Just when you’ve figured out how to deal with tantrums and meltdowns, your toddler pulls out a new trick—the high-pitched, repetitive whine. It’s an attention-getter that kids pick up between ages 2 and 3, and if they’re tired, cranky, or frustrated, it can reach epic proportions. Your five-step plan for silencing the whining.
Step 1: Give that noise a name. Children often don’t realize what they’re doing when they whine, but labeling their nasal, annoying voice lets them know they’re in no-no territory. "I call it Whine-ese," says Sharon Israel, a mother of two in Glen Rock, New Jersey. "I tell my kids I don’t understand them when they’re speaking in that language."
Step 2: Whatever you do, don’t respond. "Whining only continues when it gets results," points out Betsy Brown Braun, a child development and behavior specialist and author of You’re Not the Boss of Me. So no matter how much you’d love to stop the assault on your ears by giving in to your child’s demands, don’t do it.
Step 3: Reward his nice voice. Just as you labeled his whiny voice, pick out a positive name for his regular voice. "You can say, ‘I love it when you ask for a cookie in your polite voice,’" says Brown Braun. He’ll quickly realize that he gets better results by saying "Please" rather than "I waaaaaaaant a cookie!"
Step 4: Look for patterns. If whining always reaches a peak at a certain hour—late afternoon is common—it may simply be that your child is tired and needs some downtime. A nap can work wonders.
Step 5: Help him hear how silly he sounds. "Sometimes when my little boy gets super-whiny, I answer him in an even more annoying, exaggerated voice," says Randi Parker, a mom of one in Columbus, Ohio. "It makes him laugh and totally changes the mood."