With two kids under the age of 5, there are evenings when I’m mentally counting the moments until bedtime brings an end to the whining.
The whining isn’t working for any of us — it’s driving me mad, and it’s a bad habit for them to resort to whining to communicate their needs.
I reached out to pediatrician Melissa Arca to see if she could explain the why behind the whining.
Why they do it
Dr. Arca explained, “Whining is often the gateway to a tantrum and/or your child’s way of not melting down into a complete tantrum mess! So, in some ways, that whining is better than the alternative. Many toddlers and preschoolers often kick up the whining just before they’re about to tackle a new cognitive or social milestone (language, negotiating with peers, sharing, etc). They are often at a loss for words when the world seems a little overwhelming to them. In addition, just like tantrums, whining is more common in children who are tired, hungry or who have had a long day. And, like anything, whining can become a habit. Children notice that we respond to whining, and even if it’s negative attention, they’ll take it.”
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This explains why for so many of us, whining is at its peak in the evening. When I’m rushing around, trying to finish dinner, run a load of laundry and pick up after a long day, I’m not necessarily as available to them as they need for me to be.
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How to make it stop
While it helps to know the reasons why kids whine, it’s also important to know how to minimize it so we can stay sane.
- Try to recognize the warning signs before the whining begins. Make extra effort to hear what your children are trying to communicate before they go into full whine mode.
- Stay calm and refuse to let your children see the whining bothers you.
- Be sure they know what you mean by whining. Either record their whining or show them what whining sounds like. You might make them laugh, and you’ll get your point across in the process.
- Offer positive reinforcement when your child calmly communicates his or her needs without whining. A simple, “I love the way you asked me that with your big girl voice,” will reinforce the desired behavior.
Most importantly, be consistent. Once your child realizes whining will not work, they’re less likely to try this tactic.
Armed with the knowledge that whining is a part of normal childhood development and some tactics on how to handle it, you should be able to minimize the whining, at the very least.