Kids constantly crying and complaining over everything? Learn how to stop your child from whining all the time — a must-read for parents!
If you’re like me, you dread The Whining Sound. It can catch you off guard first thing in the morning when your child hasn’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.
At first, the solution seems to be to get in full discipline mode. You ask your child what they’re whining about, tell her to stop, or try to show her a better way to communicate without whining.
And while this works from time to time, I found another way to stop whining.
How to stop your child from whining
When your child whines, complains, or throws a fit, her outward needs tend to be superficial. She’ll whine about not getting the orange lollipop or because she wanted to go down the slide first. These needs are important for her, but they go much deeper than that.
So, one of the best ways to stop all the whining and complaining?
Give your child your full attention.
Sometimes all she needs is your attention. At times, it can feel like she’s competing against so many factors that keep you away from her. Maybe it’s her 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.
She also needs your attention after long stretches of time away from you. Imagine that she 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 you 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 her, it can be.
So, when you give her your full attention, those buckets fill right up. And a full bucket means a child who can handle the small challenges in her day. Falling down after running or not finding her favorite stuffed animal doesn’t seem so stressful.
Giving her your full attention extends beyond whining, too. It’ll 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 your full attention can be hard. You’re busy enough as it is, even doing the bare minimum. Other times, you’re just not in the mood, especially when she whines.
But ironically, it’s during those times that she needs you the most. And one of the biggest challenges is the need to push those feelings aside in her best interest.
So, how can you give her your full attention? Here are a few best practices:
1. Stop multitasking
Does your child start whining right when you’re preparing dinner or getting her ready for the day? If you can, stop everything else you’re doing and focus on her.
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 child 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.
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2. Give your child 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 five minutes. And even then, I also explain I’ll still have to run back to the kitchen periodically.
Other times, your child might need to wait longer. You could be driving and can’t give her your full attention until you’ve parked. You also don’t have to drop everything right this moment, so let her know when you plan to. That way, she knows you’ll be with her as soon as it’s possible.
Get more tips on how to stop your toddler whining.
3. Really listen and make eye contact
Part of giving your child 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 you to stop doing what you’re doing to focus on your child. It’s pretty hard to put groceries away when you have to look her in the eye. When you’re forced to lock gazes, you’re more likely to listen than multi-task. Kneel to her level if need be.
Then, don’t interrupt. A good rule of thumb is to wait a few seconds before she finished talking before 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, she could be whining, but it’s during these times that she needs the most compassion. Listen without judgment or saying what you think about her situation. Instead, repeat what she was whining about and help her resolve her issues.
You might say, “It sounds like you feel upset because you can’t find the toy you were playing with earlier. Would you like me to help you find it?”
Learn how to be a mindful parent.
4. Give your child a warm hug
Sometimes all your child needs have nothing to do with words, or even your help with getting something done. All she needs is a place to crumble, to feel 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.
Learn how to give your kids attention, even when they all want it at the same time.
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 your child your full attention can stop the whining quickly. How? Stop multitasking so you can direct all your attention to her. If you can’t, give her a time frame so she knows when you’ll be done.
When you’re ready for her, listen and make eye contact. And sometimes, all she needs is a hug and cuddle from you—a place to feel vulnerable and safe.
So yes, it may be more work upfront, but you’ll be giving her quality time when she needs it most.
Get more tips:
- How to Stop Your 2 Year Old from Whining
- 7 Positive Parenting Skills All Moms Need to Have
- How to Stop Feeling Stressed and Enjoy Motherhood Instead
- Top 5 Parenting Myths You Shouldn’t Believe
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
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I loved this!! Thank you! I only wish you could send it out and remind me to do this when my baby is older and this situation arises more often!
Nina Garcia says
Thanks Julie! Hopefully you can file it away for much longer 🙂
Hi, not sure if my comment will be published but i would need advice: i do all of the above and still the whining continues everyday allday long: i’ m present , only one child i’m a stay-at-home mun. Don t do lots of chores and wait until my husband is home so she has 24h full attention: i still breastfeed during night also and she only plays with us and a little by herself. I try to be patient all the time when she cries/whines: hug her but she pushes away and demands i stop tpuching her even though she wants me to hold her, i breastfeed her, we basically run to her when she yells… when she’s calm i try to have a conversation and find out what trigger the whole thing daily but my question just provokes another burst… this has been going for so long abd i m just exhausted.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Anabela! It does sound like you’re doing all the right things. If you find that nothing makes her happy, then you know it’s more about the power struggles than actually needing something (like switching between being held and not wanting to be held). I would start to give her more independence, showing her how to do things on her own. She may not know how to self-entertain, or she feels like she needs you in order to be happy and have fun. See what happens if you start giving her a little bit more responsibilities so she is less clingy. Then, praise her for when she does do things on her own, like reading for 5 minutes, getting her own toy, sitting in a room while you grab something in another room, etc. I hope that helps!