What if a child whines and tantrums?

Question #1:

Dear Devora,

What would you do if a 4-year old child constantly whines and tantrums? The parent I work with always talks her daughter through it in an attempt to calm her down. But perhaps this is reinforcing the behavior and making it happen even more often! Should I even teach the mom to acknowledge and validate the child by saying, “You look really upset. You wish that…. We’ll talk about it when you’re calm,” or should the mom completely ignore the crying and instead teach her tools? It takes the child a good 5-10 minutes to even calm down. When the mom tries to talk the little girl through it and pacify her by giving her what she wants, inevitably, within 5 seconds, a new problem arises, such as “I don’t like this color!” or “I wanted to sit THERE!” or “I don’t want to eat this!” or “She’s looking at me!” It seems that when she gets into the mode of whining, it just won’t stop.

On a separate note, sometimes my own kids (ages 3-5) yell and scream across the house such as, “Baila, you turned off the iPad!!!!” I’m in the house and I hear it in the background. Would you suggest that I go over to my child and say, “Oh sweetie, you really wanted the iPad to have stayed on and you were hoping that the video you were watching was still on,” or should I ignore it? These loud comments and hollering are constant. Should I be afraid that if I don’t say anything, my kids will grow up thinking that this behavior is ok?

Thank you,


Question #2

Devora, tell me how to deal with this crying nonstop (from my 4-year-old), every day!!!! I can’t deal with it anymore! I’m legit losing my mind! Tell me what my first step should be!!

Thank you,

Losing my mind

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Dear Unsure and Losing my mind,

This problem is quite common as most parents will agree. It can be a passing phase if dealt with properly, or it can linger for many years (even into adulthood) if we inadvertently encourage it.

I will answer this question over several posts as it deserves to be broken down into its component parts and answered accordingly.


1. When children are babies, they cry and whine because they don’t have the language to express themselves. As they begin to talk, we need to encourage and reinforce the use of words when kids want something or are upset about something. How do we reinforce and encourage? Via constant praise and rewards. In fact, it should be at the rate of six sugars (praise) for every one vinegar (prompt or reminder).

What are some sample praise and encouragement?

1. I like how you asked me with words.
2. I like how you asked me in a calm voice.
3. I love when you speak in a soft voice.
4. That was very nice asking. Sure, you can have it.
5. That was very nice asking. We already had snacks today. You’ll get another one tomorrow.
6. That was very nice asking. We already had snacks today. You’ll get another one tomorrow. It’s ok if you’re sad and you want to cry.
7. You were very upset that Baila turned off the iPad, and instead of screaming across the house, you walked over to her and told her how upset you are. So mature!
8. You didn’t like the color of the crayon, and you took another one calmly without screaming. Good for you.
9. You didn’t like the color of the lollipop and you asked me nicely for a different one. I love that.
10.You didn’t like the color of the lollipop and you asked me nicely for a different one. I wish I could give you a red lollipop but I only have yellow ones left. Do you want the yellow one?

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I almost forgot to mention one more SUPER important thing:

When we, the parents and adults, are upset or want something, it is IMPERATIVE that WE model using a calm voice without screaming.

Have a calm week đŸ™‚


Dr. Devora

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