Hearing your 2 year old whining all the time can be frustrating. Learn how to deal with your toddler’s clingy behavior and tantrums once and for all.
Sound familiar? You knew the 2 year old stage would be tough, but you had no idea whining would take over your once happy little boy.
He seems to spend most of the day whining and crying about everything. Taking him out for a walk or doing fun activities can’t get him to stop whining all the time. And you can’t cook, pay a single bill, or even use the bathroom without him pulling at your legs and crying.
He knows how to use his words, but instead just whines about what he wants (or more often, doesn’t want). Telling him to “stop whining” doesn’t work—in fact, it only seems to make it worse.
What gives? How do you get him to stop whining?
How to stop your 2 year old whining right away
Whining was near the top of my “things my kids do that annoy me” list, especially once they hit the toddler stage. It’s certainly one of the triggers that made me lose my temper and yell. And when whining is paired with tantrums and clingy behavior, getting through the day felt all but impossible.
But perhaps the biggest problem parents face is what happens when we don’t do anything about whining: it becomes a “normal” way for your child to communicate. Left unchecked, he’ll think it’s perfectly fine to whine as a way to express himself.
The good news is, you can absolutely stop the whining right away. You help him understand that whining is unacceptable, then give him an alternative instead. Master those two tasks, and he’ll no longer rely on whining. Let’s take a look at these tips to help you do just that:
1. Don’t give in to your child’s requests
The biggest reason kids continue to whine is because of… us. You see, by “rewarding” their whining, we’re teaching them that this is a perfectly normal way to communicate.
Let’s say your 2 year old keeps whining for more milk, never mind that you know she’s just being cranky. Handing her a cup of milk without talking about whining only “confirms” to her that whining is an acceptable way to talk to you.
And yes, she learns this message even if you’re annoyed or get upset. Any attention—positive or negative—enables her to continue with this behavior.
As simple and tempting as it may be to hand her a glass of milk to stop the whining already, don’t. Giving in each time she whines teaches her that whining is an effective way of getting what she wants.
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2. Address the reasons your child is whining
Do you get easily irritated when your 2 year old whines? One way to stay calm is to address the reasons she’s whining in the first place. This allows you to see past the surface annoyances and unrealistic demands and see the real reason she’s behaving this way.
You might realize that she’s getting fidgety waiting for her turn at a game, or that she feels tired but may not know how to handle herself.
Yes, she might sound like a broken record, repeating the same whining phrases over and over. But remind yourself that another reason might be beneath the whining.
Review her day: Has she had any significant changes like a bad night of sleep or is she sensing your own anxieties and worries? These little things add up, and kids express them in ways they know how to, including whining.
Before brushing aside her whining, address potential reasons causing it. “You seem tired,” you might say. You’re reminding yourself that she’s likely not whining to be irritating, but because she’s having a hard time coping with her environment.
3. Acknowledge that your child feels upset
Say your toddler refuses to stop whining, despite your efforts to calm him down and encourage a different way to talk. Or maybe he continues to whine because you didn’t give in to his unreasonable requests (like asking for the zillionth cookie of the day).
Explain the root of his emotions and why he’s upset: “You feel mad because mommy still won’t give you the cookie.” That way, he feels heard and understood, while at the same time, gives reason as to why he’s choosing to whine.
Now it’s no longer about mommy not giving him the cookie, but because of how he feels about it. And by labeling his emotions, he can better understand what they are and learn to describe them instead. He might feel upset, tired, hungry, anxious.
Label these emotions to teach him how to spot them in the future as well as to show him you see how he feels.
4. Explain that whining is not appropriate
Sometimes we forget that we actually have to explain why certain behaviors are not appropriate. Sure, we get upset or don’t give in, but we also miss an opportunity to teach our kids why whining isn’t allowed.
Let your 2 year old know that whining is not how you and the rest of your family speak to one another. That you can’t understand what he’s saying when he whines, and that he needs to say it a different way.
He’s then compelled to speak correctly and not rely on whining to get his point across. And again, hold your ground and don’t give in if he continues to whine. Only agree to what he wants when he can learn to say it without whining.
5. Show your child how to communicate better
Let’s say you’ve asked your child to say what she wants without whining, but what do you do when she doesn’t know how to?
After all, she won’t know what you want to hear unless you give examples. She might struggle with communicating in general, adding to her frustration. And if whining is all she’s been used to, expecting her to “say it better” might not be a fair ask.
Instead, encourage her to say exactly what she wants (“water”) but in a more respectful way (without the whining tone). This can also calm her down enough to understand what it is she’s trying to say.
The best way to help? Model and give examples of what you expect her to say. After pointing out that she’s whining, you might ask, “Can you say ‘Want water, please’?” Not only will she know your expectations of how to communicate, she now has ideas on how to do so.
6. Redirect to another activity
Now that you know there’s a good chance the whining likely stems from a deeper reason, you can simply redirect her attention elsewhere.
Let’s say she’s whining about waiting for her turn at a game, except you realize it’s likely because she hasn’t had a snack in a while. You can meet her needs and redirect her attention to something else: “It’s still your brother’s turn, but here’s a quick snack while you wait.”
Or perhaps she’s whining about wanting to go to the backyard, except it’s raining outside. You can say, “It looks like you really want to go outside and run around, but it’s raining. What if we play a game of ‘chase’ around the house instead?”
Of course, you’ll still want to explain that whining is not the way to communicate, so do this after she has calmed down and learned not to speak to you that way. But once she’s receptive, you can suggest or even brainstorm a few ideas to help her cope with what she’s whining about.
7. Praise your child when he speaks politely
Your child will improve his behavior when you praise his positive behavior than hound him for negative ones. As impossible as it might seem to spot the times he doesn’t whine, I’m certain you still can. And when you do, praise him for it—no matter how simple or “obvious” he should be doing this.
For instance, when son said, “Want the ball, please” in a nice, polite tone of voice, I made sure to point it out. That’s the communication I want him to continue, and so I told him, “You are so polite!”
Make it your mission to stop focusing on the times your 2 year old whines so much as when he’s behaving well. Maybe it’s when he told you he was mad about not having ice cream in a calm way. Yes, he was still upset, but he told you without one hint of whining.
The more he feels acknowledged for the times he communicates well, the more he’ll continue that behavior.
No parent enjoys whining, but before getting angry or snapping at your toddler, you can help him stop and communicate better.
First, don’t give in to his whining and enable the very habit you’re trying to get rid of. Find underlying reasons he might be whining, and acknowledge how he feels. That said, explain that whining isn’t how you and your family speak to one another, and instead give alternative examples.
If possible, redirect him to another activity that can meet his needs and stop the whining. And finally, praise him for the times he does behave well to encourage that way of communicating.
With these tips, you can finally stop your 2 year old from whining and instead have him politely say, “Want water, please.”
Get more tips:
- How to Establish a Solid 2 Year Old Bedtime
- 7 Things You Should NOT Do with a Defiant 2 Year Old
- How to Get an Overtired Toddler to Sleep
- 7 Simple (But Genius!) Ways to Stop Diaper Change Tantrums
- 5 Things to Remember when You’re Losing Your Temper with Your Toddler
Are your current discipline methods just not cutting it with your toddler? Learn 9 out-of-the-box parenting strategies that will help you deal with these challenging behaviors.
Imagine transforming your relationship with your child, using just the tips you’ll learn right here. Sign up for my newsletter and download your PDF below—at no cost to you: