Whining 101: Why They Do It and How to Curb It

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I can't take the whining. My daughter provides a constant stream of it all day long, and it's driving me mad.

She's a happy little girl most of the time, but then the whine pops up, any time, on a dime. I don't remember my son being this whiney, but perhaps that's one of those biological things where your ears remove it from memory or you'd never procreate again?

At first, I attributed it to teething, which is understandable, but then I think she just got used to whining and now thinks it's something she must do. How to get her to stop is the question.

To find an answer (any answer!) I turned to the experts. Here's what they had to say.


Why Toddlers Whine

According to Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, children whine because it works.

"We also have to remember that children only continue behaviors that ‘work for them,'" she says. "That is -- they continue behaviors that get results. For a child who whines, clings, and displays attention-seeking behaviors, she realizes that ‘Hey, this is a pretty effective way to get them to pay attention to me' or ‘Hey, this is a pretty effective tactic for me to get my way' ... the child learns that whining provides a payoff. This behavior -- if left unaddressed -- can continue well into the teenage years.

How to Stop the Whining

Child development specialist Jennifer Gillette of Isis Parenting offers these helpful tips:

  • Catch them when they're good! Praise good behavior (not the child), e.g., "I love the way you're asking in your big girl voice."
  • Make sure your toddler is getting enough rest (naps and solid night's sleep), snacks (toddlers need little healthy meals frequently), and close physical contact.
  • Make sure your toddler knows exactly what whining is -- model for him how to correctly ask for something without whining: "Mommy, please more apple juice" (if the child is pre-verbal, model signs and gestures).
  • Try ignoring whining, but remember to catch positive non-whining communication.
  • Have a place in the house where she can whine, then when she's whining, you can then request that she go to the whining space.
  • Don't give in to whining: This simply teaches children that whining works.
  • Don't whine yourself!
  • Don't lose your cool: You're then attending, albeit in a negative manner, to your child's whining!
  • And take care of yourself: Parents who build in time for themselves tend to respond to these common negative behaviors in a calm, respectful, and productive manner.

What techniques have you used to stop the whining?  


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