Do your kids whine outdoors? Here’s how to handle it

“I’m cold,” she said. She’d gotten wet and muddy earlier, so she probably was.

“I’m sorry,” I answered.

“I’m booooored,” he said. We were sitting on a rock in Cobscook Bay State Park, watching their father dig for clams a few hundred feet away.

“I’m sorry about that, too,” I answered.

Whining is one of those parenting things that absolutely sets my teeth on edge. Nothing will take me from zero to yelling faster than a well-placed kid whine. Usually. Inside. Outside it seems to be different.

“I said, ‘I’M COOOLD.’ I’m really, really cold.”

“Okay. I heard you. You can walk back to the camper and get changed or you can wait until we are ready to go.”

“I said ‘This is so BORING.’ Can we do something else?”

“I’m going to sit here for a while. You can sit with me or find something else to do.”

I don’t know why I have more patience for whining outside than I do for whining inside. Maybe it’s because outside whining seems more aimless and temporary. Inside whining is more focused: they want a treat, more tablet time, their sibling to leave them alone. Outside whining is more like a nervous tic, a way to waste time, a waypoint on the road to something else. I have a harder time taking it seriously or letting it get to me. Outside whining just seems to be part of the journey.

My son climbs up a rock. “That wasn’t as hard as it looked, was it, Mom?” He climbs down, then back up, then back down. His sister watches.

“Try that one,” she says, pointing at a higher rock. “That one’s level two in the obstacle course. I bet I can do it.”

Sometimes I get feedback from readers explaining that they want to get outside with their kids more, but the kids whine about being outside so much that they give up. I get that. Mine whine, too, sometimes. I just can’t get too worked up about it. They seem to even bore themselves with it if you let them go long enough. And then that’s when the good stuff happens.

They high five each other at the top. “We won level two!”

“Wait,” says my son. “Which one’s level three?”

“That one!” says my daughter. And, together, they disappear around the corner.

Go ahead and let them whine, I say. Just keep doing your thing. Eventually they will come out on the other side.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.