Toddlers: Turning whines into words

Toddler whining: How to use it as a learning opportunity instead of letting it drive you insane..

The whiney toddler stage can be soo frustrating at times. It’s that awkward stage where they’re developing their independence, but don’t yet have the vocabulary to express their desires or emotions. They get frustrated and don’t know how to handle it, so they whine and hope that their caregiver will just “fix it” for them. In my experience as a preschool teacher, it’s best not to rush in and fix it, quite the contrary, actually. While we want the whining to stop immediately, we really need to stop ourselves, take a deep breath and use it as a learning opportunity. We want them to learn how to express themselves appropriately so that they can communicate their needs, even when they get frustrated. Read on to find out how I’m teaching my girl to use her words, instead of her whine.

**keep in mind these tips work with all ages and using similar, short, direct phrasing (& positive reinforcement for using their words) is key no matter what age your child may be.**

Something amazing happened today!

Backstory: My 15 month old has recently taken her whining game to the next level. She pouts and actually says “eh heeh heeh” like she’s trying to make a cry noise.
So, for the past week, everytime she started whining I would ask her:
“Whats that noise you’re making?…. Is that whining?”
“No whining, use your words like a big girl, please.”
Then, I’d help her figure out how to tell me what she was upset about, for instance, she was whining because she couldn’t get her toy out of a box. I asked her if she needed help getting her toy out and she whined some more, so I said:
“No whine, use your words, say ‘help please'”
and my little sweetie said:
“het peas!”
So, I said:
“Yay you used your words like a big girl! Yay! Mama help!”
& then I helped her.
After many, many such instances, the most amazing thing happened! She was whining about wanting to be picked up while I was making dinner and I asked
“What is that noise you’re making?”
& guess what she said??……
She said:
“Whine!”
and… … Wait for it…. …
SHE STOPPED WHINING!
Omg, right?! So, I said:
“Thats right! Whine! Nooo whine, use your words please, big girl”
& she said:
“up, up, Mama”
So, I took a break from cooking and scooped her up, she definitely deserved some snuggles for that awesomeness!

Update @ 18 months:
She’s still whining when she’s frustrated, but, now, each time she does, I just ask her
“What is that noise you’re making?”
& she’ll stop whining and tell me what she wants. I’m so proud of her progress! It goes to show that the effort you put in really does pay off.
For a whole week I was asking her “what’s that noise about?” and not really getting much back to let me know she even heard me, let alone understood me. Then, out of the blue, she replys with “whine”! It shows that they do hear us, it just takes time to put all of the pieces together. It can be so unnerving to have a toddler whining at you, but we really should cut them more slack… Afterall, learning a language is really reeeeaaaally difficult (says the person who took 4 years of spanish and still cant speak it 😕) and so is handling frustration. So, in those trying moments, just remember that patience, persistence and consistency really will pay off!
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2 Comments

  • Sarah

    I can totally relate to this post. My son (alm 26 mos) still points and grunts or whines for things all the time.
    We read lots of books and try to narrate what we are doing, plus tell him to use his words, but it has been a slow progression. He knows a lot of words, and has said many once or twice, he just does not use them.
    He has picked up a few new ones- recently at the grocery store he pointed and said “lemon!”
    He will point to anything you ask him to or show you just about any picture you ask about in a book (show me the gorilla… or where did Woody hide his hat?).
    It is frustrating because my daughter had a large vocabulary and talked non-stop at his age, but we keep going:) He will get there.

    • Meg

      So true! They all get there in their own time. Sometimes it seems like our lessons are being ignored or going over their heads but, in reality, they’re just processing it in their own way 💕

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