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What’s the cure for children whining?

A sense of connection can mend that awful out-of-sorts feeling that’s bothering them.

What’s the cure for children whining?

When children whine, their inner weather is cloudy, with a storm on the horizon. When a child is whining, filling his request probably won’t change his emotional climate for long. Filling his request might gain a parent a few moments of peace, but the child’s overall mood sinks back into a tone of “I am unhappy” soon again.


Sending a child off to his room or punishing him for whining won’t improve the situation either. He might come back from punishment or time out a quieter person, but he won’t feel good inside. He will probably find ways to balk, stir up difficulties with others, or zone out. This persistent unhappiness is hard on parents.

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Whining children are communicating important information

Parents might wish the message would come in some other form, but whining is news from your child, hot off the press, “I feel alone! I feel powerless!”

Usually whining happens shortly after a child’s sense of connection to their parent or caregiver has broken. The ordinary things parents do, like feeding little brother, cooking dinner, or talking to a friend on the phone, can eat away at a child’s sense that he’s connected and cared about.

For small children in a big world, feeling disconnected gnaws at their spirits.

Once children feel disconnected, any small task can bring up jumbo-size feelings of powerlessness. Having to get dressed when they want to stay in their pajamas, having to brush their teeth when they’d rather play with the cat, and having to say goodbye and go to school or daycare can bring on whining.

Whining children have real needs

A whining child probably won’t be satisfied by the attempt you make to help, but she does have a real need. She needs you. Not just the things you do. She needs to feel connected to you. Only a sense of connection can mend that awful out-of-sorts feeling that’s bothering her.

Children are built to feel close to the people they’re with—close to their parents, their caregivers, their grandparents, cousins and friends. When they can feel close and cherished, they behave with confidence. When they don’t feel close to anyone, their behavior goes haywire immediately.

Whining children have feelings that won’t be rational

Comings and goings, moving from one activity to another, seeing you busy or preoccupied with other things, or having several siblings who compete for your attention all eat away at a child’s sense that all is sweet between you and him.

Sometimes even when parents are available, full of warm attention at the moment, children can feel disconnected; children can’t feel their love or caring because the feeling, “I’m alone,” has already taken over. Human feelings often paint an emotional picture that’s far from the reality of the situation.

For instance, whining often happens toward the end of a sweet, close playtime during which you’ve done the things your child loves to do. You’ve done your utmost to make things good, but suddenly, you have a dissatisfied child, who moans, “You never do anything I want!” It’s enough to make a parent feel: “I’m never taking you to the park again if this is the way you behave!”

This happens because, at the prospect of the end of a good time, feelings of helplessness or loneliness stored up from earlier experiences crop up and take over. The feelings may come from yesterday or from as far afield as infancy—they lurk in the child’s mind and are brought into play by simple, everyday moments.

Whining children aren’t trying to manipulate you

When your child is whining, he isn’t out to get you. He doesn’t really want you to give in to irrational requests. He’s trying to signal that he needs your help.

He has chosen something irrational to want so that you will say a gentle, firm “No.” Then he can open up bad feelings. While he is crying, he will actually shed these feelings. If you listen, he will eventually notice your presence, notice your love, and feel much better about himself and his world. He’ll stop needing what he was crying for because he has you.

Try to picture him saying, “I wannnaaa cookkkiiee,” but meaning, “Please say ‘No.’ I need a good cry with your arms around me!”

Help your child connect again

Whining indicates that your child needs an emotional outlet before he’ll be able to regain his sense that you are on his side. Laughter, crying, and tantrums are typical ways children release bad feelings.

A good laugh (but don’t force laughter by tickling), a good cry (without upset or punishment from you), or a good tantrum (without hurrying the child to finish) will cure that gnawing sense of helplessness or loneliness that causes whining.

Once your child regains a sense of connection with you or any other member of the family, he’ll be able to take charge again. He’ll ask for what he wants, without the “poor me” tone. And he’ll be easier to live with. So your energy will be well spent if you focus on rebuilding a connection with your child.

Try filling your child’s request once

A whining child does indeed need your attention for at least a moment or two.

At first, you won’t really know whether getting the thing he asks for will help him feel connected and capable again, or not. His request may seem reasonable to you—a drink of water, help with his shoes, one more turn listening to his favorite music.

If giving him the thing he wants makes sense to you, go ahead and try it once. But if more whining follows, you can be sure that the real problem is his emotional “weather.” A storm is coming.

If he’s not satisfied, offer closeness and a clear limit

The cold tone that most of us use when we say, “No,” serves to make a child feel even more alone and adrift in an uncaring world. It deepens the rut your child is whining in.

If you can say, “Nope, no more cookies! Maybe tomorrow!” with a big grin and a kiss on the cheek, your child receives contact from you in place of cookies. If he whines some more, you can come back and say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah!” and nuzzle into his neck, ending with a little kiss. If he persists, bring him still more affection, “I’m your chocolate chip cookie! I’m all yours!” with a big grin. Then throw your arms around him and scoop him up. At some point, the affection you’re offering will tip him toward either laughter or a tantrum.

Both results, as odd as it may seem, are great for him. Laughter, tears, and tantrums help dissolve that shell of separateness that can enclose a child, as long as you listen and care.

After a good cry (you listen, and keep sweetly saying, “No, James, no more cookies,” until he’s finished crying), or a good tantrum (“Yes, you really want one, I know, son”), or a good laugh (“I’m coming to give you big cookie kisses!”), he will feel your love for him again.

If you can’t be playful, be attentive

Playful moments don’t come easily to us when our children whine. So if you can’t find a way to nuzzle your child or respond with humor to his whiny requests, it will work well to come close and keep saying, with as little irritation as you can manage, “No,” “You need to wait,” “I can’t let you do that,” “He’s playing with it now,” or, “You’ll get a turn, but not yet.”

Being very clear about the limit, and offering eye contact, a hand on his shoulder or knee, and whatever warmth you can muster, will help your child work himself into the cry or the tantrum or laughter he needs to do. Children know how to release feelings of upset. To get started, they just need us to pay attention to them long enough to communicate that we’ll stay with them through this rough patch.

Allow for laughter, tantrums, or tears for as long as you have time and patience

Children whine when lots of feelings have backed up inside them. When they finally break into a good wail or thrash, they may be working through more than the frustration of not getting the cookie or the red truck. They may be draining the tension from issues like having a younger brother or sister, having to say goodbye to you every morning, or having just gotten over an illness.

In any case, children need to shed bad feelings until they don’t feel bad any longer.

If the pile of feelings is high, this can take some time. Parents don’t always have the time a child needs to finish the emotional task at hand. You may manage to listen to fifteen or twenty minutes of crying, and then feel the need to stop your child.

If your child’s mood doesn’t improve, he wasn’t finished. It’s as hard for a child to have an unfinished cry as it is to be awakened in the middle of a nap. He’ll try to find a way to cry again soon. Something inside him knows that it will be good to finish the job. So listen again when you can. Your child will eventually finish his emotional episode, and make gains in confidence that both of you can enjoy.

Listening time can help you keep perspective when whining begins

The hard part about trying these experiments is that whining triggers all kinds of irrational feelings inside of us. Whining kicks up feelings of resentment, exhaustion and anger in parents.

We feel like we’re being manipulated. We feel helpless.

When our feelings surge, we don’t think logically either. We react, usually behaving the way our parents reacted to our whining. The reactions we have to whining have been passed down through the generations in our families, each generation usually having a milder reaction than the generation before it.

So it takes some mental preparation to decide to move toward a whining child and offer connection, rather than moving away from him, placating him or punishing him.

Every parent deserves someone to listen to how hard it can be to care for a child or children. So finding ways to be heard by another adult who won’t get worried or try to “fix” us is an important part of our job as parents.

Even ten minutes of “venting” with a friend, out of earshot of your child, will give you a better chance of moving toward your whining child and connecting.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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