How Do I Stop the Constant Whining and Whining and Whining?

Updated on March 18, 2009
M.G. asks from Dundee, IL
17 answers

Maybe I just need to suck it up but I'm going to ask this anyway. My 23 month old will NOT stop whining and crying and I'm at my wits end. For example, this morning she wants to watch cartoons and immmediately starts whining/crying and handing me the remote. I ask her if she wants to watch cartoons and she shakes her head. (Now keep in mind that she can talk if she wants to). I turn the tv on and find the current show is over and running the credits so it's a matter of minutes until the next one starts. You would have thought that she'd been shot. The wailing and tears and screaming sent me over the edge at 6:30am this morning because she was going to wake up my 4 month old. This is pretty much my entire day with her - she does this with EVERYTHING. I don't know what to do. I've tried ignoring, consoling, time-out, telling her to stop or I'll turn the TV off, etc. What am I doing wrong? Is this just the terrible two's? Is there something I need to do differently? Please understand that this is not just an isolated incident. I can give plenty of examples of this behavior throughout the day and it's not just when she doesn't get her way - it's over everything. If she doesn't like where her pillow is on the couch then she melts down. If she asks for something to eat and then we give it to her - another melt down. She gets plenty of sleep (she goes to bed at 7:30pm and is usually up on her own by 6:30am with a 2 hour nap at daycare). Got any advice?

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answers from Chicago on

Hi M. - Thanks for posting this. I felt like I was reading about my own 21 month old son. He constantly cries/breaksdown over EVERYTHING! Some days I give up!
I do think it may be the age and tempermant of the child too. I have a daughter who was never like this.
It sounds like you are doing everything you can - I guess it may be the age since SO MANY moms are going through it too. Glad I am not alone in my insanity.
Anyway - no real advice - just a thank you for posting and let you know you are not alone.

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answers from Chicago on

From what I understand, at this age there is a huge gap between emotions and expression. For example, she gets so overwhelmed with disappointment at something that she melts down because the feelings are so strong, but the path to express them appropriately is weak or not formed yet.

What helped with my guy was to first prepare him for change...."it might not be on" before turning show on, telling him 10m early, then 5m early before we leave, etc. Then he could 'control' his feelings. Second when the melt down would happen I would hold him and rock(like 10m) and talk about how this action made him "sad" or "mad" or ......the rocking prevented the escalation and the talking calmed him and helped to associate the feeling with the emotion. He eventually would run to the chair or asked to be rocked when he got upset and w/i a few months he was much better. We no longer had to rock, just help him identify the feelings.

This is what worked for me after timeouts, loss of privledges, etc did not work. There is a man who wrote a book about how toddlers are like caveman. Cannot think of the name but it is the same premis just backed up with research. Hope this helps.



answers from Chicago on

is you KNOW she can talk... say "i'm sorry, could you please use your regular voice? i'm having trouble understanding you" (in a very calm voice). w/our son he IMMEDIATELY used his regular voice. worked everytime. if he can't get what he wants, he stopped.



answers from Chicago on

It seems to me that your daughter may be crying out for more mommy and daughter time. I'm sure that she observes the one on one attention that you are giving your infant and it has her a little edgy because she has to share you now. Make sure that you try to include her in activities with you and your infant. Let her help you bath the baby, feed her, get her dressed, share tummy time, also you could read to both of them at the same time. This is just a reassurance to your daughter that she is just as special as her little sister. She'll appreciate your time and enjoy being mommy's helper.


answers from Chicago on

First some of what is happening could be a result of the new addition to your family...there is an adjustment period that usually follows such things. However regardless of 3 1/2 yr. old daughter has also been through the whining stage and still does occasionally. What has worked for me is asking her how else she can ask for what she wants and she will actually change her tone but that took a lot of repetition for that to happen. I also tell her that I don't understand whine...use your big girl voice...again this took a lot of repeating and eventually she got it because I did nothing to change the situation until she did...I didn't give in, which is hard to do. Giving in empowers them to continue the behavior. Now that she's older, I tell her that if she continues to whine she will get absolutely nothing and it doesn't take her long to stop whining because she knows I mean it. It's a lot easier to give in so we don't have to hear it, but then they'll find something else to whine about and it won't stop because it works.

I believe you when you say that it's not an isolated incident. She's competing now with another child and that child has to cry to get her needs met so it could be that she's handling the adjustment that way as well.

I hope the situation improves for you soon because I totally understand the frustration of hearing constant whining. Whichever way you choose to go with will take some time to change this pattern for behavior. If she whines about the's not a bad idea to just take it away and teach her that she doesn't get what she wants when she whines. My daughter loves to watch Scooby Doo...There are times I don't want to have it on on and she'll start whining and that's when I tell her that she will not get her cartoons by whining, it will just land her in "thinking time" or a time out as we all call it. Because she knows I mean it...the whining stops and if it doesn't...the thinking time ensues.



answers from Bloomington on

Have you tried some kind of reward system? Like if she doesn't whine or cry until lunchtime she gets a special treat, a favorite food, time to fingerpaint, do playdoh,or time with just Mommy doing something she likes. Then if she doesn't whine or cry until dinnertime she gets another reward. Then at bedtime another reward for good behavior. Rewards can be anything she enjoys doing, it doesn't have to cost money or take a lot of time. If she whines or carries on she doesn't get a reward for that time period but remind her she can "earn it" for the next time.
When my friends children were older she used a jar and they put marbles in a jar when they had good behavior for a certain amount of time or day. When the jar was full they all did something nice as a family. You could do something similar for your daughter; I wouldn't use marbles in a jar but you could use anything, even a little sticker chart. Hope this helps, good luck.



answers from Champaign on

First, I apologize if I ramble at all, call it pregnancy haze. :P We had a couple of stages of this as well and there may be a couple of things going on here. First, even though she can talk, she probably doesn't know how to vocalize what she's feeling and second, don't discount the younger sibling factor. We had an issue when my baby was around 4-5 months and my toddler was 27 months. The baby was requiring more "face time" frome me and the toddler would swat at me or burst into tears over seemingly nothing and sometimes she would even try to lay on the baby when we started having more and more floor time(good thing I was always near). I made the extra effort to have some special time with my toddler and reassure her that I loved her. I also voiced her concerns about the baby for her as I could obviously tell that was part of her issue. I told her that I know it's tough having a little sister. I also held firm to our rules though, I explained to her that there is no whining, that she has to talk to me in a normal voice. And if she would get upset over something, I would calmly say, "I know, you're disappointed, there's no need to cry, you just have to tell me." Or I'd say..."use your words, you're disappointed, aren't you?" That sort of thing. I know it sounds hokey, but I started on the "use your words" thing early and it has helped us immensely. At her age, you probably still have to tell her what her feelings are, frustration, anger, disappointment, etc. Make sure you help her with the positive emotions too!!! As my daughter got older (closer to 3) she had another bout with sibling jealousy. This time though, we had talked about her feelings enough in general that she knew the words for them and she felt secure enough with me to tell me that she didn't like her sister and didn't want her around. I sympathized with her, said it's ok to have those feelings and that her sister is here to stay. Best wishes, I know the whining can be very trying. If all else fails, you could invest in some ear protection.



answers from Chicago on

This may not work for your situation, but it worked for mine: Don't threaten. Very often kids that young don't fully understand the 'If you do this, then I'll do this' approach.
Instead of saying "If you keep crying I'll turn the t.v. off" just turn it off. If she whines about a pillow, take it away.
Kids will understand the immediate consequence. They whine about it, it goes away.
Basically what I'm saying is for an almost two-year-old, use fewer words and more actions.



answers from Chicago on

My older daughter, who is almost 3, has been doing this since about the same age as your daughter. I think it is the age. I end up ignoring her until she can ask nice (or even ask at all instead of just making whining sounds). My 18 month old has picked up on it now, too. I know it's hard to do the ignoring when there's an infant sleeping. I do a lot of deep breaths and counting to 10 (for myself!) before I respond to her....that usually helps me be a little more controlled as far as MY tone, so she doesn't just get whinier.

I did hear that sometimes toddlers can be exceptionally crabby/whiny if they're not eating balanced meals. Like, if they're getting too much sugar (via juice or snacks or whatever) - just like adults can be irritable depending on their sugar levels. Just something to consider. I try to give my girls good, balanced meals and snacks....but I know sometimes I don't and I'm sure that's affecting their moods.

Good luck. Hang in there. Keep in mind, you're not alone. :)



answers from Chicago on

decide on a "punishment" for the whining and do it consistently. This may be being put in her bed ("you must be tired if you are whining") or a spot in the room.


Rent The Happiest Toddler on the Block and try his methods.



answers from Chicago on

I feel your pain, right along with parents who have child this age. I was a professional nanny and I worked in a Montessori school also. I went through this with 7 children plus my own. I can tell you what work for the different children, and maybe one will work for you.

With my son I taught him sign language, he is now 17 months and when he gets frustrated or upset he signs to me what is the problem, he will sign help, or hurt, or a toy he is trying to get. You could look up signs at ASL and use the ones that you think will be helpful for your daughter.

Get down on her level look in her eyes and say I see you are feeling...frustrated, mad, upset...etc. and give her a hug. Then say screaming..yelling...doesn't help me help you. I know, this is a lot, she will understand, but it will be your calm voice that will help.

Ask her to help with snack, dinner let her pick a few things. Give her a choice of two different things, no more, since it is hard for them to choose.

I am sure you have probably tried these, but just hang in there. Check with the teacher at daycare, to see if anything is going on there too.

Good luck.




answers from Peoria on

Have you talked to her teacher? Is this happenening at school? If so I would say it's probably typical, if not it could be that something is going on at school or maybe there is some change there that she hasn't been able to adjust too. I am a pre-k teacher but I have been in every room and the story is the same in each one. When one or more of my kids start "acting" up or out of the ordinary I watch whats going on. New kids, New schedule, or change in another childs behavior. Even weather sometimes. If it's none of these things that I can tell then I usually go to the parent I've been noticing "johnny" is xyz, is he doing this at home or is something differant. Sometimes knowing whats going on in the other place can help both parent and teacher to deal or cope w/ the situation and get it remedied faster. Hope this helps
H. P.S. I don't know how long this has been going on but remember we did just have a time change a couple weeks ago too.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter started this around the same age. Try telling her you can't understand whinners and if she talks nice, then pay attention. she gets nothing if she whines. Couple times and DD understood that whinning got her no where. dealing with the overdrama in the mean time is painful for mama but definitely worth it. hope this helps!



answers from Rockford on

It sounds like you have tried everything it is probably the age, but I would just follow through with her if she wants to watch tv and she can't handle waiting until the next show is on then the tv stays off. If she can't talk to you without whining I would say to her that mommy will listen to you only when you are talking in a big girl voice mommy doesn't understand you when you whine. I don't know I go through this with my 5 yrs old still over silly things but usually if I threaten the tv staying off she stop. Good Luck!



answers from Chicago on

Sometimes they have a bad day. Sometimes they need more one on one attention. Sometimes they are in pain or discomfort and don't know how to say it. Sometimes they are starting a growth spurt and are hungry but don't really know it. Sometimes they are tired (try putting her down at 6:30 she may be going thru a period where she needs more sleep). Not much help, huh? this can be a phase if you don't reward the whining. So its all about striking a balance between sympathy and hugs and empathy - and then firmness about not responding to out of control crying and whining. Insist on a "normal" voice and pretend you are deaf until you get it. And I would double check w/ the daycare and make sure everything is OK there and that she is really getting that nap. Good luck!



answers from Peoria on

I have twins that turned 2 this weekend. My son was whining like crazy last night. I think it is the age.

We did have more junk food recently due to birthday cake, etc, we had just taken a walk after dinner, and we usually take baths after dinner, so I changed up the routine.

Plus, my kids are having a hard time with the time change.

I think if you are consistent and patient, and don't react to the drama, the toddler will get over this stage.

good luck!!



answers from Chicago on

Both my girls have had that problem. The oldest at six doesn't do it much any more, but the four year old does it frequently.

One I won't give her what she wants as long as she's whining. If she won't stop I tell her that babies whine and I won't listen to it. I then send her to her room. I will often imatate her whining...she typically laughs and then I agree that whining looks ridiculous.

The little one I sit for is 2 1/2. She has started to cry when she doesn't get her way and then says she wants her mommy. I remind her that Ms S. doesn't listen to whining from big girls. I explain I have a baby that can't talk and he whines enough for everyone. Then I tell her that if she keeps whining she will have to go sit in time-out.

So here are a few things to think about:

1.) Do you give in? If you give in, then she knows that you have a breaking point and you will give her what she wants.

2.) When you put her in time-out, do you make her sit until she cries. If she doesn't get upset about time-out, then it isn't punishment. The 2 minutes if their 2 is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. Mine have always had to sit until they cry. We talk about why they are going into time-out, if they bug me about getting out, I extend the time-out, and they always sit until I see their eyes starting to tear up. Then we talk about why they are in time-out again.

3.) Try showing her what it looks like when she whines and then follow that up with the right way to ask for what she wants. Repeat it a few times. She will get it.

4.) And seriously if she goes into melt down, then immediately pick her up and take her to her room or a where ever that she's by herself. Tell her that if her tantrum wakes the baby, then she will be punished. In my house that's a spanking...though I know most don't feel comfortable with that.

5.) One more preacher said something very profound once when he was teaching a series on marriage and the family. He said the things that bug us the most about our kids are typically the things they have learned from us. My girls whine because it's normal for kids to whine at times, but also because they see me whine. I've really started working hard to accept things and set the right example for my girls. I try to maintain an upbeat attitude even when I'm tired. Sometimes I'll tell the girls, "wow mommy sure is tired, but what a beautiful day!"...kinda like yes I feel bad, but I have something to be happy about. I wake them up with a smile, kisses and up beat attitude.

If there is something I want, I will tell the girls, "mommy reallllly would like that, so I'm going to save my money to get it" or "mommy just can't afford that, maybe we can get something else instead"

And I know it's silly, but when I see the girls are really cranky (even the little one I watch)...I'll put in a CD with songs like "Keep on the Sunny Side", "If you're happy and you know it", "You are my sunshine" and we will sing it over and over and over.

My oldest wakes up cranky, so I turn on a light and I gently kiss her and tell her wake-up sunshine. I'll start to gently tickle her and kiss on her. She wakes up with a better attitude.

Oh, and because of my faith and the fact I take my kids to church every week, I will tell them that the devil delights in their sorrow. The Lord wants them to be happy and when they whine the devil does a little jig because they are ruining their testimony. Not sure that will make sense, but it helps especially with the oldest child.

Good days and bad days will always be a part of the territory. Sometimes it's weeks or months that we have to get through, but you will make it. Just be persistent, consistent, insistent, and always set the example.

Good luck!!!

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