Whining wisdom

Alyson Schafer shares her tips for dealing with a whining toddler

Q: My two-year-old daughter’s whining is driving me crazy. No matter how many times I say, “No whining, please” and ask her to use her real voice, whining still finds its way into most of our conversations.

A: Listening to whining is as painful as listening to nails on a chalkboard. Toddlers stumble onto this sound and quickly discover it’s a tortuous weapon that irritates and unnerves their parents. Here are three tips that should help:

Ignore it Listen to the word content and not the tone. Pretend it’s not bothering you and stop reminding her to use her regular voice. This is the essence of the saying Ignore the behaviour, not the child.

Only respond to requests that are not whiny If she whines for you to get her a juice, do not comply. She’ll quickly figure out that the key to getting a juice is to ask in a normal voice. It’s experiential learning. No word needs to be exchanged. She’ll connect the dots, even at two years old.

Offer a hug Yes, a hug! Parents report this one works best. The reason a hug works is that it addresses positively what your child is actually seeking with all this whiny behaviour: some loving calm connection, your full mindful presence. When you’re worn down by non-stop whining, you are probably sporting a scowling face you are unaware of, which communicates non-verbally that you’re ticked off — she will sense this as emotional distancing. Stopping for two minutes to have cuddle time on the couch will buy you the 45 minutes you need to prepare dinner. If your child is whining, slow down, notice your own demeanour and get warm and close.

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