Whining occurs with most children. Whining is most likely to occur between the ages of 2 and 4. By age 2 children have begun to talk a little. They know a few words but not enough to always say just what they want. Whining is the result. Whining is a mix of crying and talking. At this age, children also cannot control their emotions. To most adults, whining is annoying. It can be stressful. It also can cause discipline problems. Try to remember that this is a normal part of growing up. 


Children whine for many different reasons. Common ones include:

  • Wanting more control. Children at this age want to have some control over their lives. They may start to challenge your authority. They are not sure just how to do that, and whining may be the result.

  • Wanting attention.

  • Testing boundaries. What can they get away with?

  • Feeling frustrated. This may happen if they do not get what they want.

  • Being overly tired.

  • Being hungry.

  • Feeling sick or uncomfortable.


Methods that may work to keep your child from whining include:

  • Talk to your child about whining. Children need to know what you think about this behavior. Explain that it is hard for you to understand them when they whine. Tell them that you can listen better when they talk in a normal tone of voice.

  • Know your child's limits. Watch to see if the child is getting bored, tired, hungry or frustrated. Change the activity. Take care of the child's needs.

  • Give the child choices. Children at this age want some control over their life. So, do not always tell them what to do.  Instead, let them make some decisions. Keep the choices simple so they can understand.

  • Stick to a routine as much as possible. Talk about an activity ahead of time. Then, try to stick to the plan. Children are less likely to whine if they know what to expect.

  • Give the child plenty of positive attention. Praise good behavior. Praise children when they communicate well.

  • Help your child learn how to express feelings in words. Do not just say that whining is bad. Instead, ask questions. What are you feeling? Why are you whining?  Teach the child new words for different feelings.

  • Set a good example. Adults sometimes whine too. Do not whine around your child.

  • Never punish your child for whining. Children who are punished, physically or verbally, become more angry and frustrated.


What works with one child may not work with another. But to gain control once whining starts, you may want to consider these tactics:

  • Pay attention. Sometimes whining is a child's way of telling you that he or she is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.

  • Stay calm. Whining can become a bigger problem if the adult loses control.

  • Distract your child. Children have short attention spans. Draw their attention away from the problem. Try a different activity or toy. Try moving to a different area.

  • Ignore the whining. A little whining over a small frustration might end faster if you do not react.

  • Have a whining place at home. The child's room might work, or another safe place. Then, tell your child to go there to whine. The child can come out when he or she feels ready to talk in a normal tone.

  • Call a time out. Do this if whining goes on too long when you are away from home. Or, if it involves action that could hurt the child or others. Take the child to a quiet place to calm down.

  • If your child learns that whining works, it will happen more often. Do not give in. It also will probably become harder to control.


  • You cannot control your child's whining.

  • Whining is making you feel anger toward the child.

  • Besides whining, the child acts in a way that could hurt him or her or could hurt others. Or, the child is being disrespectful.

  • Your child also has other problems, such as:

  • Night terrors.

  • Fear of strangers.

  • Loss of toilet training skills.

  • Problems with eating or sleeping.

  • Headaches.

  • Stomachaches.