Whining and Crying About Everything

Updated on June 28, 2010
B.W. asks from Seattle, WA
22 answers

I always get good advice on this site so I thought I would ask you all. My twin boys just turned 3 and are SO whiny. They whine and cry all the time. For instance, instead of asking for "More milk please" they whine and cry (LOUDLY) even though they are capable of asking. I am so sick of it. I should mention they were preemies so sometimes I wonder if their behavior is from the effects of prematurity, or if it is within the range of normal for 3 year olds. My friends say "My kids whine too" but seriously, it can't possibly be as bad as this. I have tried ignoring, time outs, yelling (I know, bad, but it is hard not to) and just about everything! Any suggestions appreciated!

To clarify: They are not on the autism spectrum, both boys were speech delayed and have had some motor delays in the past. One is caught up and does not get services, and the other still gets ST and OT. BUT, he is talking, just hard to understand.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everybody! I'm glad to know we are not alone in this. I have been insisting they use their big boy voices every time they want something, and that seems to help. I am taking them home if they throw a tantrum at the park, even if we just got there, so hope that will help in the long run.

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answers from Houston on

I simply wouldn't give them what they want unless they can ask appropriately. I realize this is easier said than done, especially with 2, but I really think this is probably the only way to stop it. If you know they are capable and they just won't, it's because they get what they want anyway by whining. Give that a shot and really be consistent with it and I would bet you'll see a difference fairly shortly. Good luck!

Oh, and by the way, TOTALLY normal behavior!

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answers from Houston on

Totally normal for a three year old...lol. I just calmly repeat over and over...I'll get what you want as soon as you ask nicely. It usually results in a tantrum, daughter calms down, and then she will ask properly (after apologizing for the tantrum). She has pretty good manners and really is just whining when she is tired/hungry/thirsty. I could just give into her, but she needs to learn that we have to use nice manners even when we don't feel great.

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answers from Redding on

I did daycare and had a very whiney child. I loved him dearly, but his parents just let him whine for everything until they figured out what he wanted. He would whine and point to the refrigerator and they would literally empty it trying to find out what he wanted.
I didn't have time for that. I said, "Tell me what you want or I can't hear you."
Oh....I could hear the whining, but I just didn't give in to it.
Whining was a foreign language to me and I just went about my business as if I didn't even hear it.
It sounds mean, but he was 4 years old and still whining for everything. At snack time, I just took out fruit and yogurt and if he whined and wouldn't say what he wanted, I chose. It wasn't long before he said I want grapes or I want an apple. His mom, who I love, God bless her, would give him 50 things on a plate, zero of which he would eat. But when he was with me, he got what he got or he told me what he wanted. Like I said, I pretended I didn't understand whining. It's not a lie...I didn't understand it. He was old enough to tell me. And it didn't take long.
You just have to work with them about it and it is hard. But, pretending you don't understand whining really works.

I wish you the best.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

i don't think because they are preemies that is why they are whinning all the time because my four year old has just recently started doing this also and i swear i just want to throw him out the window sometimes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i love him to death but this whinning and crying and ohh tattletelling all the time is driving me nuts. so i'm going to mooch off your answer and wish us both some luck!!!

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answers from New York on

Two things have worked for me with my whiny son. I either tell him that I am not going to do what he is asking of me unless he stops whining. When that doesn't work (which it doesn't very often) I whine back. I know it sounds funny, or immature even, but it works. The second I start whining a response to him, he stops and talks normal again. I read it in "what to expect; the toddler years". When they hear how silly (annoying) they sound they don't like it and therefore stop. So, its worth a shot for you. Just whine back. If it doesn't work, at least you tried.

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answers from Detroit on

My twin boys are almost 4, and I can totally relate. We went to a Love and Logic class shortly after the boys turned 3, it was great. Lots of useful information. When the boys whine, I tell them "When you talk in a nice, normal, voice like mine, I'll be ready to listen". I won't respond to their request or cries until they talk to me in a "normal" voice. Also, I do the "I know" response. If they whine for no real reason (not a request, just whining to whine) I just keep saying "I know" in a sympathetic voice. They learned that I'm not going to act, just keep saying "I know" -- and they give up, and I don't feel like I'm ignoring them. That really helped when they were closer to 3.

Beyond that, I'll just say, hang in there!

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answers from Seattle on

Our house rule:

If you whine, you don't get what you want.

part 2 is:

If you throw a fit you don't get what you want AND you go on time out.

((Timeouts in our house last until they are COMPLETELY calm, AND can talk about why they went on timeout in the first place and what could be done next time instead. Only after the "Talk 'bout it" phase is over can they come off of timeout))

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answers from Honolulu on

They are 3. They do this. They do this when older too. Teens do it. College kids do it. Husbands do it. Wives do it.

Yes, its irritating.
Yes it is age based... but yes, when older, its like a 'habit.'

Okay so what then. Each child has a different thing that will affect them. For me, I just point blank tell my kids "NO WHINING. STOP." If they continue to whine... I tell them, point blank... " I will NOT cooperate if you keep whining. If you stop, we are a TEAM. "

Sure, I tried everything else short of my running away from home with a loaf of bread. Sigh....

But for whining... specifically, (when they are not doing it because they are in need or trouble nor in any need for comforting etc.), they are simply WHINING... just to whine. Well, I just point blank tell them, I.will.not.put.up.with.it. Period.
Then I continue on with whatever I am doing... with no particular urgency.
The child will then whine... to no audience. They will stop. It won't get them instant gratification.

My kids, don't whine a lot. So that's good.
They also KNOW that when "I" get to the point that I am talking to them in an ADULT like point-blank manner... that I am at the END of my patience. They stop.

BUT you also NEED to teach the child "how" to say things in a palatable way... and how to express themselves... good or bad. So that they DO know they can and are "allowed" to express themselves.

all the best,

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answers from Portland on

My son also got so whiny at age 3 that a lot of times it's hard to make out what he's saying. It really got on our nerves and was frustrating. We would be asking him to not whine, and be saying "what? what?" over and over to figure out what he was saying. Then the other day he was doing it again, and I was what-whatting again, and he said desperately, "I'm trying to talk in a normal voice!" and I realized that he just really couldn't control the way he was talking and feeling. I felt awful and sad for him, that he really wanted to not be whining but just couldn't help it...... Anyway it helped straighten me out again to just be helping him work through this developmental stage, which is all it is, and through that moment/issue. I do hear from everyone that their 3 yr old whines a lot. You're under a lot of strain with twins, so I hope you can give yourself a break for feeling overwhelmed and step back a bit to not let it get to you. Best wishes!

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answers from Austin on

I cannot stand whining.. 2 at the same time.. Bless your heart..
EVERY time they whine.. Pick one. Do not give what is asked for, do not answer questions that are asked in a whining voice.

"I cannot understand whining."
"I do not understand your whining words."
"Use your regular voice."
"Go to your room and look for your regular voice."
"I do not answer whining voices."

When you get really frustrated, speak to them in a terrible exaggerated whine and then send yourself to time out.. Tell them because "I was whining I need a time out so I can to find my regular voice." Then do it..

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answers from Seattle on

You've received great tips. I just wanted to throw in something that should be obvious, but for whatever reason, it took me and my stubborn brain forever to grasp.

My last pregnancy yielded twins, bringing my children total to five...all boys. However, it took me until I had twins to realize when I tried a new method of punishment or reward system, I had to give it time.

For example, if I wanted the kids to pick up their toys when they were done, I would tell them "From now on we pick up our toys." I would be on them for three days. They still wouldn't remember to pick up their toys. I would get upset and figure they just wouldn't do it. See, I'm impatient. I just expected my kids to grasp the new concept quickly. Should I pause so you can finish laughing at me?

After having the twins something snapped into place. Okay, the twins were about four when the snap happened. It dawned on me that I had to follow through with ONE method of action. So, using the whining for an example (and as something we battled), if a kid whined and I wanted them to stop, I would tell them how to say what they wanted. If they refused, they didn't get the item. And they didn't have to correct words, they just had to use a regular voice. We went through the voice lesson every day. "This is a good voice." "Thiiiiisssss, issss whhhiiiiinnniiinnnnggg." Just so you know, your kids will laugh hysterically if you whine.

Once the ONE method was chosen, I learned to stick with it for two weeks (sleep issues I had to stick with the chosen punishment for three weeks). This means doing the same thing everyday. One day, you start to see the reward of sticking it through. It also means two weeks of consistent direction. If the kids have been well about not whining for two days and then one day they revert, don't allow it the first time it happens. Go right back to the plan.

You'll find that this works well with any issue that comes up. Sleep battles, sharing, fighting, etc.... Just focus on one issue at a time. When you have it under control move to the next. The bonus is that the kids start catching on when mom says "xyz" will happen, she means it. And, in future issues, they resolve quicker because the kids have learned you aren't going to allow it.

I know, I'm a bit slow in the learning process. But it works, no matter their age. My twins are 9 now. Bonus, I even got my older kids under control once I learned this, albeit they seemed to take a bit longer since their habits had been formed before I made this bright discovery.

Hang in there, it is doable and they will outgrow it (I have one twin who will let a whine slip once in a while, but all I have to do is look at him and he corrects his voice). I would recommend that you have a few nights out lined up to refresh your sanity.

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answers from Portland on

Yep, it's true...many of our kids get routinely whiny and fretful-sounding at this age. My dear son, who rarely whined before about a month ago, is all "unhhhhh-uhhhh" sounds that are truly like nails on a chalkboard.

I have two techniques: one is to restate his request in a "friendly way". This sounds like "Oh, Kiddo, it sounds like you want some blueberries. Let's try it again (assume light, happy voice) 'Mama, I'd like some blueberries please' ".
This works for us about 75% of the time, and if I'm met with more whiny sounds, I just remind him that I can wait until he can ask me in a friendly way and give him the desired phrase and tone again.

Second technique (hard learned/hard won) is used when I'm asking him to do something he doesn't like to do and I'm met with a lot of whiny resistance. Lately, it has been putting his shoes on. He's capable, but wants my assistance more for the participation than any necessity. (BY the way, I think this is a big reason why 3's become so suddenly dependent and clingy...they are doing that dance between being autonomous and wanting their life grounded by our presence.) In any case, I now tell him "It's time to put on your shoes. I have a couple of things to do, and if you need help, I'll help you when I'm done"--and then I go find about 3 minutes worth of stuff to do. He then has the choice of putting on his shoes--or making the effort, at least--or just sitting there until I'm done with my tasks. Removing myself from the situation gives him no audience to whine to, yet he knows that I will come back and help if need be. I'm including this because in my experience as a nanny, this was often a time when whining came up with the kids, as were other transitions like getting dressed, brushing teeth, hair, washing hands, etc.

And don't feel 100% guilty for yelling. It IS nerve-grating. It's hard to feel like everything you do is an imposition to someone you are trying your best to care for. They can sometimes be very ungrateful buggers at this age, mine included!:)

Hope this helps and please know---It DOES GO AWAY! I've seen it happen!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My son went through this too..it really drove me nuts! I cannot fathom what it's like with two kiddos involved. When my whined I just told him that I couldn't help him until he used his big boy voice. I had to hold my ground and survive a few complete meltdowns, but it eventually stopped. The whining was followed by the "why?" phase...not sure which is worse. Hang in there mama!

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answers from Dallas on

Are they on track developmentally? Can they speak like typical 3 year olds, do they play like typical 3 year olds, do they have the gross motor skills or typical 3 year olds? My son was a very fussy child and on track but on the late side for most of his developmental milestones. At about 18months after reading a lot I realized he is autistic. I told his pediatrician. I'm not suggesting your kids have any disabilities, only to look at any other issues you may be dealing with. Could be sensory, could be GI problems, etc



answers from Toledo on

Say quietly every time, "I'm sorry, I can't hear whining. I can only hear happy voices." Ignoring only ramps it up, and time outs should be for more serious stuff. Stay calm, respond to them, but don't give them what they want until the can use their "happy voices." It won't take them long to figure it out, and you'll all be happier.



answers from Seattle on

ALL kids whines. However, what I did with mine was NOT give them anything that they asked for whenever they whine. I tell them "ask me in a normal talking voice....show them what normal is....and I will get you/answer you because I don't understand what you're saying when you whine like that". Then I would COMPLETELY ignore them until they ask w/o whinning. That seems to work on my kids. It might take a while for them to understand what YOU are asking them to do as they're only three years old but they will catch on if you're consisting in ignoring them when they whine and REWARD them when they ask normally. I also use this method when my kids try to tell me something while crying. I would tell them to stop crying and tell me in your normal voice because mommy can't understand what you're saying when you cry. They usually end up asking/talking the way I want/need them to talk as their desires for whatever they're whinning about usually surpasses their desire to whine!

Good luck to you because whinning drives me NUTS also!



answers from Seattle on

Believe me, your friends' kids whine, too, and it IS as bad. Kids whine, three-year-olds, especially. I'm on vacation now with my two kids, 6 and 9, and they spent all day yesterday whining. Kids have the added disadvantage, too, that they have high voices already, so whining makes their speech excruciating!

(Heck, my husband whines!)

As you do not want to go insane, however, I suggest trying a few things to lessen the whining. My favorite is to say, "What? I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you say when you whine." Just keep shaking your head and saying that until the offender reframes the request in a normal tone of voice.

Once the kids catch on (stick to your guns), they understand it more as a game than any sort of judgment, and mine always modified quickly after the first few times. Another option is taking away the fun thing, such as going home if the kids start whining at the park. Usually all I need say is, "Sounds like it's time to go home," and the whining immediately lessens.

The important thing is for the kids to see quickly that what they say and the way they say it have consequences. That is more empowering than you know, for they realize they have some definite control over what happens to them on any given day.

Good luck!



answers from Allentown on

I think it's common for 3 year olds, and some kids are just whinier than others. Mine has gone through phases of being whiny. She will go through difficult patches for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it's because we are busy and not sticking to her routine. Some quiet time at home with Mom and Dad helps. Best advice I can give is don't despair, they should grow out of it; and don't reward the whining, but reward nice asking. So you need to be really vigilant and respond to nice asking, and don't reward the whining. Be consistent about saying "ask me nicely, you don't need to whine". You might also want to read "the happiest toddler on the block".



answers from Detroit on

Hi Barbara,
I have read the other responses and...wish I could have followed thru early on! My twin boys are 2 1/2 and wonderful...until the whining comes into play. It started with one, he move on, and now it is the other. The only thing I can recommend is ignoring the behavior. That was the ONLY thing that worked for me...and UGH!! So hard as you cannot tune it out, plus you have the other that should not have to deal with the other one's, um tantrum/manic/craziness! Hang on, stick with ignoring the whining behavior (the hardest thing I have done, but the only thing that has worked), which may turn into to a LOUD screaming fight as they are still little and can easily work themselves into a frenzy...which is REALLY hard to ignore, but once done (i have gone thru a 30 one...ugh!) they get that you are NOT going to respond to that behavior.

Hope this helps! I had a h*** o*e today which kills me (and drains me!!), but he came up to me on his own, hugged my legs and pulled me down to kiss my face and said "sorry mommy"...totally unprompted, and EXACTLY what I needed after feeling so bad!




answers from Portland on

I sure hope whining is normal for a 3 year old because my daughter is doing it ALL the time. Sometimes I can barely stand it, so I am unsure how you can handle 2 of them doing it. My daughter will just whine under her breath and I will have to remind her to use her words. I am afraid I don't have the answer how to solve, but just hoping it passes as she gets older! To me it is just a normal part of being a toddler. Hang in there :)



answers from Spokane on

My daughter is 3 1/2 and I watch a 4 year old --they feed on each other when they are together as far as the whining. We just tell them we don't know "whinese" and if they want something they have to ask without whining. they don't get what they want or need as long as they are whining. No exceptions. It works pretty well. I do notice less whining when my daughter is alone, but the same rule applies with just her


answers from Medford on

Believe me (and probably everyone else here) it is COMPLETELY NORMAL for three year olds! My three year old is advanced in his speach for his age, however ther whining is getting to me also!!! Worse yet is my 5 1/2 (yes you can't leave of the 1/2 with her :)) year old does it too!!!
For instance: instead of asking, "mommy will you turn my shirt right-side out" I get, "moMMMY, heeeeeelp meeeee!!!" Then I snap back, you can dress your self...then she throws a fit...etc... I dont mind helping when she needs it, but she isnt clear in what she needs. I remind her constantly that she needs to ask for what it is she needs, I am happy to turn your shirt for you, etc...I get soo tired of the "moMMMY, heeeeeelp meeeee!!!" instead of just asking clearly...
I am trying very hard to respond nicely and ask her what it is she needs help with and reminding her to ask not whine...its getting better but it takes time...
The same is true for my 3 year old, but worse because of the age I think. If you tell him to do something he goes into histarical whining about something unrational and finally you get out of him that he was trying to help you do something else...we are working very h*** o* using big boy words.
It really takes a lot of patients, reiteration of the lesson, and time...
The #1 thing to remember is NEVER give them what they want when they whine! Only give it to them once they have successfully asked using big boy words. (my SIL tells her twins to use their words but then hands them whatever they whined for without having them use their words...they aren't going to learn by you telling them to use them, they actually need to use them).

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