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Whining...3 steps to saving your sanity!

This morning I had a call from a mom who is struggling with her toddler's incessant w​​hining. We've all been there, sometimes we even start whining right back at our child. It's frustrating, but there are steps you can take. The most important one is to remember this is a teachable moment and your child will learn from your reaction to their behavior.

1. Look for a pattern

Is she tired or hungry? Is she bored while runnning errands with you? Finding a pattern will allow you to be proactive and plan around these issues. For example, you realize your little one is particularly difficult when running late morning errands, it may be because they are either getting hungry for lunch or tired and ready for a nap.

If there isn't a particular event that's causing the issue, then it may be a cry for attention or even a bit of a power struggle. "If I whine long enough, Mom will give in and give me some cookies."

2. Name and Reframe

Some very young children don't even realize they are whining, others use it as a control technique. Either way, using the ABC's of Parenting will help. You can find more details on this technique here. In your case you'll begin by talking to your child about the behavior. "I know there are times you want me to listen to you, but I can't understand what you need when you're whining." When she begins to whine, use a gentle reminder: "You are using your whining voice. Remember when we need something we use our words and ask for what we need." The next step is to have her reframe her request without the whine. Going with the ABC format, this is the "Choice" step and you can also add the "Either/Or" technique. It will sound something like: "You can either ask me in your regular voice or go settle down in your room and then you can try again when you're ready to ask the right way." Statements such as "I really would like to help you, but I can't understand what you need" allows a child to feel acknowledged, understand the boundaries for their behavior and have a chance to make a better choice. What if your child refuses to leave you alone? Then follow through with the consequence in our "either/or" statement and send her to her room. If the whining is an attention-getting behavior, then sending her to her room removes the reward (your attention) for her behavior.

3. Reinforce the positive

If you have a child who chooses to whine consistently, reinforce the moments when he or she uses their "big kid" voice. Something as simple as, "Wow, I really like how you asked for that so nicely" will acknowledge their positive choice and add to the likelihood they'll make that choice again.


Amy is a certified parenting and stepfamily coach, mom of 3, and admitted Pinterest junkie. In addition to her consulting services, she has been featured on The Family Podcast Network, The Family Couch and Family Confidential, and is the parenting consultant for the Worthington School district Insight Program. She's passionate about helping parents in all aspects of raising kids with a solution based, no-judgement approach. Click here to get Amy’s FREE eBook, “5 Secrets to Family Rules that Work. It’s getting rave reviews from parents worldwide!

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