Tuesday, September 25, 2012

20 Toddler tips in 20 days 19. Toddlers Whine

Toddler Survival Tip #19

19. Toddler Whine

Like nails on a chalkboard the toddlers whine and irritate the most patience parent. 

Have you noticed that whining polls never allow an answer involving actually trying to find out why the child is whining? Is it because they assume the child is only doing this to annoy grown ups? 

When children whine and we give attention to this, they learn they get attention through whining and therefore do it more often. With better listening skills, hopefully they will no longer feel they need to indulge in this nasty habit.


1. If your toddler is limited in their verbal abilities and they are whining and struggling to communicate. Ask them to slow down and try to tell you what they need. If that doesn't work, ask them to show you what they need. Tell them to take deep breathes and you will try to help them. Give them a chance to communicate it through signing if possible. Teaching simple signs such as MORE, HUNGRY, HELP, ALL DONE can drastically reduce frustrations for your baby and your family.

2. Distractions have been known to work. Try signing a favourite song, putting on a favourite music CD, dancing in the kitchen, acting silly, pulling out a favourite activity as soon as the whining starts. They may shake out of the whining and start engaging with you in a more positive manner.

3. Don't Respond. Sometimes ignoring the whining can work. They learn quickly that if they do not get their needs met with whining, they may get them met another way. You can remind them if you like. Get down to their level, "I hear that your whining, I'll talk with you when you remember your words." Then turn away and continue what you were doing. 

4. Decide what is no and what is yes. Don't fill your house with a bunch of no's. Don't give in to the whining. If they whine for some juice, don't give it to them. Tell them you'll wait until they can ask like a 'big boy or big girl' then give them the juice and tell them they asked well. Give them praise for slowing down and asking correctly. Children will do well if they can. You can use other words instead of no for example: "Yes, later." "I'll think about it." "You can have a cracker, but not a cookie." (tell them what they CAN do and CAN have) "You can jump outside, but not on the couch" "We play with water in the tub, not on the kitchen table." When you do say no, mean it. Don't sugar coat it with a "sorry sweety no no," Say it with a poker face and mean it firmly and kindly. "No, do not pull the cat's tail. Be gentle."

5. Talk to them like little adults. Some babies want to be 'all grown up' and get frustrated when they cannot do it. They resort to whining. Start talking to them like they are a lot older. They may respond in a positive way and actually try to carry on a conversation with you. Only they know what they are saying, but a babies babble is better than a whine. 

6. I heard one parent who had a whining chair. When their 3 year old started to whine, they said, please continue your whining on the whining chair. By the time they went to sit on the whining chair, they would get distracted. 

7. Have a timer they can see. When they start whining, put the timer on for each minute of their age 3 = 3 min, 6 = 6 min. Tell them to come back again after their timer has gone off and try asking again. This work well for over 3 or 4yrs.

8. Record the whining with a video camera or recorder. Then play it back for them later so they can see what they sound and look like when they whine, talk to them about how they can change this next time. This is also for older kids such as 4-12 year olds.

9. Pretend play. I love this one. When my 3-year-old starts to whine, I say, "Uh-oh, your nice voice has disappeared! I wonder where it went!" I look around the room and pretend to find a nicer voice in a cupboard or behind the couch, and I pop it in my mouth and then imitate a cartoon character or silly voice. Usually he starts to laugh and the whining is forgotten or he copies my voice and starts to pretend play.

10. Pocket Whining. With older than 3, you can try this. When the whining starts, tell them to whine into your pocket so you can save it and listen to it later. It usually makes them laugh or confuses them enough to distract. You can pretend to open up the pocket and hold it up to your ears when they do start whining again. Make life fun and light and inventive I say.

11. Set limits. If you are ok with it, you can try this. I usually let my 3 year old get something small at the store when we are out. Not every store, just one. It can be a pezz, peanuts, a dollar store toy, a book. Then I say that is your one treat today, so don't ask for another. At the checkout if they start to whine for something, remind them they got their treat for the day. (It is usually still in their hot little hands) If they want to put it away and trade for the candy, that's up to you. But whatever you do STICK to your word. Do NOT give into another toy. Another book at bedtime, another snack after snack, another this and that cause the children to think if they whine, they can get more. 

12. Remind them of you DO want. Whining starts, say, "How can you ask? What's a better way to ask me. Where are your manners? Teach your brother how we ask for that. Tell me in your big boy voice. Slow down baby and try telling me again."

13. Praise them when they do right! No one likes to learn by just getting in trouble. We want to know when we do things well. Toddlers need that too! Tell them when they did ask correctly and they did use their manners. Mention it, make a big deal about it. Point it out to strangers, family members and their friends. "Wow, you have great manners, I like the way you asked for your juice, would you like some more?" "Did you hear how your big brother asked for juice? He said please and used his big boy voice. Great job!"

14. Promise future benefits. If your working on something in particular you can use a chart or reward system. Say your 3-year-old whines every morning when they get out of bed. Example, you can tell him at night that if he doesn't fuss in the morning, then you'll read more than one book to him the next night. Try to put a star on a chart each morning he does well and show him the nights he's been getting two books. Children love to feel successful. Don't we all?

That all said...

PS NOT everything with work all the time. What worked yesterday may not work today. Keep a cheat sheet on your fridge to remind YOU, not them, what to do when they whine. point form is best.

Happy Parenting!

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