The Whiney Toddler

Like the soothing sound of nails on a chalkboard, your toddler’s whining can make your skin crawl. Toddlers know that their irritating mix of talking and crying can get them what they want from their parents, even if they have to keep at it for 20 minutes. So, is it possible to tame that whiney monster?

A Fine Whine
While many people feel that a whiney toddler is a spoiled toddler, this is often not the case. In fact, toddlers will often whine when they are hungry, tired, bored, cranky, upset, not feeling well, or when they just want some attention from their parents. This is why whining happens most often at home and is usually directed towards the parents.

Identifying why your child is whining can often help to solve the problem. If the whine is a result of boredom, then play a game together. If they are tired, then put them to bed early or suggest a nap.

Although your first reaction may be to just want to ignore your toddler’s whines, if your toddler’s whimpers are for the sake of getting your attention, then disregarding them may make the situation worse. When the whining is the result of a lack of attention, you need to figure out what type of attention is missing before you can react. Is your toddler whimpering to provoke a reaction out of you? Then maybe she feels you’re not listening to hear. Try bending down so that you’re eye-to-eye and asking her what she wants. This way, she can see that you are clearly listening to what she has to say.

Maybe your toddler is whining because he feels you’re not spending enough time with him since you went back to work. Try setting aside some time everyday, even if it’s just a half hour, to do something together when you get home or after dinner.

Getting Out the Whine
But what about when your toddler is whining because they can’t get what they want? Although the easy way out may be to just give in, don’t! Toddlers are quick learners, and if they realize that whining is the magic trick to get them what they want, then you’ll be hearing a lot more of it.

When your toddler starts whining, remain calm. If they are just looking to provoke a reaction from you, they will soon stop when they realize that this is not the way to go about it.

Encourage your toddler to use a normal voice when they are asking for something they want. However, your toddler may not know the difference between a “nice voice” and a whiney voice. It may help if you record your toddler’s voice when they are whining and when they are speaking in the tone you like. When you are both in a good mood, then play the tape for your toddler so that she can hear the difference and explain why you like it when she speaks in the “nice voice.” You may even want to practice talking in a whiney voice and a proper voice so that you know your toddler is aware of the difference.

However, you need to be careful that your child doesn’t think that, just because they ask for something nicely, they’ll get it. When your toddler whines for a cookie, don’t tell him to ask in a nice voice. Rather, say you can’t understand what he says when he whines or tell him that his whining is not appreciated.

When he uses a proper voice to ask for the cookie, commend him for his tone of voice then deal with the request as you normally would. For example, “I like it much better when you use that voice. Thank you for using it. Since it is so close to dinner, you cannot have a cookie.”

You may also want to pay attention to the tone of voice you use around your toddler. If you find yourself whining or nagging a lot, then your toddler will probably have a hard time understanding why it’s okay for you to whine but not them. Stamping out your own unpleasant voice might just help stamp out your toddler’s whining.

It’s important to remember, though, that change doesn’t happen overnight. As with any other habit, you will have to be persistent and patient for a few weeks before that whining starts to die down.

Learn more about how to deal with a whiney toddler by visiting our toddler forum.