We have tried to invoke a no whining rule at our house. Those heard making that dreadful sound are generally sent to their room or given tickles and happy spanks to get their smiles back.
When the girls have started complaining we stop them right away and say something along the lines of, "No whining. You should say, 'Thank you Mommy for.....'" or "Oooh- I don't like that. Can you think of something you are grateful for instead?"
This has worked quite well for the most part. Sometimes they roll their eyes when they are called on to find something to be grateful for in their harsh existence, but they can usually pull something happy out, and it has even changed the way I look at situations when I get frustrated.
Leave it to my kids, however, to find a loophole.
This is Sara's loophole, actually. She has a best friend. An invisible one. Her name is Jassa, and her life is pretty much awesome. Whenever Sara feels that she is missing out on something in her own mundane life, she begins to tell us wonderful tales of what Jassa is experiencing in her own inivisible-to-all-but-Sara dimension.
It is a very clever way for her to tell us what she feels is missing from her life without actually whining and getting reprimanded. She never has a whining tone. It is all very up-beat and informational with even just a titch of hopeful abandon.
"Mom, Jassa gets to wear her Tinkerbell dress to church whenever she wants. She doesn't have a rule."
"Daddy, Jassa says that she can have ice cream for dinner every day and if she doesn't finish her dinner it is ok because they have a dog to eat all the extra."
"Jassa doesn't clean her room because her mom likes to clean things and doesn't make other people do it."
"Emma, Jassa is going camping again today! She wants me to come too, but I said that Mommy wants me to just color and play outside."
"Mommy, Jassa said that her mom is buying her a big computer just for her that she doesn't have to share with anyone unless she wants to."
"Jassa is having family night every night because they like it so much!" (This one made me laugh, and we had family night twice that week.)
Basically- if you want to know what Sara is hoping for, just ask her how Jassa is doing. The poor girl has to live vicariously through her imaginary counter-part because her parents are restrictive and menacing. Poor thing.