How to Cope with Whining

It’s almost like you’ve asked your children to do the hardest task of their life. But you’ve simply asked them to put their toys away. I can almost cue it perfectly, “and here comes the whining.”

Why? Why does the whining start? I simply cannot handle it. It makes my skin crawl, and goosebumps start to appear on my arms, almost like someone has scratched their nails on a chalkboard.

Here are some tips to help the whining stop.

Acknowledge it – simply tell them, “son/daughter: can you please stop whining and use your real voice?” Tell them that what they are doing does not make you very happy and that you are ready to listen to them when they are ready to use their happy and regular voice. You may have to say it several times, but don’t just allow them to think whining is okay. It will become a habit for them.

Have them take a deep breath – toddlers have a lot of emotions going on. And oftentimes, they can’t express what a grown adult can in a calm way. Whining is a way for them to let you know that something is going on with them. Are they happy? Sad? Frustrated? Communicate that with them and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel that way but let’s try speaking in a different way. I like to start with having my four-year-old take a deep breath. A conversation could go like this, “Son/daughter: I understand you are feeling frustrated. You are right. Cleaning your room is hard to do. But can you please take a deep breath, ask me nicely, without whining, to help you, and I’d love to help.”

If they are having a meltdown, walk away – often I’ve noticed that whining is just the build-up to the actual storm. And then boom, their tantrum has begun. If this is the case, walk away. Let them cry; let them scream; let them whine, but do not cave in! For example, if they’ve asked for a treat before dinner, and you have said that they can have a treat after dinner, and the whining and the meltdown starts, don’t give in and give them the treat (although yes, that would make it a lot easier.) Stay strong. Once they have gotten their way with whining and the tantrum, they know they can do that in the future to get their way. You can acknowledge them, let them cry as much as they want in their room, or simply walk away from the screaming. When they have calmed down, go and have a calm conversation with them. “Son/daughter: I understand you wanted a treat before dinner, but mom asked you to wait until after dinner. I know that is frustrating.”

Acknowledge their feelings. In all these situations, acknowledge is the common theme. Toddlers want to be heard; they want to feel like we are listening, and we understand. That doesn’t mean cave into the whining; it doesn’t mean tell them whining is okay; what it means when they whine is they are trying to communicate the best they can with you. They are letting out emotions of their own.

Stay calm, encourage deep breaths and acknowledge them. The whining will come to an end.