Whining – it’s got to be the most aggravating thing a child can do. It definitely gets the attention of adults – parents and caregivers alike. And that’s why children whine – to get an adult’s attention!
Toddlers and preschoolers haven’t yet learned words or vocabulary to express their feelings, needs, and wants. But they can vocalize. When a child gets frustrated because they are not being understood by the parent or caregiver, they often resort to whining.
Most often, this age of child doesn’t know they are whining…..it is not a conscious strategy. What they do know is that this behavior usually results in attention from the adult, thus making it a learned behavior that parents and caregivers have actually (although unintentionally) help to reinforce.
How Do You Stop Whining?
Keep in mind that when a toddler or a preschooler begins to whine, it usually indicates that the adult has not focused attention on the child when they are behaving appropriately. To avoid whining, parents and caregivers want to be responsive to the child’s first bid for attention.
As children, then, begin to whine, the most important part of a response from a parent is patience. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the child is not trying to be irritating, but is asking for attention.
Use “I” Statements
Respond to their whining with “I” statements and the way you would like your child to speak. For instance, “I don’t like it when you whine. If you want your teddy bear, please ask like this….” then model the words and tone of voice you would like the child to use.
Or you can make a game of it! Say “Whining sounds like this…” and model how your child sounded. Then you can say, “Saying it like this sounds better, don’t you think?” Not only have you taught your child another way to ask for things, but you have provided focused attention and maybe laugh together. Please be very careful not to ridicule your child for their behavior.
In the long run, parents and caregivers need to reflect upon the underlying reasons for the whining. Has there been changes in routines, your schedule has become busier, other aspects of your life needing your attention? Children who whine are often sending the message that it is time to re-connect to you.
Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child
This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.
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