matthew 12:34).

The purpose of disciplining children is not merely to achieve outward obedience, but inward change.
If we can reach the heart, the behavior will take care of itself. I recommend a simple three-step process for parents to combat these behaviors and help our children mature past foolish speech by
examining the true problem.

Step 1: Ask heart-probing questions to help children look past outward behavior and recognize the
root sin.

Step 2: Correct our children for foolish behavior, explaining what God’s Word says about the
behavior and why it should be avoided.

Step 3: Train our children in how to replace wrong behavior with right behavior.

Let’s take a look at some common ways that kids’ words reveal their sinful heart. As we examine each
of these behaviors, we’ll see how this three-step process can help our kids mature.

Whining

Many parents would probably agree that few things are more annoying than whining. Children who whine
frequently lack healthy communication skills, and parents who permit their children to whine prevent
their kids from learning to communicate properly. Whining is really an issue of self-control, and
children who learn to communicate properly learn that self-control is a prerequisite for
contentment, joy and wise living.

Step 1: Probe your child’s heart

Ask:

  • “What are you feeling right now that causes you to whine?”
  • “Are you speaking
    with a controlled voice?”
  • “Can you think of a better way to say that, so we can understand
    what you mean?”

Your child may not answer, but you’ve still helped her evaluate her heart and examine her lack of
self-control.

Step 2: Teach God’s Word

Remind your children that God values the virtue of self-control
(Galatians 5:23-24), and He compares
a person who lacks self-control to a city with broken-down walls
(Proverbs 25:28). Whining is
certainly annoying, but we must avoid angry responses. When correction is administered in anger, the
child can view it as an attack. So model the same self-control you desire your child to learn.

Step 3: Train your child

Calmly inform your child that she needs to learn to speak the right way and that you’ll not be
discussing the matter while she is whining.

Have your child wait three minutes before
communicating with you again. Tell her that you love her too much to allow her to continue whining.
Because you want her to learn to speak with self-control, you’re going to set a timer for three
minutes. When that time is up, she may come back and communicate properly. Before setting the timer,
demonstrate a better way to speak her request, so that in addition to teaching her how not to
behave, you’re also training her how to return and do what is right.

Teasing

Whether mocking, insulting or belittling in a joking way, teasing tears down others, which violates
God’s commands to love others and build them up. Kids may tease to get attention or to entertain
themselves. It may also be used to try to conceal what a child really means or intends, such as when
a “just kidding” is hastily added after a derogatory comment or deception. “Like a madman who throws
firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’ ”
(Proverbs 26:18-19).

Whatever the motives for teasing, they are usually selfish in nature, as they bring the teaser some
type of satisfaction at the expense of hurting others.

Step 1: Probe your child’s heart

Ask:

  • “Do you think that entertaining yourself is more important than the feelings and needs of
    your sister?”
  • “How would you feel if you were your sister?”
  • “Did your words show
    love by building others up, or did they tear others down?”

Step 2: Teach God’s Word

Help your child view teasing from a biblical perspective, teaching him that God tells us to do
nothing out of selfishness, but to value others’ needs as much as we value our own
(Philippians 2:3-4).
We should treat others the way that we would want them to treat us
(Luke 6:31), and we must
remember not to let harmful talk come out of our mouths
(Ephesians 4:29).

Step 3: Train your child

Show your child how to be an encouragement instead of a discouragement. You can do this by modeling
helpful words that serve as a counterweight to hurtful words — language that demonstrates how to
benefit and build others up. Teach your kids that God can help us remember how and when to use kind
words.

Bickering

Kids can argue about almost anything. Bickering is often about pride. For kids (and many adults)
being right feels good, so there is a temptation to fight to prove you’re right, even about trivial
issues. While it’s natural that kids are going to sometimes get on each other’s nerves, this
constant fighting to show they are right isn’t healthy. We must cultivate the qualities of love,
gentleness and peacemaking in our children’s hearts.

Step 1: Probe your child’s heart

Ask:

  • “Are you respecting each other and loving God in the way you are speaking to each
    other?”
  • “Do you think being right is more important than being kind to your
    brother?”
  • “What words might work better right now to avoid a conflict with your
    brother?”
  • “Are you being strong and avoiding an argument, or are you being weak and
    participating?”

Step 2: Teach God’s Word

Teach your children what the Bible says about quarreling, about why they should avoid harsh words
that stir up anger and conflict (Proverbs 15:1).
Bickering does not honor God or show love for each other.
After all, Scripture says: “Every fool will be quarreling”
(Proverbs 20:3).

Step 3: Train your child

Teach your kids the importance of humility — it’s a sign of maturity to understand we are not always
on the “right” side of a fight. Encourage your children to patiently stop and consider an opposing
view before engaging in an argument. Then ask them to weigh their response by silently considering
two questions: Will this really matter next week? Is this an opportunity to be wise and overlook
this difference?

Remind your kids what Scripture says about getting into a fight: “Have
nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels”
(2 Timothy 2:23).

Bragging

Elevating one’s abilities and successes is an expression of pride. And even when bragging is used to
cover one’s insecurities, it is still self-motivated and self-serving, fueled by a desire to exalt
oneself. Pride is not characterized by a love for others or a desire to glorify God. Indeed,
Scripture says that all boasting is evil (James 4:16).

Step 1: Probe your child’s heart

Ask:

  • “Are your words building others up or only building yourself up?”
  • “How do you feel
    when other children boast that they’re better than you?”
  • “Do your words bring glory and
    honor to God or yourself?”

Help your children understand that when we brag about ourselves, we are taking credit for something
that doesn’t belong to us. All talents and abilities are given to us by God and are to be used for
His glory, not our own.

Step 2: Teach God’s Word

Help your kids understand how God commands us not to brag about ourselves. “I say to everyone among
you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment”
(Romans 12:3).
Scripture says that with a proud heart “comes disgrace”
(Proverbs 11:2).
Yes, bragging displeases God, but it also makes us less likable to others.

Step 3: Train your child

Give careful consideration to the way you encourage your children. When acknowledging a talent,
strength or gift in a child, give God the glory. When your child succeeds or excels, you might ask,
“How did God equip you for this particular task?”

As your child learns to stop bragging,
train him to replace his pride with humility. As Christians, we are called to walk in humility
(Luke 14:11).
The only abilities and achievements we have are from God and are intended to be used for
Him. We can humbly accept others’ praise as long as we keep a right perspective, a recognition that
God ultimately deserves the praise.

Ginger Hubbard is a parenting speaker and the best-selling author of Don’t Make Me Count to Three! Her most recent book is I Can’t Believe You Just Said That! biblical wisdom for taming your child’s tongue.

Copyright © 2019 by Ginger Hubbard. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Ginger Hubbard

Ginger Hubbard is a best-selling author whose books include Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Wise Words From Moms, and I Can’t Believe You Just Said That! She is also an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, and a public speaker who addresses audiences at women’s events, parenting conferences, and home school conventions around the nation. Ginger …

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