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  • Saying 'No' Will Not Stop Your Child's Whining: 5 Better Ways to Handle It

    Help your toddler stop whining by addressing the five common reasons behind it.
    by Rachel Perez .
Saying 'No' Will Not Stop Your Child's Whining: 5 Better Ways to Handle It
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  • Let's be honest: a toddler who whines can get annoying and distracting pretty quickly, not a comforting fact when it's considered typical of a child's development between ages 2 and 4 years old. It does not mean you should just endure and wait until your tot outgrows it; you'll just end up yelling at him more often.

    How to deal with a child who whines so much

    Your toddler whines, of course, to get your attention. Finding out what he needs will help you manage his complaining.

    1. Your toddler needs help.

    Babies cry when they need milk, a nappy change, or a cuddle. Toddlers are all about pushing boundaries and learning how to be independent, but they sometimes still need your help when they're hungry, thirsty, tired, or overwhelmed.

    What you can do

    First, check if your child is hurt or in pain. If your child isn't in any life-threatening danger, there isn't much you can do but to try to ask or figure out what your child needs. Yes, most of the time it's trial and error.


    The book Dr. Spock's Baby and Childcare suggests, "A firm, unemotional 'use your words' or 'I don't listen to whining' is all it usually takes although you may have to repeat this message over many months before it sinks in fully."

    Make sure you follow through and keep silent until your toddler tones down the whining.

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    2. Your toddler needs comfort.

    Educator and developmental psychologist Becky Bailey says whining could also mean your child is feeling anxious, and he needs to connect with you. One study had shown that kids whose parents are always on their screens end up whining a lot. When kids feel ignored, the yearning for their parents' time and affection becomes acute.

    What you can do

    Relationship researcher John Gottman, Ph.D., suggests giving a positive, loving response when a child is whining. See it as an investment in his "emotional bank account' and an act that strengthens your bond.

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    3. Your toddler needs to express his feelings.

    Your little one may resort to whining or crying, even hitting when he feels frustrated, upset, or sad — a precursor to a full-blown tantrum.

    What you can do

    Before you get angry, keep in mind your child is just starting to expand his vocabulary and will need help labeling and managing his feelings. Parenting expert and author Janet Lansbury advises parents always to acknowledge their child's feelings even if they're upset over the littlest things. Teach your child calming techniques like breathing, removing oneself in the upsetting situation and counting down from ten.

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    4. Your toddler needs a more positive environment.

    Kids are sensitive to their parents' emotional well-being. If you're happy or anxious, chances are your child may feel happy or worried, too. One study shows tots whine, argue and pick fights more when they sense negativity or conflict.

    What you can do


    We cannot stress it enough: your children will emulate you and will follow your lead. If your tot is getting too whiny, consider his home environment. What is he seeing from you and other family members in the house?

    5. Your toddler wants to get his way.

    Yes, kids sometimes whine because they know it's a way to force their parents to let them have their way. (And we give in because we're only human.)

    What you can do

    Family counselor Erin Leyba, L.C.S.W., Ph.D. recommends, "Avoid reinforcing whining by being consistent and not giving in 'once in a while' to your child's demands." Check your attitude towards your child's whining, Dr. Spock adds. You may be using some expression of evasiveness, hesitation, submissiveness, or guilt.

    Remember you are your child's first teacher and role model. Respond to your child in the manner and tone that you expect him to converse with you.

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