Does Anyone Have Advice on Managing a Toddler's Whining?

Updated on November 04, 2015
L.F. asks from Wantagh, NY
15 answers

My 19 month old constantly whines and much of the time I don't know what she wants. I can offer her 3 or 4 types of food and she will not want any of them. I try this with various toys too. I do take Julia out often but there's times when we're home a lot if I'm attending to her older sister, it's dark out or we have no place to go. Kind of gate-locked in a living room/dining room combo. Basement is not finished but we do try that too as I need a different room Julia isn't climbing the sofa. We go to two mommy groups but the other three days nothing except errands, the library and dog-walking. Money is tight for classes but I hope to get her into one soon. Forgot this stage when they can't talk much and I guess she is frustrated that she only knows a few words. Thanks!

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answers from Appleton on

You are teaching to be a picky eater by offering more than one choice at mealtimes. She only need to know it's time eat and to eat what is offered. Ignore whiny times. She whines walk away, she will learn quickly whining doesn't work. She climbs on the sofa remove her an tell her NO.
Parent is noun and a verb -- a verb is an ACTION word, take action when her behavior is inappropriate.

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answers from Boston on

Since this seems to occur at all times of the day and in different circumstances, I'd say she's partly frustrated by not having vocabulary, and she's also getting a huge payoff by having you bend over backwards to meet her whims. That's going to make your life a living hell - I know you think that's where you are now, but it will only get worse.

Reread Margie's response about putting a few pictures of healthy options on the refrigerator. Otherwise, put out the food that you are offering, and let her choose from those. If she doesn't like them, you say, "Okay, I guess you aren't hungry then. I'll put them away until you're ready." If she has a tantrum, she can "have some alone time in your room until you're ready to be calm." Separation from a parent makes a child realize that they have to get along, or be alone.

I don't understand what you mean about going out or using the basement. It's not about where you take a toddler, it's about what stimulation they have where they are. Rotate the toys, have a few in a bin or on a shelf where she can reach them herself. Are you saying you are offering her one toy to see if that's what interests her, and if it doesn't, you get another one out? It's better to have a few choices. You can get really simple organizer racks that also make clean-up easy. I put photos on the outside of each bin on a storage rack to show what went where: stuffed animals here, cars there, railroad track things elsewhere. You don't have to go out to be able to sit on the floor with a toddler doing a puzzle. Use toys in unique ways too - my son loved things with tracks (for cars, for trains) that could be arranged in different ways. Each day was an adventure. We had a table where he could set up and leave things up for continued play the next day (basement) with bins underneath for storage. We controlled how many bins could be open at one time so stuff wasn't everywhere.

The library is great - do encourage reading and let her choose some books to take home. Let her put them in the return bin herself so she gets the idea that things come into her life and go back to be shared with others. If she whines at any of these things, she goes home.

A play group is fine but I think we do our kids a huge disservice when we convince them that they must have something organized and structured. We've got a whole generation of kids who had this enrichment class and that team and this music group - and they are sadly lacking in innovativeness, critical thinking and problem solving. I can't imagine signing such a young child up for classes! So save your money and develop your own ability to create a stimulating environment - which doesn't mean you have to lead every activity! Most learning in children comes through free play - and they can do that themselves with a little bit of suggestion from the caregiver. There isn't a "right" way to play with toys unless they are a one-function item that doesn't require any thought or creativity. A dress-up trunk, a bunch of puppets, some "assembly" toys like Duplos or puzzles or things with tracks/roads are all great. So is driveway chalk - draw a "road" and let her push her kiddie car or just walk along it however she wants to. Blow bubbles and enjoy the shapes. Turn your dog-walking into a nature walk - take a bucket and let her pick up interesting stones (wash and paint them at home) or leaves (create a leaf collage) or pine cones (roll in peanut butter and bird seed, hang with a string outside as a feeder).

When you're at the library, get a book of toddler activities, things you can do at home that will spark your creativity. Show your daughter that she gets more out of doing then out of whining. It's not about you entertaining her to keep her happy all the time. It's about her being stimulated enough that she doesn't need just one solution to make her happy, so it's not up to you to keep guessing until you get the right one.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

well, i don't think toddlers need classes, although they're nice. everyone will go a little stir-crazy 'gate-locked.' so maybe just more in the way of walks, parks, libraries, even just going to the mall and walking around.
that doesn't address the whining per se, but i'd probably whine too if i were too tightly confined. i know not all toddlers have safe yards they can toddle about in but you do need to change up their scenarios so they have options for exploring and stimulating their growing brains.
the more specific answer to the whining is to be very firm about it. but with a pre-verbal child your firmness needs a big dollop of understanding. it IS frustrating to be unable to communicate, and you need to help her with that aspect of it, but just offering her everything under the sun doesn't work, as you have seen. instead of offering her 3 or 4 kinds of food, YOU be in charge of it. if you know she hasn't eaten in a couple of hours and that hunger is a natural possibility for her grumpiness, offer her ONE thing that she usually likes.
choices are great, but we sometimes go too far in that direction. she's not even 2, and is easily overwhelmed. if she doesn't want the apple slices or crackers or grapes or whatever her go-to healthy snack is, then she's probably not grumping from hunger, and gets increasingly frustrated by having food offered to her. as her mom you're doubtless familiar with her sleep cycles and activity limits. if she's just worn out, put her down for a nap.
if she's bored, offer her TWO toys. or tell her she can play with her tonka truck OR you'll read her a story. choices- but very very limited ones.
rotate her toys out every week. one favorite woobie, the rest are off-limits just enough to keep them exciting. but do be (gently) flexible if on one particular day she's just dying to play with one particular toy.
other than that, whining is part of toddlerhood, and learning when to tune it out firmly is part of parenting. the rush to 'fix' every whine and pout does not empower a little person. sometimes the best thing to do with a grouchy toddler is to let her grouch.
'i don't know what you mean when you make those noises, honey. go into the living room and make them until you're ready to stop. no, you may not come into the kitchen with me. i'm not going to listen to that.'
and give her positive attention when the whining stops.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

You have to ignore her. My son was and still gets like this sometimes, hes 3. Don't feed into the whining it only makes it worse. If you ignore her, it will happen less often. My son started to talk more when i asked him to use his words or at least point to what he wanted.

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answers from Phoenix on

Have you thought about teaching her sign language? That could help her communicate, maybe alleviate some of her frustration?

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answers from Boston on

She's learned that whining works. It gets her attention from her mommy. The way to get it to stop is by not giving her all those choices (seriously in your daily life who gives you 4 things to choose from all the time?) and offer 1 or 2 things. She won't be harmed by missing a meal or two so stop catering to her every whim.

When my kids were whiners I would fake not being able to understand that language. I'd calmly say that I didn't understand what they wanted. The whining decreased because it wasn't getting them what they wanted.

She doesn't need classes so save your money. At this age they don't play with anyone. Go out to the park, run around the yard with a ball. Get out every day so she can run off some energy. Throw on some music and have a dance party.

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answers from Portland on

Not sure what going out has to do with whining, mine were happy at home or in yard and to along on errands. I didn't specially go out and do toddler things. I just changed up the toys and pulld new ones out in morning, and a new set in afternoon, and regularly rotated them. Mine were fussier if tired or hungry. So I kept a pretty good routine but nothing too structured by meals and naps were a must.
I had one who couldn't hear and was in ear pain and I had to learn patience in communicating with him. They thought he had autism but in the end he just was frustrated he couldn't express himself and had lived with pain for so long from pressure. I put pictures up on th fridge he could point to. Helped. Sign language they taught at our daycare.
When they went through fussy stages I didn't give in I would offer a food they liked if they didn't eat it they didn't get another. New foods they had to at least try and make good effort. But I agree with the moms below if you cater to the fussiness it won't go away.
Just check when you to in next that it's nothing phsyical that is causing her to be so disagreeable. It's likely just a phase and we just have to be patient and help them to find ways to show us what they want. Good luck :)

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answers from Abilene on

I second sign language. Made a huge difference with my daughter. She learned about 25 words and it was a lifesaver.


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answers from Williamsport on

Stop appeasing the whiner! The LAST thing you want to do is jump through hoops trying to guess what she wants! Whining, like tantrums, and other wrong behaviors can be disciplined. If she's not legitimately tired or sad, teach her not to whine. Back to Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson is a great book. I had one serious whiner out of my three who would have had me in the loony bin if I didn't nip that.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Toddlers whine. All of them.
Tell her that you do not speak whine and you will only respond when she speaks in a normal voice.
Stop trying to entertain her. She needs to learn to entertain herself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

make sure she is getting enough sleep - I have found that to be the number one reason for whining in that age - she should be getting 12 hours every night and a 2 to 3 hour nap
then make sure she is getting enough food - breakfast, snack, lunch, nap, snack, dinner then bedtime, no more then 20 oz of milk in a day either
that usually solves almost all issues

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answers from Norfolk on

It's too bad if she doesn't want to eat what you're having for dinner but the way to handle it is - you give her one healthy choice and if she says 'No' then you put that choice away and don't offer anything else.
If she says she still wants something then you bring that same choice out again.
Repeat as needed - she goes to her room if she melts down.
Skipping one meal every once in awhile never hurt anyone.
You are not a short order cook - you make one meal and she either eats it or not.
Eventually she will learn to eat what you put in front of her.
Constant whining is tough.
You need to ignore it - get some ear plugs.
She is certainly learning to communicate but she's learning right now that whining gets results - so she keeps doing it.
You don't need to constantly entertain.
You put out a few toys and she either plays with them or not.
Actually - a big cardboard box is one of the best entertainments there is.
Give her one and let her pretend it's her castle/rocket ship/pirate boat/tree house/etc - fort building is great!
You've got terrible twos/threes on the horizon - it's going to be a rough next few years.
But they will be SO much easier if you put a stop to the whining now.

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answers from Kansas City on

You just listed a million ways you're doing everything you can to "make" her happy - what it translated to me was, you're breaking your back spending every penny and every moment trying to entertain/please your children. You cannot "make" another person happy. You can provide for their needs. Cheesy Puffs vs Teddy Grahams is not a need. It's catering to demands. This is why she is whining. When she starts it, tell her you can't understand whining. Teach her to say the words, teach her to point, teach her any other way to ask for what she wants, rather than whining. Whatever is acceptable to you and on her developmental level.

I will tell you as your children get older you will realize that trying to find the "perfect food" that they're demanding will get real old, real quick. If you keep it up, in ten years you'll be making four different dinners just to keep everyone "happy". Keep it simple. Try to use some signs, that might be helpful. Food. Drink. Toy. Tv. (Throw "please" and "thank you" in there as well - there are a ton of baby signs videos for cheap, or even look it upon YouTube). Don't put so much emphasis on which kind of food do you want, which drink do you want, what tv show do you want. She's 19 months. You're the parent. You have to set limits. kwim? You've taught her that whining gets her catered to. Teach her instead, how to get what she wants in an appropriate manner. Encourage manners and vocab development. Teach her that you will not stop the world and set it to revolving around her when she whines. That's our job. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

quit trying to appease her.
Ask she capable of speaking? Can she speak clear enough for you to understand & comprehend her actual needs? If so....then clearly state to her "when you speak to me in a big girl voice, I will help you."
If you're lucky, a few rounds of this (consistency is the key) will nip the whining....BUT you have to stand firm. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

How you should deal with whining depends on WHY she's whining.

If she's whining because she's frustrated that she is unable to tell you her wants/needs, teach her to sign and focus on language development. As she learns signs and better able to express what she wants, whining will eventually stop. I think you can google simple signs for "eat," "drink," "more," "open," "book," "milk," etc. They're fairly easy to learn and teach.

If she's whining for attention, ignore it. You don't want to positively reinforce whining behavior by giving her attention.

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