What should I do if my 18 month-old whines most of the time?

Q: If she gets in trouble one time hitting or something she will whine until she gets her way at something. How can I teach her that whining is not the way to get what she wants. Preferably not just ignoring the behavior and having to listen to it.

A: I hate to say it, but Fun With Toddlers starts NOW. You've heard of the "Terrible Twos?" In typically developing children, it starts earlier than 24 months -- and is usually in full force by 18 months. It's time to change gears from what used to work when she was a baby -- to what she needs now, as a toddler.

What that means is that you'll have to start setting limits, letting her know your expectations, and ignoring lots of annoying behavior. I know it's maddening to be whined at all day, because our parental brains are wired to RESPOND to our babies. But whining isn't the way to get our attention -- and the only way to teach that is by experience. The more her vocabulary increases, the less she'll need to whine, so really respond positively to her attempts to tell you -- using her words -- what she needs. If she whines, say, "I only listen to nice words." Ignore her whining when you can.

But sometimes, she'll be sick, teething, or just needing to regress a little. On those days, try to give her a little extra attention and loving -- even if she is whiny. You're letting her know that you understand she doesn't feel her best -- and that you're there for her when she needs you. When she's feeling better, you can go back to the "I only listen to nice words" routine. This is a lesson that often takes YEARS to learn, so figure out a way of putting in some "mental earplugs" when it's really starting to get to you!

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles