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.

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.

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    BABYBJÖRN

    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are 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 indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    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

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden 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

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-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.

    $19.95

    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

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    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.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    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.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    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

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    New line of Barbie dolls includes a COVID vaccine developer

    Six female scientists and global frontline workers are honored in Mattel's latest Barbie line.

    Mattel

    Barbie celebrates role models in a variety of different careers—over 200 to be exact—and their newest line is no exception. The continuation of the "Play it Forward" platform (that Mattel, Inc. uses to give back to communities in times of need) will now honor six real-life female scientists who have been integral during the pandemic, including a COVID vaccine developer.

    It was announced today that Barbie will donate $5 for each eligible Barbie doctor, nurse and paramedic doll sold at Target to the First Responders Children's Foundation (FRCF), a charity that benefits the children of first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.


    "Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened," said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel in a statement. "To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie's platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back. Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes."

    One of the one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls is created in the likeness of British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, who helped lead the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. How cool is that? And what an inspirational toy for kids!

    Gilbert told The Guardian she hopes the dolls inspire other young women around the world to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (STEM).

    "I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us," she said. "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

    The other five women recognized by Barbie and Mattel, Inc. are also role models amid the ongoing pandemic: Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a U.S. healthcare worker and advocate for anti-Asian racism, ER nurse Amy O'Sullivan, Canadian doctor and anti-racism advocate Chicka Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, and Australian doctor Kirby White, who helped develop protective gowns for healthcare professionals.

    Mattel's #ThankYouHeroes program was created in 2020 to honor those who have led the fight against COVID-19, as well as the everyday heroes who keep our communities up and running.

    Cheers to the new line of Barbie dolls, and may all the Barbie-lovers in our families find inspiration from these real-life heroes!

    News + Trending

    Car seat safety isn't a gray area: Why one mom's story is going viral

    She texted her husband to remind him to tighten the straps. Minutes later, he was in a car crash.

    This story was originally published on August 01, 2018

    For most parenting tasks, there's more than one way to get things done. This is important to remember if you're parenting with a partner who has a totally different laundry system than you do or packs the diaper bag in a way that makes no sense to you. It's not the end of the world if the onesies are hung instead of folded or if the bottles are in the wrong pocket. We have to give our partners room to do things their way, too.

    But when it comes to buckling our kids in their car seats, there really is only one way—the safe way—and one mama is thankful that she reminded her partner of that just in time.


    Rebecca Tafaro Boyer is a new mom and nurse at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On her first day back at work after maternity leave she asked her husband to send her hourly updates on how her 3-month-old son, William, was doing on his first day without her.

    When her husband texted her a photo of William in his car seat, Tafaro Boyer knew she had to let her husband know that there's really only one way to buckle a baby in. "My nagging wife reply was to correct William's position in the car seat—the straps were too loose and the chest clip was way too low. And because I know my husband, I'm sure that he laughed at me and rolled his eyes before tightening the car seat and fixing the chest clip," she wrote in a now viral Facebook post about the experience.

    Just 15 minutes after her husband fixed the straps, he and little William were in a collision.

    According to Tafaro Boyer, an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled into oncoming traffic attempting to make an illegal left turn, and although her husband slammed on the brakes at nearly 50 miles an hour, he just didn't have enough time to stop and hit the other car.

    "My precious little bundle of joy was so well restrained in his car seat, THAT HE DIDN'T EVEN WAKE UP. Even with the impact of the two cars, William only received a minor jolt - so insignificant that he was able to continue on with his nap," Tafaro Boyer wrote.

    Her husband was injured, but baby William was snug in his Britax B Safe 35 car seat. Had the straps been left as they were, it could have been a different story.

    "I am so thankful that my husband took the extra one minute that was necessary to put William in his car seat safely," she Tafaro Boyer explained. "I truly believe that the reason my family is at home sitting on the couch with a pair of crutches instead of down at the hospital is because of my annoying nagging mom voice."

    Fellow moms are all up in the comments of Tafaro Boyer's post tagging thier partners and leaving notes like, "This is why I nag."

    It's not nagging if it's a safety issue.

    Sometimes our partners (or our child's grandparents or babysitters) just don't know that something isn't safe. We've got to tell them when they're doing something we know could hurt our child. That's a text worth sending. The ones about the way your significant other folds the laundry wrong, those are the texts you might want to keep to yourself.

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      Car Seat Safety