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Why Does My Child Cry & Whine All the Time?

By Susan Stopper ; Updated June 13, 2017

Every parent is familiar with it – the irritating crying and whining of a young child. This kind of behavior is normal for young children, particularly kids ages 1 to 3, according to the Nemours website KidsHealth. But when it becomes excessive or extends beyond the toddler stage, parents may wonder what is causing it and how they can curb it.

Attention

Children often use whining and crying to get your attention. Before kids can speak clearly and be understood, crying is their only way to get their needs addressed. This old habit can last beyond a child's toddler years.

Frustration

When a child doesn’t get what he wants or is having trouble with something, he will often whine or cry out of frustration. Children tend to act out their frustrations because they don’t have the same self-control as adults, says KidsHealth.

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Discipline

The next time your child whines or cries when she wants something or is frustrated, remind her to use her words. For instance, tell her in a calm voice that instead of crying because she wants milk instead of water, she should say, “Mommy, may I have milk instead, please?” Explain that you can’t understand her when she cries and whines. Don’t give in until your child mimics your example or expresses herself without crying or whining. When your child makes a request or expresses unhappiness without whining and crying, praise her, even if the request isn’t something you can grant. Tell her that you liked the way she asked. According to the American Psychological Association, rewarding desired behavior can help stop problem behavior.

Prevention

Heading off a situation that often results in crying and whining is another way to eliminate these behaviors, particularly with toddlers. Children often cry and whine more when they're tired, hungry or uncomfortable, notes KidsHealth. Try not to overschedule your child so that meals or nap times are delayed. Avoid trigger situations, as well. If you know your child is going to want something if he sees it, hide it. If you see your child becoming frustrated with a situation, distract him with a new activity, suggests KidsHealth.

Getting Help

If you’ve tried discipline and prevention tactics and your child still whines and cries excessively, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Occasionally these behaviors indicate a medical problem, a mood disorder, a language delay or a learning disability, according to KidsHealth. If you find yourself losing patience with the situation, consult your doctor, as well.

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