3-1/2 Year Old - Manners and Whining

Updated on September 24, 2009
K.P. asks from Montgomery, IL
12 answers

I think I've just come to the realization that my sweet, loving little boy is now in what I've heard of - the "terrible 3's". Our 2 main concerns for his behavior as of late are his manners and the incessant whining. He's constantly almost moaning throughout the day unless he's doing exactly what he wants when he wants. In other words, if he's not at the playground or sleeping, he's moaning/whining.

Also, he used to say "please" and "thank you" all the time when he was younger, and lately, I've noticed he never says it anymore, so I started reteaching it over the past 2 weeks or so, but now it's a battle of wills. I've gotten to the point with him where he'll say something like, "I REALLY want some milk" in a very whiny voice, and I'll say that he can have some if he says "please" and talks in his "big-boy voice, rather than whining", and he'll just tell me then that he no longer wants the milk. Or, I'll offer him some milk, and then require a "thank you" from him, which he refuses to say, so I take the milk back and tell him he can have it as soon as he wants to say "Thank you".

To add to that, since I've been demanding that he say please and thank you, if he absolutely must say please, he'll say it, but only in my ear, while looking down, and in a whisper. Why? Now that he'll sometimes do this, I've been moving on to telling him I want him to say it like a big boy and look at me when he talks to me, etc...

Am I expecting too much of him? It's not like he's incapable of getting the words out - he's extremely acticulate for his age...just very stubborn.

3 moms found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Thanks, ladies. It's so hard to walk that fine line between overly strict and overly indulgent...a little reassurance from other moms is what I needed to know that I'm doing the right thing in raising my little men! :)

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answers from Chicago on

Another tactic:

I'm dealing with this right now (with some success) with both my daughters
Here's an idea I read somewhere and something I found online-

Something I do these days is remembering to inject HUMOR
Gosh, I find myself too "tight" sometimes.

I get my daughters to laugh and stop whining by whispering in their ear
that "Mister Whiny" was not invited ect ect. Sometimes I make a "face" (kind of funny but still disapproving) when they don't say "please" or "thank you" to let them know I don't "understand". They really seem to respond and it helps me "cope" with these "moments" of motherhood

Dealing with Whining: The Do's and Don'ts

by Chick Moorman

Jason Meredith's two-year-old son whines when he wants more juice. Brenda Kreuger's eight-year-old daughter whines about having to take piano lessons. Connie Gustufson's daughter whines about not getting enough playing time on the softball team. Each parent finds the whining annoying, but is unsure what to do about it. In each case, both parent and child could be helped by the following guidelines:

Do expect your child to whine. It is age-appropriate at two, three, eight, thirteen, nineteen, and every age in between. Children will whine. Count on it.

Don't say, "Stop whining." That doesn't work. Children do not like being ordered around under normal circumstances. When they are whining, they like it even less. One thing worse than a whiner is a whiner that engages you in a power struggle.

Do say, "Madison, that's whining. Whining doesn't work with me. What works with me is to ask in a normal voice using a normal tone at a normal volume. If you do that, sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don't, but it's your only hope."
(I thought this was so funny)

Don't be surprised if you're tested. Your child will check you out to see if you meant what you just said. Show your child that you did mean it.

Don't cave. You may be tested more than once. Once your child realizes that whining doesn't work, he or she will drop the behavior. A child who fights does so because that behavior works for him or her. A child who runs away from fights does so because that works for him or her. A child who gives excuses does so because that behavior works for him or her. Show your child that whining doesn't work with you.

Do announce that your bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, and the car are whine-free zones. Put up whine-free signs if necessary.

Do allow your child to whine. Provide a whining area. The child's bedroom will work well for this purpose. With a legitimate whining area, your child can continue to whine if he or she chooses, and you don't have to hear it.

Don't whine to your spouse about your whining child. You are always modeling. Your child learned whining behavior somewhere. Could it have been from you?

Do use a whine fine for older children. Assess each whiner $1.00 per whine. Keep it in a whine jar or whine bottle. Treat yourself to dinner out or a massage when the whine toll allows.

Do allow children to whine in a whining journal. Inform them that you will listen to all whining if it is written down. (HaHaHa)

Do praise your child when he or she asks in a normal voice using a normal tone at a normal volume. Don't take children to stores, malls, or relatives' homes after their normal bedtimes. If you do, you're asking for whining. Whining, both theirs and yours, increases with tiredness.

Do use preventative communication before you enter whine zones. Have a talk in the car before you enter the grocery store. Explain the purpose of the trip. Set the ground rules. Make your expectations clear before you enter the whine zone, and you will experience less whining when you get there.

Do inform your child that you are having trouble hearing when he or she whines. Say that your child is hard to understand when he or she chooses that tone. Tell your child that whining hurts your ears and they close down for whine protection.

Do make a copy of this article and carry it around with you. Doing so will help you stay conscious that whining is a behavior you have made a commitment to eliminate.

Don't get discouraged. Whining is learned behavior. Learned behavior can be unlearned, and if you use these strategies consistently, your child will learn new behaviors to replace it.

Hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.
I made the choice -to LAUGH -- because the only other choice is to CRY
The former does wonders for my mood.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I feel your pain! My daughter is the same age and we are going through the same phase. It's the worst, isn't it?!? Way worse than the 2's that everyone warns you about.

One thing that has helped us tremendously is using a chart to mark both good and bad behavior. We have a separate chart for each - one with a smiley face and one with a frown face and they are both posted in her play area. On each chart, there is a list of about 5-6 rules (don't want to overwhelm her with too many), then a grid for each day. Frowny chart rules are things like talking back, not listening, etc. Smiley chart rules are things like helping around the house, saying please/thank you, etc. If she breaks a rule on the frowny chart, she gets a demerit and loses a toy for the day. This is helping her learn consequences. But to help positively reinforce behavior too, we have the smiley chart. If she does something good, she is rewarded. In our house, it's M&Ms. She gets one for each good behavior and then at the end of the day, she can eat all of the candy she's earned after her dinner. It's nice because she can physically see the result of her good work...the better the behavior, the more candy there is as a treat! And since it's M&Ms, they're so small, it doesn't hurt for her to eat 6 or 7 of them (which, by the way, is how many she earns on a good day! LOL!) Sometimes I even throw an extra candy or two in the bowl just for good behavior. We want her to know that sometimes just being a good person is all it takes.

This system has worked extremely well for us and other family members have even commented on how much better her behavior has gotten. It's amazing to me how a little mark on a chart affects her so much! When she misbehaves, all I have to say is "ok, I have to go mark that on your chart" and the "I'm sorries" start coming out at a furious pace!

Good luck and hope this helps!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Yay for you! What a great Mom you are! Seriously.

I think it's wonderful that you EXPECT your son to treat you and others with respect and appreciation - I feel like this is a lost art of parenting. I think that those of us who DO expect this are in the minority these days.

I agree with the prior posts that he is just testing you and trying to manipulate you. Of course every kid does this, so it's totally normal. Hooray for you first for noticing that he's slipped and for sticking to your guns. I think this is the PERFECT time and age to be doing this...because you as a parent expect this in your home. I think lots of people wait until their kids go on playdates, school, etc. and then can't figure out why their kids don't say please, thank you, etc.

I think you are being an EXCELLENT parent! Keep up the good work. (This just goes to show you that "good" kids don't just magically happen - we have to work at it! ;) )

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answers from Chicago on

You're not expecting too much. He is just testing the waters to see what he will be able to get away with. Don't budge an inch and hold your ground. Manners are important and they need to be taught young. It kills me when I see kids talking to their parents as if they are barking orders. I would have never talked to my parents this way as a kid. There is also nothing worse than a grown adult whining to get their way or one that never says please and thank you. Whenever I come into contact with an adult who is rude and lacks simple manners I always think they must have never been taught the right way to act with other people. I really think now a days parents treat their kids like mini adults and don't demand respect or good behavior from them. I hear parents saying things like "My 4 yr old won't clean his room, he's just a kid and doesn't know better. Kids do know better and they are kids not adults. Good behavior and manners is something far too many kids are lacking and being around a bratty kid is the worst. I think it sounds like you are doing a great job, just keep being firm and stick to your guns...you and the rest of the world will thank you someday when you have a well-adjusted, thoughtful man to send into the world! Okay, I will get off my soapbox now...=)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


Sounds like my 4 year old. He's been doing the same thing. We do the same thing you do and tell him, "I'm sorry, I can't understand when you talk that way." or "I'm sorry, that's not how we ask for things in this house."

For us, we have a reward chart at the end of the day (Melissa and Doug make it http://www.melissaanddoug.com/dyn_prod.php?p=3789). It's been amazing. If he gets all of his magnets for the day, he gets a sticker that he can do whatever he wants with...it usually ends up on his PJ's or his forehead (he's silly).

Anyway, one of the magnets is "No Whining". During the day, if he whines, we tell him, "Jacob, this is your warning. If you continue to whine, you will lose your whining magnet." And at the same time, when he does ask nicely for something or doesn't whine I tell him, "Now THAT'S the way we ask for things. Thank you."

I don't think you are expecting too much at all. We expect the same from our 4 y/o and actually from our 23M old. It's just a matter of consistency...eventually, they get it. (I hope.) Although I know it gets frustrating, I think you are doing a great job with it.


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answers from Decatur on

I def. do not think you are expecting too much...I expect the same thing from my 2 year old!

I'm sure it is just a phase and it will go away soon on it's own. Just stick to your rules and he will figure out soon that you are serious and he will go back to *normal*. Toddlers can be very trying but I think it is very important to send them the right messages by demading good behavior!!

Good luck and hang in there :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have been going thru this with my son on and off since he could speak. There are definately stages that he goes thru, for a long time he would say please, thank you, God bless you and things of that nature, then when he was about 4 he started being a little bit rebellious as you are describing. If something required him to say please or thank you, and we requested it from him then he would say never mind i don't want it then. Its a battle of wills i think and they are trying to see how far things will go. I would just keep up what you are doing and if he says he doesn't want it anymore, then say okay and don't give it to him. My son is now 5 and still goes thru bouts of this on and off. He also has temper tantrums every now and again where he will start whining if he doesn't get his way, he hunches his shoulders over and makes faces and begins his whining. Good luck and i think what your son is going thru is probably normal and hopefully it gets better.

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answers from Chicago on

It's all about control. You are doing exactly the right thing. Do not allow him to control you. Demand appropriate behavior and manners. Some moms don't stand firm at this young age, and they find themselves with an unmanageable 8 year old or 13 year old.

You will need to spend your days being patient (waiting it out until you get the behavior/tone you expect) but it will be worth it. He must respect you. You're doing great.

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answers from Chicago on

Brazelton has a pretty good book on discipline or as he explains "teaching." It is a quick read. There is a section on whining and he says to ignore whining. Act as though you don't hear what they are saying. And tell them that you can't hear whining. Also, he is old enough to have a talk with about these issues explaining that people like good manners and that grown up and big boys use them. It is also very important to model them yourself. I think parents are inclined to insist on thank yous and please from children but then not use them themselves. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I really wish I had some advice for you that's tested and proven. I am more so waiting to see what other kind of responses you receive because my 3 1/2 year old is pretty much on the same track. She was so sweet and mannerable throughout her second year and the beginning of the third. But now that she's nearing four she constantly whines or cries about every little thing and she is very sassy. I can't understand it. I am growing very weary of spending the majority of the day disciplining. After all the time-outs, where's the time in??



answers from Chicago on

Welcome to the terrible 3's and beyond....you probably thought you had escaped what you had heard about from others! Soldier on and know that there are millions of other moms going through the same thing!! You are not alone!!!
Stick to your guns as others have suggested - fortunately it is just a phase, especially if you have already laid the foundations before.
Power to all mommies!!!!!!! And don't forget to thank our own moms for putting up with us too!

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