Can’t get your children to stop whining? Learn one unusual but effective way to handle a whiny toddler and strengthen your relationship with your child too!
If you’re like me, you dread The Whining Sound. It can catch you off guard first thing in the morning even when the kids haven’t even been awake for five minutes. Or you’ve come to expect it at the end of a long, tiring day.
No matter the time of day, whining is one of the triggers that can set me off. I can’t imagine another adult whining to me that way, so it seems even worse when kids resort to it.
And at first, the solution seems to be to get in full discipline mode. We ask them what they’re whining about, tell them to stop or we even try to show a better way to communicate without whining.
And while this would work from time to time, I found another way to stop whining dead in its tracks.
One unusual but effective way to handle a whiny toddler
When kids whine, complain or throw fits, their outward needs tend to be superficial. They’ll whine about not getting the orange car, or because they wanted to go down the slide first. These needs are important for kids, but they go much deeper than that.
So, one of the best ways to stop all the whining and complaining?
Give kids your full attention
Sometimes all our kids need is our attention. At times, it can feel like they’re competing against so many factors that keep you away from them. Maybe it’s their siblings that demand your time, or the chores that take up too much of it. Mornings might feel rushed as you scramble to get out of the house.
Kids also need our attention after long stretches of time away from us. Imagine your toddler has a bucket that she likes to keep “full” of you. Any time she gets to spend time with you, her bucket gets filled. When she doesn’t, it runs empty.
The time we spend apart after a long night of sleep or a day at school dips into her bucket. Eleven hours of sleep may not seem like a long time, but to your toddler it is.
So when we give them our full attention, those buckets fill right up. And a full bucket means a toddler who can handle the small challenges in her day. Falling down after running or not finding her favorite car doesn’t seem so stressful.
Giving your toddler your attention extends beyond whining, too. Your full attention will help when she feels sad or frustrated much more than dividing your time. The simple act of listening and being present can be all she needs to feel reassured.
Let’s be clear, though: giving our full attention can be hard. We’re busy enough as it is, even doing the bare minimum of our days. Other times, we’re just not in the mood, especially when the kids whine.
But ironically, it’s during those times that our kids need us the most. And one of the biggest challenges is the need to push those feelings aside in the best interest of our kids. We won’t always get it right, but we can at least try.
So, what do we mean by giving kids our full attention? Here are a few best practices to get in the habit:
Did your toddler start whining right when you were preparing dinner or getting them dressed? If you can, stop everything else you’re doing and focus on your child.
Sometimes I’m half listening to my kids while wiping the dining table or packing lunches. And for most of the time, this is fine and even necessary. We all multitask during regular chores or everyday conversation.
But if your toddler needs your attention, try to stop what you’re doing and focus on her. She can sense when you’re not present. Besides, the more attention you give, the quicker the whining stops as you address her real needs.
And if you really can’t give your full attention now…
Give your toddler a time frame
During after school hours, you’ll usually find me in the kitchen, preparing dinner. And while some of those dinners are “set it and forget it,” others need me standing right next to the stove. I’d have no way to give my full attention when I’m going back and forth stirring risotto or deep frying chicken.
So instead, I give my kids a time frame. I let them know I’ll be available in two minutes. And even then, I also explain I’ll still have to run back to the kitchen periodically.
Other times, kids will need to wait longer. You might be driving, but you can’t give your toddler your full attention until you’ve parked.
You don’t have to drop everything right this moment, so let your toddler know when you plan to. That way, she knows you’ll be with her as soon as it’s possible.
Really listen and make eye contact
Part of giving your toddler your full attention means really listening to what she has to say. I had always assumed I listen to my kids pretty well, but only in thinking back to recent conversations did I realize I could do better.
For instance, make eye contact. This simple act forces us to stop doing what we’re doing to focus on our kids. It’s pretty hard to put groceries away when you have to look your toddler in the eye. When we’re forced to lock gazes, we’re more likely to listen than multi-task. Kneel to their level if need be.
Then, don’t interrupt. A good rule of thumb is to wait a few seconds before your toddler has finished before even saying anything. This ensures she’s done speaking and forces you to be more mindful about the words you say.
And once you do speak, try not to judge or speak harshly. Yes, the kids are whining, but it’s during these times that they need the most compassion from us.
Listen without judgment or saying what you think about her situation. Instead, repeat what she was whining about and help her resolve her own issues.
You might say, “It sounds like you feel upset because you can’t find the race car you were playing with earlier. Would you like me to help you find it?”
Give your toddler a warm hug
Sometimes all our kids need has nothing to do with words, or even our help with getting something done. All they need is a place to crumble, vulnerable yet safe.
When my kids are in their worst moods, I find I’m able to stop or even prevent further whining by giving them a big hug. It’s amazing how their moods change.
Yes, they might collapse in a heap of tears and cry louder, but only for a little while. At least they’ll have felt heard and acknowledged and will soon feel better.
It’s tempting to roll our eyes at the thought of giving kids our full attention as a go-to move. We’re tight with time as it is, and it’s hard to step away from our own frustration and impatience.
But giving them our full attention can stop the whining quickly. Plus, it prevents misbehavior in the future. When kids feel heard—and their buckets are filled—they’re able to communicate in appropriate ways.
So yes, it may be more work upfront, but you’ll be giving your kids quality time when they need it most.
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