Whining

Question: I am writing about my 12 month old daughter, Rhane. She has started whining very loudly until she gets what she wants and it is turning into a noisy nightmare. She is so young…it seems absurd to treat it as if she were 2 or 3 years old. I am also concerned about teaching her that “whining works.”
– Cathy

Answer: I think Rhane (what a beautiful name!) has found her voice and she likes it! Your instincts on this one are perfect – whining at 12 months is different than whining for older children and you still want to avoid reinforcing the whining. My advice is twofold: Encourage her voice, knowing that the pitch and volume will mellow in just a short time. And, become as quiet as you possibly can when responding to her “whines”.

Here’s the fun part – encourage her voice! Rhane loves the feel and the sound of her voice and she wants you to love it too. Let her world explode with language. Find new rhymes and songs to sing every day. Sing them loud. Be silly with every “e, i, e, i, o”!

Two of my favorite fingerplay books are The Eentsy, Weentsy Spider by Cole and Calmenson and Baby Games by Elaine Martin. Play with your voices – making them sound big and little, dramatic and emotional. Read books with animal sounds (like Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr.) and catchy language (like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom also by Bill Martin Jr. or Silly Sally by Audrey Wood).

Rhane is coming into a new period of enormous growth and change. Start a running commentary of everything that’s happening around her. Point out new things around her and label her world. Then, start asking her “what’s that?” Let her try to name all those familiar objects she knows so well.

When she tries to get your attention with overly loud shrieks or whines, come close and whisper to her. “Yes, what do you see?” “What is it that you want?” Show her how to communicate with you using quieter, more deliberate speech. If she is “whining” for a bottle, for example, bring the bottle to her. But before giving it to her, say in a calm voice, “here’s your bottle – is this what you want?” You might even prompt her to nod her head “yes”. Hopefully, she has quieted down some by now and you are giving her the bottle when she’s calm rather than frantic. Once she knows you are getting her message, she shouldn’t need to whine any more.

If the whining is merely her favorite vocal exercise, and not a form of communication, I say ignore it. Let her be as noisy as she wants. This may require you to leave some restaurants or religious services but it’s an act of joy that I wouldn’t want to curb. Practice your smile and your response to strangers if they would dare to judge you (or worse, judge Rhane). There are some times when children need to be seen and heard!

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.


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