Advertisement

How can I cope with a whining toddler?

First of all, understand that it is a normal phase. Constant whining at 18-24 months is really common. If your toddler is whining constantly at a later age, something else is going on. Perhaps there’s a speech delay, or you could be unintentionally reinforcing the behavior. Whining also increases a lot when kids are sick. So always check to see if that might be true.

Tell your toddler: "I hear whining. I don’t like whining. Tell me in your words. You want juice? Here’s your juice. No juice? Okay, tell me, ‘Mommy, no more juice’. Thank you for using your words. Now you want milk? Okay, but no more changes. Milk or juice. You choose.” If whining starts, try again. Your toddler wants to feel that you take her needs seriously, even if she changes her mind a million times.

Lather, rinse and repeat until you start to get irritated. Because there will be a limit to how much any living, breathing parent can do this. And she’s checking to see exactly how much you can take it. Testing is part of the whole routine. Exactly how much control do I have in this situation? When does Mommy take over and cut me off? How far can I push it? Now, notice I didn’t say, "Continue to negotiate until you’re about to lose your mind and give her the juice box, milk, water, and the soda you were just drinking, plus open up the bottle of wine that you need now". Instead, set the limit before you’re at your wit’s end. "Okay, no more drinks, all done with drinks. Let’s go do something else."

If you’re really strong, you can try ignoring the whining. Say you’re about to do it. "No more whining. I don’t like it when you whine. Mommy is busy. I don’t hear whining." And then go about your business with the whining toddler behind you, trying to get your attention. Breathe deeply, don’t make eye contact, and repeat yourself. "I don’t listen to whining." This may take several minutes, which seem like several hours, in toddler-time. Some will get the message, others will not.

A key part of all this is to make sure you give huge props for quitting the whining.  "Wow! You used your words! You are playing nicely now! Oh, that feels so much better!  Good job, honey! Gimme five for talking nicely! I love it when we play and talk nicely together like this!"

Continue Learning about Parenting a Toddler

When should I send my child to preschool?
John T. Duffy, MDJohn T. Duffy, MD
Parents will often ask, "When should my child go to preschool," or, "Should they go to preschool...
More Answers
How can parents cope with messy eaters?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
In this video from the Discovery Health show "Baby Madness," Dr. Christina Johns offers tips to help...
More Answers
5 Ways to End Kids' Temper Tantrums
5 Ways to End Kids' Temper Tantrums
What Are the Best Methods for Disciplining a Toddler?
What Are the Best Methods for Disciplining a Toddler?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.