For many parents, a whining toddler is on par with fingernails across a blackboard or a constantly dripping tap. It’s impossible to ignore, which is why so many toddlers soon find out that it’s a sure-fire way to get what they want. But, whatever the reason, the moaning, irritable pitch of whining is something that can drive parents up the wall, especially if it becomes a habit. So it makes a lot of sense to find out what triggers it, and how you can show your child that there are better ways of getting what he wants.
Top 5 whining triggers
1. Attention seeking
A child who is always being brushed off, won’t give up trying to get attention. He’ll just use other strategies, such as whining, to make you notice him. Try to give him your undivided attention at some points during the day. Settle down to look at a book together, or sit with him when he draws or colours.
A child’s behaviour will deteriorate when he’s overtired. Make sure he’s getting enough sleep. If he isn’t settling well at night, it may help to reduce daytime naps, and don’t let him fall asleep after 3pm if you want him in bed and asleep at 7:30pm.
Make sure that your child is kept busy. Boredom is a key trigger for whining. Visit toddler groups, look at books, and get out different toys for him to play with each day – rather than having everything available all the time.
Grumpiness is one of the first signs that your child is coming down with a bug. Check his temperature, keep a close eye on him, and call a paediatrician if you’re at all worried.
Whining is a very easy habit to get into, especially if your child finds it gets him the results he’s after. Be consistent in how you react – if you refuse to give in, eventually he’ll accept that this isn’t the way to approach you.
4 tips to deal with your whining toddler
Depending on what’s triggering your child’s whining, there are various ways to tackle it:
1. Firm but fair
You may find that a very firm approach to whining will teach your child that it’s not going to work. This could involve giving him ‘time out’ on her own if he won’t stop, though this can be upsetting for everyone. At this age, you may find it more effective to say something like, “I can’t give you a drink if you ask me in that whiny voice, but you can have one if you ask me in a happy voice.” If he responds, praise him and tell him how much you like hearing him ask so nicely.
A whining child usually wants attention. If you’ve already said ‘no’ to sweets or a new toy, distract him quickly with another activity that you can do together. Or, when shopping, ask him to find the apples or yoghurts, pretending that you can’t see them yourself.
3. Be reasonable
If you’re fed up with the whining, you may find yourself ignoring many of your child’s requests. Take time to assess whether or not he’s asking for you to read him a story, that’s a much more reasonable request than moaning about a bar of chocolate.
Everyone responds to praise and rewards, and a toddler is no different from any of us in this respect. Rather than getting cross with your child when he’s moaning or whining, try to make it an attractive proposition not to do it. Tell him how good he’s being when he behaves or helps you. Even if he’s being whiny, praise him for being less whiny than usual. It’s a good idea to make a star chart, with red stars for being good, green for very good, and gold for super good. And after collecting a certain number of stars, she’ll be rewarded with a little treat such as some sweets or a trip to the zoo.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.