Three year old whining/crying - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 11-07-2002, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi all - my dd1 has just turned 3, so I guess this question belongs here, rather than in the toddler forum.

DD1 goes in cycles with whining and crying when things don't go her way. Often, the crying starts immediately as soon as she doesn't like something, without any warning or us having any idea what she is upset about.

For example - at dinner today, I picked up a purple cup to put it in the dishwasher, as it had been brought in from the car and was dirty (it was a sippy cup). DD1 immediately started wailing and carrying took at least a minute before I figured out she had wanted that purple cup!

When we have episodes like this (it feels like it happens all the time), dh and I both explain that we'd like to help, but can't understand what she is saying until she calms down (often true). And we remind her that we need to talk nicely to each other, that we want to help her, etc., etc. Sometimes, she'll immediately turn on a 'nice' voice to ask for what she wants. Other times, she'll tell me she's NOT going to talk nicely, etc. (this has been happening more often recently).

I really am not sure what to do. She doesn't get what she wants when she whines/cries for it. We do encourage her to tell us what she wants/needs and we'll try to help her, etc. When she asks 'nicely', we'll generally talk about her desires and see if we can accommodate them (we usually can) - but then I wonder if that is teaching her that it's OK to wail and scream first, and THEN ask nicely and get what you want? :

I'm really confused about the best way to handle this, and the crying and carrying on can make me want to scream...

Any advice/suggestions/etc. would be greatly appreciated.
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#2 of 5 Old 11-08-2002, 12:41 AM
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I struggle with this too with my ds, 3yo next week. He whines and cries a lot more now than at 2, I think because he has a lot more plans of his own that can go wrong. It sounds like you feel very uncomfortable when dd is expressing her negative emotions. I fall into this with ds too, especially when my own emotional tank is low (when i am tired, need to eat, need some time to myself etc.). When I am more rested it's easier to let him have the time he needs to express his feelings before trying to arrive at a solution. I try to remind myself that all feelings are acceptable, while some ways of expressing those feelings (e.g. hitting or destroying things) are not ok. In that case it's my job to suggest some other ways of expressing his feeling that are acceptable. It's really hard to hear "I want that cup!" wailed over and over without feeling personally yelled at, but I try to let it go as long as he's not saying anything abusive (like calling me stupid). I sometimes go in the other room and shut the door--don't want him to feel abandoned, but have to keep my temper somehow.

I try to voice ds' feelings for him (you are upset that you didn't get that cup) or ask him, to make sure I understand (are you sad? or mad?). This doesn't calm him down as quickly as it used to, and I'm getting used to the idea that it sometimes takes him a while to be done feeling upset and be ready to speak or listen. I don't want him to learn to stuff his feelings to get what he wants, so in our house there is no penalty for the time spent expressing upset--as soon as he's ready to ask nicely he has a clean slate. If he yells that he "has to keep crying", I take that as honest-- he's not done with the feeling yet and it's too early to talk.

Hope this helps some--at least know you're not alone.
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#3 of 5 Old 11-08-2002, 07:10 PM
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My 3yo started whining at 2 and it went on for six months and then stopped, and she periodically tries it out now and again to see if it'll work again. I seem to have found a way to nip it in the bud. If she whines for something, I immediately tell her that I can't understand her and ask her to say it in a normal voice. If she keeps whining, I say, "sorry, I don't do things for people who whine at me". If still keeps whining, I tell her that she'll have to go to her room if she wants to whine, because I'm in a non-whining zone. I say all of these things calmly and firmly and try not to make it sound like her strong emotions are wrong, just that the way she is expressing them won't get her what she wants. I tell her that she can hit her pillows and cry and whine in her room. The only rule is no screaming, because we have neighbors! It's VERY hard to stay calm in the face of whining! It took me a lot of practice. You have to have nerves of steel, LOL! I think some people might disagree with sending a child to another room if they want to whine/tantrum, but I eventually felt that my DD's tantrums were becoming a way of aggressing towards me, and I really didn't want her to learn a habit of verbal aggression towards me or her playmates. She seems to have a much better handle on expressing herself now. It's also always good to praise when they ask for things kindly.
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#4 of 5 Old 11-09-2002, 08:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the ideas/input. It's all appreciated!

One thing I've resolved to do is to get down and play with dd1 a bit more. When I think about it, often times I get this kind of stuff is when I've been a bit more distant, you know? We've actually just gotten back from visiting family/friends for 3 1/2 weeks and dd1 had cousins/friends her age to play with the whole time and LOVED it. So maybe the change back to 'just us' is hard?

Another question...when you all have a child who is whining/crying for something, do you stay with them the whole time? Or leave them to get it out of their system, telling them you'll be back when they can talk nicely? Leave them, but come back occasionally to try to talk with them?

Combination of all of the above?! Which is what I feel like I maybe I'm confusing dd1 in some way?

I agree about not wanting her to feel that she can't express dd1 has also wailed on occasion, 'I can't talk nicely!' But other times she switches to that 'nice' voice immediately to get what she wants,'s difficult to know how to handle it all.

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#5 of 5 Old 11-09-2002, 09:32 PM
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I came here just a second ago to post the same issue with my 3 yr old DD, Kaya. Well technically she is 3.5yrs old. I have tried the positive approach to it and lately I cant help but get really angry inside. I often just let her fall to the ground screaming and whining and I walk off to take a breather. I have no patience for whining anymore. Its an everyday more than once a day occurence now!

Man I hope she grows out of it! I am happy that you posted the same concerns cause now I know its not me and must be an age-thing!
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