It’s 6 am and you wake up determined to have a positive day… only to have your 2-year-old toddler snatch your hopes away in a matter of seconds. Hearing whines of “I want cereal” over and over like a broken record can drive even the most patient parent a little insane. How do you fix a whining toddler? Easy — give them the cereal and they’ll stop whining, right? While that might seem like the simple solution, it will have you going through the same whiny ritual every morning, afternoon, and evening.
See, giving in to your toddler tells them that whining will get them what they want: I need help going to the bathroom: whine. I want a cup of milk: whine. I’m bored: whine. I’m sleepy: whine. Remember, every time you surrender to these demands, you’re feeding the whiny beast in your toddler.
Whine. Receive. Repeat.
From a sympathetic point of view, remember that whining is sometimes the only way your children can express what they’re feeling. It’s up to you to teach them other methods of communication. Here are some pointers to get you started.
How to Manage a Whining Toddler
Pointer 1: Don’t Let Your Child See Your Frustration
This is tough, but yelling or punishing your whining toddler — or even showing you’re annoyed — can cause even more whining. They know exactly what to do to get a reaction from you. If they can’t get what they want, they’ll try to gain some type of a response from you, even if it’s a negative one. Whenever this happens, firmly and consistently tell them that you can’t understand what they want when they’re whining. And instead of getting frustrated, put on your poker face and calmly tell your child that you will listen to them when they can use their “nice voice” instead of whining. For children who can’t speak yet, teach them hand signals to indicate what they want.
Pointer 2: Be Clear on What Kind of Communication You Expect
This part can be tricky when your toddler may not even know what the word “whining” means. And what does speaking in your “nice voice” mean exactly? One approach is to emphasize the word you want them to use: hungry, tired, bored, sad.
Pointer 3: Praise Them for Using Their Nice Voice
The key is to catch those moments when your child uses their “nice voice” instead of whining and praise them for it. So often, what makes us react to our children are the negatives, but what will change their behavior is pointing out whenever they communicate positively: “Thank you, Christopher, for using your big boy words.” When your child gets your attention for the positive stuff, things will start to change, including the type of day you have.