I can remember two distinct times in my son’s life when he had a longggg run with whining, from about 2.5 to 3.5 years old and again in second grade. He of course whined at other times and still does on occasion (wait…is my complaining about his whining mean I’m whining??? 😉 ), but he had a solid year or so of intense daily whining at those ages. So what to do? Just ignore it? Put them in their room? What if you’re out in public (please tell me I’m not alone in the restaurant or HEB meltdown)? But good news! By learning why your kids whine, you can discover how to put an end to it for good!
Why do our children WHINE?
Because it’s working for them (dumb they are not). Positive Parenting asserts all humans are hard-wired with two basic emotional needs – belonging and significance. One of the crucial ways parents can meet a child’s need for belonging is to give kids sufficient amounts of attention. Kids don’t whine to intentionally irritate us—they whine because they haven’t learned a positive, productive way to get our attention or have their needs met. Let’s face it, we’re busy, but when kids aren’t getting as much positive attention as they need from us, they’ll experiment with different ways we aren’t very fond of, like whining. Just responding, even if it’s to reprimand them, gives a child payoff. Picking up the child or responding with an annoyed remark still gives the child attention, even though it wasn’t the positive attention they really wanted, and now will be more likely to whine again and again to get the same result. They are figuring out over time what they can do to get the reaction they want from us, so the key here is to extinguish what we’re doing that isn’t working so they won’t continue trying it and put something simple and repeatable in its place. Source
How do you make whining stop for a toddler?
It’s VERY important to understand that a child who isn’t speaking in complete sentences has different reasons for whining. Often, they are just super frustrated and have not developed enough speech or maturity to understand that they are whining because they are tired or hungry. One of the things we do at Sunrise to help toddlers become less frustrated is using sign language. I highly recommend it! When you use a word for a particular item, work out a sign for it and use it as you say the word. This type of communication might be easier for them to adopt in the short term and prevent some whining when they want something. Teaching them “yes” and “no” are also beneficial. To do this, you can nod or shake your head. Source The use of sign language has proven to be beneficial for children in a wide variety of settings. Research shows that sign language speeds up speech development, reduces frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves before they know how to talk, increases parent-child bonding, and lets babies and toddlers communicate vital information, such as if they are hurt or hungry. It also reduces whining, yay! Source Here is a list of starter words you can teach to your baby or toddler. Once your child is older and you think they understand you, then start on the steps below.
How do you make whining stop for children 2 – 18 years old?
- Establish a household rule about whining, such as, “Ask nicely for something and accept the answer calmly.” This helps kids understand that their attempts to change your mind won’t be effective. You may need to remind your child about the rule from time to time. “What’s our rule about how we ask for something?” or “What’s an appropriate way to respond when someone tells you no?” These responses help your child see that whining is a problem, not a tool for them to use. Source
- Whenever your child speaks in a whiny voice say with a smile (to convey you are not angry), “I’m sorry but your voice is whiny and my ears don’t work well when you whine. So please say that again in your big boy/girl voice.”
- If the child repeats the whine, cup your hand to your ear and say, again with a smile, “I know you’re saying something but my ears aren’t working. Can you please use your big girl/boy voice?”
- If the child changes their tone to less whiny say, “Now I can hear you. Thanks for using your big girl/boy voice” and respond to them. Or “My ears are so happy when you use your big girl/boy voice”.
- If after your two initial requests your child is still whining, shrug and turn away or ignore them until they express themselves without whining.
- If they escalate into crying say, “I want to hear you, I really do. But my ears need help. They need you to use a big boy/girl voice.” If the child improves their voice even slightly or seems like they are making an effort, go back to step 3. The goal is to gradually shape the behavior so any initial effort on their part when first starting this technique should be rewarded. Source
- Provide positive attention when the behavior stops. Praise your child by saying something such as, “I like the way you are playing quietly right now!” Give lots of positive attention to the good behavior and it will encourage your child to seek attention in positive ways.
Whining is part of life. It just doesn’t have to be a big part of it if you don’t want it to be, which you can control by trying these steps. I unfortunately did not have this knowledge as a young parent. Use me as a sad cautionary tale and save yourself years of unnecessary whining. Your family and your ears will appreciate it. 😉