3 Year Old Crying and Whinning About Everything

Updated on January 05, 2011
T.A. asks from Lake Oswego, OR
16 answers


Yet again I am having issues with my oldest boy. Lately he cries and whines about EVERYTHING!! I mean everything. Daddy leaves...cries..doesn't get what he wants..cries, whines....brother does something...whines...something on his face...whines... and its not soft whines and cries it is full out top of the lungs crying and whining.

My husband and I discipline him, and tell him that he needs to use his words, but it just gets worse. I really am not sure how to handle it anymore and there are many times I find myself walking away because I get frustrated. I really dont know how to deal with it.

I am a stay at home mom of the two boys, and its just getting out of hand. PLEASE HELP!

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answers from Honolulu on

Its his age.
Its his communication level.
Their emotions are not fully developed yet at this age.
They don't have automatic coping-skills at this age.
You may tell him to use his words... but maybe he doesn't automatically 'know' which words to use, nor the correct words to use... nor what his feelings are... to then use those words.

So... teach him the names, for feelings.
ie: happy, sad, frustrated, tired, hungry, irritated etc.
Tell him the exact, wording to use even, if that helps.
Practice with him.... role play etc.
Give him the 'skills' to then say his words....

If he gets like that when tired.... (which many kids tend to whine when tired), then he should nap.
A child this age, still gets over-tired and needs to nap.

I would just teach him how to communicate and how to use his words... and practice the 'tone' of voice, with him.
Kids don't necessarily 'automatically' know, how to do this.
They do not 'automatically' know... how to communicate.... nor what they are feeling.

all the best,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

My 4 year old son does that sometimes, though he's much better than a year ago. My mom said we tried that too, so I followed her advise. When he starts to whine, I get down on his level, look him in the eye and say, "I can't understand you when you talk to me like that. You need to talk like a big boy." And then I don't engage him unless he speaks to me in a normal voice.

He's much better now, so when he does begin to whine I just say, "No whining." He knows he has a better chance of getting what he wants if he doesn't whine.

You said, "I find myself walking away because I get frustrated." My first thought was, you say that like it's a bad thing? It's not. That might be the message he needs to hear.

Give him lots of positive attention when he stops whining and really let him know that that's the best chance he has of being heard and getting the good attention from you he craves.

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answers from New York on

RUN to get the book Happiest toddler on the block and try some of Dr Karps techniques. for ex You put his feelings into words for him. You're SO sad Daddy is leaving! it makes you feel sad and mad." you feel Mad mad mad that Daddy is leaving. dont say oh stop yelling he'll be back later because what you are saying is your feelings are ridiculous. you have no reason to be upset cuz Daddy's going to work. Offer LOTs of choices Dp you want to wave at Daddy from the window or from door? do you want to wave or blow kisses?
the only response he gets to whining is "What? what are you saying? (we do not ever understand whine) say Use your big boy voice (model it for him are you saying Mommy I want a ....? or are you saying Mommy I feel .....;..? try to give him what he wants if he repeats in a nice voice .

and yes you can walk away when you need to!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My advice would be to simply put him in his room when he wants to go full out. My boys were not allowed to perform for me in common living areas. If they were only interested in pitching a fit, then it was to happen in their room without an audience and could only rejoin when the fit had passed. Often kids do this for attention, negative or positive. Attention is attention. Removing the attention gains them nothing and should help to lessen the activity or repetitiveness of the activity.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I'm going to mirror what S.H. said. It's his age and his abilities at that age.

Show him how to communicate with words instead of whining. Eventually he will replace it. (not in a few days, but it will get there)

Also, give him as many "power games" as you can. Give him control of lots of little things. Give him choices of things that either option is good. Play games where he calls the shots. By doing this, you are filling his "power tank" and that may help with the whining.

Also, watch for when the whining occurs. For example, at our house it almost always is tied to being hungry, being tired, or getting sick.

A *great* book (or website and probably youtube) is "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen. It gives you a whole new and wonderfully helpful way of approaching a preschooler. They aren't logical!!!

Another great person is Harvey Karp. He has some great videos too. Search this site, or the internet and you will find him. I would sum up his approach in short, repeated sentences that let your little ones know you heard their issue. Once they relax, you go from there.

Threes are often the hardest spot.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

okay I have actually been where you are my youngest was/is a whiner/crier I tried everything this is what worked better than anything else-
If you are going to cry/whine go to your room- when you are done and you want to talk come down but dont leave that room until you are done crying. Dont back down walk him to his room and sit him on his bed if you have to ( and probably more than once)
Dont check on him or baby him sometimes my son would cry himself to sleep or throw a horrendous fit but he did it in his room if he came out crying he was sent right back. It takes a while and it isnt easy but it does seem to stop the whining

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Walking away isn't a bad option. One approach we've taken is to tell our 3 year old "I can't understand you when you talk like that. When you're ready to talk, come to me" and then we walk away. We just go to the other room where she can easily find us but where we aren't engaging the whine. When she's doing it in play, we do it right back and all end up giggling about it and she'll speak to us without the whine.



answers from Portland on

Hi T.,

I know you're gotten a lot of great ideas, but I wanted to take a moment to help too, because this is a question I often get through my parent coaching practice.

Kids whine because they 1) don't know they're whining, 2) they are really sad, and that's their version of a frown 3) it works!

To get rid of whining I've had GREAT success with the following:

1) Provide warning, when they know what to expect they will not be suprised. "Dad is going to work in 5 minutes, so it's time to say bye to Dad." This will help
2) Be consistent and tell them "I cannot hear you when you whine. I know what you have to say is important, so please talk to me in a normal voice like mine sounds like currently." ~Make sure you give examples of good voices. Kids often do not realize they whining, so point it out!
3) Become a broken record, repeat this every time your child whines. Their goal is to get something. If everytime they whine, you respond with the above message, they will eventually change their behavior to get what they want.
4) Don't give in to their needs because you want to stop their behavior. You're teaching your child you will give them what they want if they wear you down.
5) It's okay to walk away from a whiner. "Your whining hurts my ears, I'm going to go to the kitchen not. Please stay here until your whining has stopped." and just leave.

Also use "This is a whine free zone. If you want to whine, you can do that in your room."

I hope this helps!

R. Magby



answers from Denver on

This can be MADDENING!!! I have a 2.5 and 4 year old and they have their "days". As hard as it is, don't give him any attention when he acts this way. Try pretending you can't hear him. If he's too loud, take him to his room until he can "be done with his fit". Whatever you do, try not to give into him and try not to lose you cool. So so so so so hard to do. I know when I can keep calm and not lose it, they respond. Once I give in and give attention of any kind, they learn that that behavior gets them something. When it gets that bad, I tell him I need a time out and I go into the bathroom and breathe... then come out and try to deal again. I know some kids are worse at this than others - so I am also interested to hear what others have to say. HANG IN THERE!



answers from New York on

Hi T.,
Unfortunately I can't offer any advice but just want to say I have a 3 year old also who whines a lot. He also makes demands constantly. I'm thinking maybe its just the age but I'm curious to see others' responses. Its not easy being a SAHM and I only have one so I can imagine your frustration. Hang in there and good luck!


answers from Eugene on

Give him lots of cuddle time. He also needs something that provides him with organized physical activities. Enroll him in a yoga class as that is one thing that calms the nerves and exercises all the organs, muscles and glands in the body. Three year old children are old enough for yoga.



answers from Phoenix on

When my 2 year old does this he is sent to his room and told he can come out when he is done whining and would like to talk. It works great! At this age they don't know what they are feeling or how to express that. Get the whining to cease and then I talk with him and ask if he is sad, mad etc and teach him the words and the right way to handle it in the future.



answers from Seattle on

Briefly, because I know you will have lots of answers to read, pick him up when he whines, with as little emotion--love or frustration, etc--and put him in a room by himself. If he comes out and is still whining, put him back in. Repeat as necessary until he stops whining. Take turns with your husband if he is home.

No emotion... that is the important thing. And the hard thing. If you must scream go outside, lock the door, and scream...I used to go into the bathroom and turn on the shower....and cry. And I repeat no emotion. If you have a emotion during this time it will become a power struggle and a game that you don't want to play.

This is a phase that your son will out grow, you just want to help him out grow it sooner than later.



answers from Portland on

Keep walking away, don't give him attention positive or negative.



answers from Seattle on

Oh my good heavens. Mama, I hear you. All I cab say is -hang in there. My daughter is a whiner. She whines every day. She is 4. and it wasn't until I read your post that I realized that it has gotten any better! When she was 3, it was all day. Now it's just every day!!

Keep doing what you are doing. Don't give him what he wants until he asks for it nicely. Life will get better. And if all else fails, turn on some tunes and chill until he can get his act together. Good luck!!!


answers from Seattle on

T., try not to get too down about it. It's normal for this age. Just keep on with telling him to use his words, teach him the names for his feelings, not just when he's feeling them, but when you are too. (Can't get something to work at home, "I'm very frustrated with this!", Don't get to do something you were planning on, "I"m disappointed that I can't do this.", etc.)

Stay calm and give him two options: 1.)Tell mama what's wrong or 2.)You can go to your room until you're done with your fit because the rest of the family does not have to listen to your tantrum. If he doesn't go on his own you calmly carry him and sit him on his bed and say, "Come out when you're ready." and shut the door.

I have 4 girls. Two have been through this and my 3rd will be 3 in a few weeks and has her share of fits right now. But they've only ever lasted 4-6 weeks for my girls. Hopefully your consistency will make your experience even shorter!

One last note - try to give him control whenever you can. Even little choices throughout the day about what they wear, play with, eat, etc. can help them feel in control of their lives and minimize the number of fits.

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