I’m a “systems” builder by nature. That means I like to create and devise strategies to solve problems that my life sees. I guess I saw being a Dad in the same light, so I’m constantly creating procedures to make life simpler, more efficient, and more pleasant. One of my systems is for whine management.
Keep in mind, my statistics are purely for illustrative reasons! Also keep in mind that this is just something I do, it’s not a poster on the wall which everyone must follow – it’s just something that works for me personally.
When my son makes a request using signs (asks for something that is optional i.e. not a need), I’ll do as he asks 70-80% of the time. This means he asks nicely and politely. If I’m busy, I’ll decline and give him a reasonable reason. If I can’t, but am willing to do it later, I’ll tell him to wait. When I’m ready to help him, I find him, ask him if he’d still like to do whatever it was he asked. If he does, we do it. I never hope that he’ll forget his request and never wait for him to remember what it was and come back a second time. This strategy will help you eliminate repeated “bugging” and requesting. He’ll soon figure out that when I’m ready, I’ll come find him so he can busy himself playing until that happens leaving me to do whatever I need to do.
Keep in mind that this is a time in a toddlers life when they need the most attention and care. As they age, they’ll need you less and less and how you respond to them, will dictate how they’ll treat you in return. Always try to make time for requests that are signed. If you can’t, then at least acknowledge that you understand them by repeating back what they’ve signed out loud, and follow this with reasons for not being able to meet their request.
When a toddler starts off a request by whining, I recommend immediately stopping what you are doing and ask your toddler to “use his words/signs.” In most cases, your toddler will – especially if you make it a routine. For example, if my son doesn’t sign his request, it’s usually because he doesn’t have a sign for what he wants so I’ll ask him to “show me” what he wants. If that doesn’t work, I’ll tell him to point to what he wants. From there, if I have time I’ll teach him the sign, and then decide if what he wants is appropriate. 100% of the time my son whines, I’ll respond by making him sign his request. If you give into whining, even sporadically, it will increase the chances that it will happen again.
If his request is “need” based, meaning that he’s hungry, thirsty, tired or something else non-optional then I’ll do it 100% of the time – sometimes with a slight delay (especially if I’m in the process of doing it anyway). Even needs not be met instantly lest you become your toddlers slave!