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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

My son is 14 months now and has started whining to get what he wants. Some days it seems he whines all day.

Q: My son is 14 months now and has started whining to get what he wants. Some days it seems he whines all day. We aren't sure what to do about it. We obviously don't want to encourage whining as a way for him to get what he wants, but he's so young we're not sure if it's possible to stop him. Why are one-year-olds whiny?
A: It’s not easy being a toddler. They have lots of thoughts and feelings but limited ways to communicate them! They will use whatever sounds or gestures they can to get the response they are looking for. As babies, they simply cry to let their needs be known. Then they move on to what you are calling “whining”, which is actually a step forward in their communication skills. The tears have turned into sounds, which let you know they are unhappy, frustrated, distressed, etc.   

To learn more, click on a link below:

What to do about whining?
Remember that whining can also be a sign of frustration.
Whining can also be a way to communicate boredom.

What to do about whining? 
While “whining” can be quite irritating, it is also normal. There are a few things you may consider trying.  Some parents choose to teach their child sign language for important needs (e.g., food, bottle or sleep.)  There are many books and classes available on teaching sign language to babies.  Most indicate that babies are ready to start learning to sign when they can wave “hello” and “bye-bye.” 

If you don’t want to commit to the time and commitment it takes to formally teach your baby to sign, you can simply encourage the use of gestures in your daily interactions.  For example, if you think he is whining because he wants to be picked up, say: Do you want daddy to pick you up? as you raise your hands in the air. This will help him learn to use gestures to communicate over the next few months.
Remember that whining can also be a sign of frustration. 
One-year-olds are on the verge of developing many new skills, such as getting into a standing position by themselves, crawling, and walking.  Until they master these skills, they can get very frustrated at needing you to do so much for them and not yet being able to clearly communicate these needs. 
Try to put what you think he wants to say into words. “You can’t reach the toy. That is so frustrating! Let’s see how we can help you get it.” Even though he won’t understand what you are saying, your soothing voice and actions will let him know he is being heard.  This may reduce the whining. 

Whining can also be a way to communicate boredom.
Another possible cause of the whining may be a need for more stimulation or interaction. Try introducing the next level of toy to him - ones that teach cause/effect like pop-up and busy boxes. Toys that are more challenging may hold his interest longer. Babies this age also really enjoy turn-taking activities such as rolling a ball or “doing” activities like art or music. When all else fails, change the environment - go for a walk, a ride in the car, etc. Sometimes just seeing new scenery is enough.

Whether or not you can figure out why your child seems fussy, what’s most important is staying calm and patient since this will likely have a calming effect on him. And remember, all kids have fussy days. 



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