How to Stop Your Toddler Whining

Are you tired of your toddler whining and crying all the time? There are plenty of options to try to curb this behavior. In this article, I’ll share some of the most effective tips I’ve found that are based on respect and empathy.

Toddler WhiningAt some point, every parent asks herself, Is this behavior normal?

Because it seems that your toddler complains about everything, even when he has no reason to. He throws tantrums in the carseat or has a meltdown if you can’t pick him up right then and there.

Whining is one of they “triggers” that can make me lose my temper in a second. It also doesn’t help when my kids whine when I’m in the middle of something or after a long day. Other times, their whining can ruin what had been a good day.

Toddler whining is often a phase, but you don’t have to just “get through it.” Instead, use these moments to teach your child how to better communicate, reducing how often he whines in the future.

The best part? You’re building a stronger relationship with him rather than engaging in daily battles. Take a look at the solutions I’ve found to stop kids from whining and turn this behavior around:

Don’t engage in a fight

As grating as your toddler’s whining can be, avoid engaging in a fight. Don’t stoop down to his level, and instead maintain a matter-of-fact attitude.

You see, whining can trigger the part of your brain that wants to fight back, defend itself, outwit, and win. But as we all know, that path hardly serves anyone well. If you need to respond, do so calmly and factually.

For instance, avoid mocking his whining or laying out your own reasons and arguments. If he’s whining about a snack, simply say, “It looks like you’re hungry again. But we’re going to wait 30 minutes until dinner time so we don’t lose our appetites.”

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Acknowledge your toddler’s hardship

What now? was sometimes the first thought when I heard my toddler whining.

We’re quick to think about all the ways we’re inconvenienced with our kids’ behavior, so much so that we don’t think about what they could be going through. Kids have hardships too, even if they’re different from ours.

A lost toy, not getting the blue sippy cup, or their sibling taking most of the blocks are real problems to them. They’re just as real as a lost wallet, not getting the right order in the mail, or not getting the raise you hoped for are to you.

By acknowledging his hardship, you’re beginning the conversation on the same side instead of engaging in a fight. He feels understood, not brushed aside as petty. And because you know what he’s going through, he’s more receptive and less defensive.

You might acknowledge his hardship by simply saying, “Looks like you’ve had a hard day. I’d want to whine too if I was feeling bad.”

Or let’s say he refuses to stop whining because you don’t want to accommodate his request (like asking for the zillionth cookie of the day). Explain the root of his emotions and why he’s upset. “You feel mad because I still won’t give you the cookie.”

Address the reasons

Your toddler may just be whining about something simple like not wanting to get down from the high chair. Or he might have underlying reasons, from feeling tired to not knowing how to deal with his emotions.

Remind yourself that there might be something beneath the whining by reviewing the day. Has he had any significant changes like a bad night of sleep or meeting new people? These little things add up, and he might express them in ways he knows how to, including whining.

Before brushing aside his whining, address potential reasons causing it. “You seem tired,” you might say. You’re reminding yourself that he’s not whining to be irritating and can better help him identify the reasons he’s upset.

Give a time frame

Does your toddler whine on and on? Set your expectations and any time frames you may have.

Early evenings in my home usually mean I’m busy cooking dinner. I noticed that being clear about what I can do sets the stage. I might say, “I’m going to cook dinner now. You can play nearby while I’m doing that.”

If your toddler is adamant about wanting something when you’re unavailable, give her a time frame: “Sure, I’ll pick you up, once I put these groceries away.” She knows you’re not ignoring her, as well as when she can expect you to meet her needs.

Don’t give in to your toddler’s requests

Your toddler keeps whining for more milk, never mind that you know he’s doing so because he’s cranky. As simple as it may seem to hand him a glass of milk and stop the whining already, don’t. You don’t want to respond with a “Fine, already!” mentality.

If you’re tempted to give in just to stop the whining, find another way to do so. Giving in each time he whines teaches him that whining is an effective way of getting what he wants.

And it’s okay if you changed your mind and want to give him milk later on. You’re not caving in if you realized he was thirsty or hungry, even if he was whining about it. But make your response intentional and explain why you changed your mind.

Listen and make eye contact

Part of being a mindful parent means really listening to what your child has to say.

First, make eye contact. This simple act forces you to stop doing what you’re doing to focus on her. 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 finishes talking before saying anything. This ensures she’s done speaking and forces you to be more mindful about the words you say.

Lastly, don’t 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?”


If possible, redirect your toddler to a similar activity or item that meets her needs.

Let’s say she’s whining about waiting in line, but you realize she’s hungry. You’re still in line during what would be her snack time. Without giving in to her whining, meet her needs and redirect. “Here, let’s get you a quick snack while we wait in line instead.”

Redirecting Children's Behavior

Model how to behave

Think of childhood as a time to learn basic communication skills. Whining is prevalent at this stage because kids haven’t learned how to behave in more appropriate ways.

Rather than seeing whining as annoying, see it as an opportunity to teach. Your child can learn how to regulate herself, cope with disappointment, and use her words, all based on how you respond to her whining.

One of the best ways to do so is to simply show or tell her how to respond. She won’t know what to say unless you give her examples.

Let’s say she whined about wanting to wear a particular pair of socks. Show her how to say it in a better way. “Looks like you want those socks. You can say ‘I want those socks’ instead.” You can also point out that whining is not how you and the rest of your family speak to one another.

Model the behavior you want to see, and she will follow suit.

Take a break

I’ll admit: I’ve gone into my bedroom and closed the door, all in the name of calming myself down. I knew if I stayed with my toddler with the mood I was in, I was likely to yell or say something I’d regret.

Sometimes we just need that break, that breather to collect our cool and give ourselves a much-needed pep talk. Give yourself the permission to admit you’re on the brink of losing your temper, and the time and space to calm down.

Avoid using the break as a threat to your child, as if to say, “See? Look what your whining made me do. Now I’m mad and sad.” You’re not withholding your affection to “punish” her for her behavior, so much as giving yourself the break you need when you’re about to snap.

Reframe the stories you tell yourself

If you feel like your toddler whines all day, you might be contributing to that very behavior.

You see, we get what we focus our attention on. If you tell yourself she whines constantly, then you’re more likely to spot the times she’s whining than when she’s behaving. If you tracked her behavior minute by minute, I’m willing to bet that she doesn’t whine all the time.

Reframe the stories you tell yourself about your toddler whining. Instead of labeling her as stubborn or a whiner, focus instead on what you do want: someone who can communicate well.

This will help you spot the times when she is behaving, acting respectfully, and using her words. And the more you can praise her for her positive behavior, the more she’ll continue down this path. Now she identifies as someone who behaves well, not someone who whines.

After all, it’s much easier to correct her by praising the times she acts appropriately than correcting the times when she’s not. If she says, “Want milk, please” in a polite, normal voice, point it out. “You said that so politely!”


For many of us, whining can feel like fingernails on a chalkboard, enough to trigger our tempers and feel downright defeated.

Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for this phase to pass. Is this behavior normal? Absolutely. But now you have the tools to get through your toddler whining, even if it’s over a lost toy or sippy cup.

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  1. My daughter is definitely strong willed!! The biggest things we are struggling with right now is screaming (when she is frustrated, mad, and/or tired). She will yell “help pwease!!!” She knows how to ask when she is frustrated, but still will scream. Then if we don’t come right away she literally just screams. Any suggestions would be great on how to curb this.

    We are also struggling with getting her dressed. We will make her put clothes on when we are at home and she will just take them off. We try to give her options (now or in 5 minutes, she gets to pick what she wears). Unless it’s her idea, she out right fights us. She is so smart and I just love her to pieces! I just want to help her through these feelings/times best I can. Thank you!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely rough dealing with screaming, especially when they know perfectly well how to ask for the same things in a more polite way, or express their frustration a bit better. But as it is, perhaps she’s struggling with managing her emotions.

      One thing that will help eventually curb her behavior is to not give in to whatever she is asking and screaming for. Let’s say she needs a glass of water, but she yells it out loud. Let her know that you’ll be ready to bring her a cup of water once she calms down. You can even model for her a proper way to say it. If she’s too frustrated, let her know that you’re here to help her cope with her emotions. Keep your words minimal and simply let her experience her emotions and know that you’re there. Your empathy will do so much for her.

      Even better is to praise her for the times when she DOES ask for something nicely. That way, she’ll remember these moments and continue this type of behavior.

      Hang in there, Leslie! Rest assured you’re not alone, mama <3

  2. Hi! I’m having a hard time staying patient with my kids. I have a 3 1/2 and a 1 1/2 year old, both boys, and they push my patience to the max! I often lose it and feel horrible afterwards.. Lately my youngest has started crying and whining a lot since he isn’t talking yet and it really triggers me.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m also definitely triggered by whining, so I know what you mean. It’s good though that you’re aware of it, so that you can catch yourself more often and pause before reacting in ways you’d rather not.

      One thing that helps me is to “brace myself” for the day, almost like you’re prepped and ready to go for whatever happens, so that when things do come up, you feel like you saw it coming and are prepared with a better response. When my mind is elsewhere and something happens to trigger me, it’s so much easier to just react and lose my cool.