Discipline Tactics for Whining, Tantrums, and Laziness

So Sunday. The day that is supposed to be restful? Yeah, that. Church this past Sunday was anything but and I realize it was mostly my fault. Oh, sure the two year old was the one acting up, throwing a toy tractor and baler at the grandfatherly gentleman sitting behind us. And when I asked him to stop throwing toys and say sorry.....he decided to yell, "Don't want to!" really loud instead. As I marched him out to the foyer to get him to settle down I realized one very important thing.

I had forgotten to feed him breakfast before our 11 am church!

Now in my defense it was Fast Sunday - the day we typically fast for 24 hours and donate the money we would have used on food for those in need. The 4 and 7 year olds were able to get their own granola and yogurt for breakfast since they are too little to fast. But I completely forgot to make sure the two year old was fed. That explains his outbursts! We went out to the van where we talked while he ate. He was better behaved after that....until he got tired.

We've all been there right? The moment in time when one or more of our children behaves badly. What do you do? What type of discipline works?

I asked a variety of moms to help answer the following reader submitted question: "How have you handled three year old melt downs? 7 year old laziness? 5 year old whining? Do you have a good system that works? Some overall good discipline tactics that work would be great."

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Katrina points out, "When my children are hungry or tired, they get cranky. So understanding those stress points and dealing with them up front before it gets to be a problem is tremendously helpful. And if I can't deal with it beforehand, then I do allow a little bit of leeway and try to be patient with them because I know that there are other things that are in play."

Andrea of Frolic and Farce shares, "Don't let your kids get too hungry, don't let them get too tired, don't let them have too much screen time.  Plan your day and keep on a schedule and your kids will be happier."

This is so true! See my example above. Sundays are just hard because our 11am church goes until 2pm which is right during Ganache's normal naptime. He is tired and could care less about church! It's not his normal schedule.

Speaking of schedules, Cheryl of Happy Meets Crazy explains, "Some kids need kind of a routine, or at least not many surprises. For example, I can't tell my 4 year old that we're going to the store right now... I have to tell him, "we're going to the store in an hour" and then "let's get your shoes on, we're going to the store in five minutes," etc. That helps, too, because then he knows what to expect."

Would You Like Some Cheese with that Whine?

I admit, the sound of a whiny voice grates on my ears. Why, oh, why do children whine? Do they do it for attention? And it is so universal! Their voices start to get nasal and high-pitched and then they start in with "But, Mom!" or "Why can't I?" or "I don't want to."

My tactic is to make them repeat what they are saying but in a normal tone of voice. From the looks of it other mothers do the same thing!

Diane of The More the Merrier says, "I make the child repeat what he/she is saying in a "nice voice."

Katie of Little House shares, "For whining - I say, "I don't speak Whinese. If you want to talk to me, you need to use your normal voice."

And Katrina explains, "Similar things for us - if one of the younger children is whining, I will tell them that I can't understand what they are saying, and can they please try again in a normal voice."

Wise Cheryl points out, "I think there needs to be healthy dose of perspective and reality: children act like children. I think when I'm more patient and speak more softly/kindly, the whining on their part lessens, too. If they feel respected and heard, they are more likely to speak respectfully. Sometimes, the whining is simply their way of trying to get my attention."

Tantrum Schmantrum

You're in the grocery store and your child sees a treat they want to eat. The whining didn't work to get it for them so now they are working on a full blown temper tantrum - screaming, kicking, falling on the floor. We've all been there. How do you handle it? I know I have left carts full of groceries and walked out of the store with all my kids, apologizing profusely to a store clerk for leaving the cart. At home, I've been known to step right over the child throwing the tantrum and walking away, ignoring them completely. Usually that is after I've already tried talking to the child. Here are some suggestions from other mothers.

Katie wrote a whole post, One Simple Trick to Diffuse Toddler Tantrums. It's a great read and I think you'll really like her suggestion.

Katrina will "try to walk away from an all-out tantrum, but I often will try to diffuse a small one by making a joke or distracting them."

Diane says, "At home we immediately send the child to their room and do not let them emerge until they are calm and ready to figure things out."

Ruth of The Carruths shares, "I have also had good luck with explanations.....For example this morning my 4 yr old had a moment because she wanted to take 6 stuffed animals to show and tell and is only allowed to take 2 so I told her to take a deep breath and count to 5 then once she was calm I explained if she couldn't follow the rules she couldn't take any. I helped her decide on two and get out the door for school. I think often for 3-5 year olds the world is too big so to make it smaller then it is helps to make sense of it and limit the stress causing tantrums." 

Aimee of Momzoo (haha, don't you just love that perfect description of our lives?) shares this really great advice, "One of our big rules is "calm face, calm voice, calm body." I don't speak with any of my children (toddlers are the exception because they are still learning what this means) unless they are doing all three. They learn to calm down quickly, then they have my full attention."

Another trick I have learned is to remain calm myself. Many times, especially with littler kids, they are just frustrated because they don't know how to express what they want or how they are feeling so it presents itself in a tantrum. Losing your temper back at them does not make things better. It only makes it worse. And it doesn't teach your child how to be calm or act appropriately.

Please don't be lazy. It's drives me crazy!

Laziness is something we work on constantly at our house....and usually the biggest culprit is me. One of the biggest factors in how my own children react to work is in how I react to doing a job that though unpleasant still needs to be done. I know when I work with my children, turn on some upbeat music, and make a game out of it we actually have a really great time doing chores and getting things done. I've actually covered how we teach and do chores at our house a couple of times on this blog.

First read, Age Appropriate Chores and Skills then read how we are Tackling Chores at our house.

Meredith of Perfection Pending shares what is working for her family lately, "I have assigned each child a room in the house (besides their own) to keep clean. At the end of the day, to help my sanity, I say, "Do your chore" and they go into that room and just straighten and take shoes, toys, etc. to the appropriate rooms and put them away. This teaches them about not just taking care of their own stuff, but how we are a family that works together. So brother might be picking up sister's shoes and putting them away, but we all feel good to straighten the whole house at the end of the night. We do little 15 minute straighten sessions, and it helps out a lot!"

When you know a child knows how to do a chore and just won't here's how a couple of mothers respond.

Katrina (did I mention she has 8 kids!) says, "I add extra chores if someone won't do their work, and sometimes they are gross like emptying the diaper pail or the litter box to help them realize that it is a lot easier to simply do the job in the first place."

And Diane (pregnant with her 10th!) adds, "By age 7 if the child won't do their assigned chores, then I give them more. I let them know this will happen and then follow through-- idle threats make it worse."

The last part of her sentence is really important! With all behavior problems if you don't follow through with the consequences it makes matters a whole lot worse and teaches your kids there aren't any consequences for their bad behavior.

Button - Family MattersHopefully you've picked up some tips to help you in your parenting today. If you have any other great tips please feel free to share in the comments! A HUGE thank you to all the moms who shared their discipline tactics with us today! This post wouldn't be possible without you.  :) 


  1. Um, will these tactics work for me? Because sometimes "I don't wanna!!!" ;) Great tips, though.

  2. HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.This is an acronym that many addicts use to help them not slip back into addiction and we use this acronym in my home with my family. It has worked wonders and helped me to realize how I can help my family.

    For example, My Hubby is a Hungry man. When he is hungry, there is nothing that goes right or can be done to fix it until he has food. Feed the man and he is happy! For the first 11 years or so of my marriage, he would drive me insane. He would come home and make a sandwich or something to eat asap. Supper was 15 minutes away and he was still eating. I was super irritated. I brought it up to my sister. She told me about HALT. That was enough for me to realize he is just a hungry man.

    I have kids who are tired. Cannot function if they are over tired. Meltdowns galore. Put them to bed and they are a totally different child.

    Lonely. This one took some understanding for me. Why were my kids so grumpy when we were around each other. It's not just having people around that causes loneliness. It's not having a connection with someone, know that they still care about you, love you. I make it a point to connect with my one little "lonely" child multiple times a day. He needs it and thrives when he is getting it.

    Angry. This one I do not fully understand other than sometimes, people are so angry they let themselves get completely out of hand and do things they would not otherwise.

    HALT has been amazing for my family!

    1. HALT! What a great acronym to remember the reasons why kids (adults) might be acting up. I love this! Thanks so much for sharing Jocelyn!

  3. So great! Thanks for all the advice! I love the HALT acronym too! Easy to remember. Thanks for all your work on this topic. Hearing other families deal with the same challenges, and a few tips and refreshers make the load lighter!

  4. So timely was this post! We just had a great dinner conversation about getting chores done efficiently and without whining/ procrastinating. Our children love to spend family together - playing board or card games, a special movie, a nearby park, etc. We had to remind them that we have time for those activities following dinner IF they get their chores and work done. When they don't tend to the simple chores, my after meal time is spent catching up and not with them, as I'd like it to be.

    As for the melt downs during church....aside from the feeding part (don't moments like that make you feel like MOTHER OF THE YEAR!)...we have faced a time during each of our children's growth when our normal Mass time conflicted with nap time. We solved it by tag teaming Mass or moving the whole family to a different service for just a few weeks. Once the child could handle that span of time, we could return to the regular schedule. Of course, I know not all church services work that way, but it's a suggestion. (Also, cheerios in a small baggie!)

  5. I recently had #8, my oldest is ten, and I now have five under age five. This has made my day...or year. Thanks so much! I am struggling right now to meet all of the needs and wants and demands and terrorizing of the little ones and to maintain face time with everyone. I am just barely making it, and some moments not at all. Thanks for posting some advice that I can work with. HALT--love that too!

    1. Oh, Katie, bless you! I remember those hard days (okay years) when the majority of the kids were little. It was just plain hard but also so very rewarding with all the snuggles and kisses and unconditional love. Keep plugging along. You'll eventually make it through!

  6. What a great post! I just launched a website, www.realimprints.org that is dedicated to sharing the good, the real, and the inspiring. It's to inspire others that our lives have purpose and we can make a different in our own realms and leave imprints in others lives. Your blog does just that! I love it!

    1. Real Imprints looks fabulous! What a great way to gather inspirational stories and make a difference for others.

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