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Dealing with Dawdling and Whining in Toddlers


toddler with mouth open


Parents of toddlers often say the toughest part is dealing with the tantrums, whining and other behaviours that can test the limits of your patience.  

Here's some information that can help you understand - and cope with - challenging behaviours.


If you're in a hurry to get somewhere and your toddler is dawdling, it can be very frustrating. Keep in mind that time just doesn’t have the same meaning for young children. They don’t dawdle to make your life difficult. They're just more focused on activity than time, and they need lots of practice to learn new skills, go places or get something done. 

Since it's almost impossible to stop your toddler from dawdling, try these approaches:

  • Give your toddler plenty of notice when you’re switching from one activity to another.
  • Build in extra time when you organize your day and week.
  • Clearly and simply tell your toddler what you want: “Put on your coat now, please.”
  • Remove distractions when you’re in a hurry. Get yourself ready ahead of time, turn off the TV, put toys away, etc.


At one time or another, your toddler might try biting. Or your toddler may be bitten by another child. While it's unclear why a toddler might do this, children need to learn that biting is unacceptable behaviour.

If your older toddler bites:

  • State clearly and simply: "No, please don’t bite. It hurts."
  • If she bites while breastfeeding, loudly say, "Ouch, that hurts. Please don’t bite!" and remove your child immediately from the breast. Then try breastfeeding again. Just because your toddler bites doesn't mean you need to stop breastfeeding.
  • Avoid biting your toddler back. It will frighten and confuse him - and it won’t stop him from biting.
  • Avoid laughing or taking biting lightly. A playful nibble on your leg may not seem serious until your child leaves a deep bite on a sibling or playmate.


Whining can be an incredibly annoying part of normal toddler development (and it’s no less annoying when the whining comes from an older child!) Whining is that unpleasant tone between talking and crying and it tends to bother most parents much more quickly than other kinds of challenging behaviour.

Whining often happens when your toddler's tired or hungry. You may hear it when she feels no one’s listening, or if she can’t find the words to tell you what’s wrong. Don’t give in to the demands of the whining. Try these tips instead:

  • Make sure your toddler is not hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.
  • Praise your toddler for not whining: "I like your grown up voice."
  • Try to be a role model.
  • Say, "I can’t hear you when you whine."

Resources & Links: 
HealthLink BC: Managing Your Toddler's Frustrating Behaviours
HealthLink BC: Effective Parenting: Discipline
HealthLink BC: Animal and Human Bites

Last Updated: August 2, 2013