I think all of us with a toddler can agree – what is with the whining?! Sometimes it seems like all they do. Whine when they wake up. Before breakfast in the morning. In the car. Because they don’t have the proper toy with them in the car. During lunch before their nap. After nap because they’re still tried. At snack time. Before dinner. During dinner because you cut up their salmon (true story). After dinner because they’re getting tired. Brief stint of pure joy during bath time! Then whining again because you picked the wrong book to read before bed. When it’s lights out for bedtime. It’s truly exhausting.
The tricky age between 1 and 2 years old is tough. Your toddler is becoming independent and has his or her own ideas, but still can’t communicate properly. So, whining is their way of telling us that they’re frustrated. And, boy, are we with them!
I’ve been asking friends and reading article after article about how to get through this stage. The first advice I found online about this topic was online at WebMD – which is typically not my main source of parenting advice, but I’m desperate. In the article, developmental psychologist Becky Bailey said that “when whining does occur, parents should take a deep breath and remind themselves that the child is not trying to be irritating. The child is actually asking for help. Often, whining is a signal it’s time to reconnect with your child.”
This really opened my eyes to better dealing with the whining, and I continued to seek out ways to implement being more helpful than frustrated.
Here are a few pieces of advice that are making it a bit easier, for all of us:
- Help your child communicate. Continue to communicate with them when they’re struggling by asking questions in different ways. I’ve found that by asking my daughter a question differently can sometimes be the secret to stopping the whine. For example, changing “It’s time to go to the store with mommy” to “Mommy is going to the store. Do you want to come?” can make all the difference. Maybe they need to feel like it’s their choice, or perhaps they’re just not familiar with a word you said. Either way, helping solve the problem together is teaching them life-long cooperation and understanding.
- Offer Choices. Oftentimes all it takes is making them feel like they’re choosing what they do. If they’re whining because of the book you chose, ask them to go pick a book they’d like to read, or show two books to choose from. It can make a huge difference in their reaction. When it’s time to get my daughter to wear a coat in the morning, I ask her to choose which one she’d like to wear. She went from a crying mess when I choose the coat, to being excited about wearing the one she picked out. And although she almost always chooses the one I wouldn’t, she’s wearing a coat and we’re all happy. That’s a win/win in my book.
- Be consistent. This is the tried and true method of parenting, I think! When you say no to something, stick with it. This sets expectations and shows your toddler that even whining won’t change the situation. I’m going to assume the same goes for helping your child communicate. Don’t go from asking questions and helping them to ignoring. If the answer is no and it’s always been no, say that and move on to helping your toddler get through it.
- Praise the times they communicate well. I’ve found myself saying “Thank you for listening” more often and I’ll take that as a win. When your little one finds some words to communicate with you, or doesn’t whine in a situation when he or she typically does, make them feel really special by praising them. Say things like “ Thank you for listening”, “Mommy/Daddy loves when you’re a good listener” or “You’ve been a good helper today”. Kids of this age love to be praised and it may help put the whining at bay.
Good luck, moms!