How To Deal With Whiney, Emotional Kids - Hope 103.2

How To Deal With Whiney, Emotional Kids

If you have a “whiney” child who gets upset easily, Dr Justin Coulson suggest a series of steps you can take to calm them, and help them find solutions.

By Clare BruceWednesday 11 Nov 2015Hope MorningsParentingReading Time: 3 minutes

Listen: Emma Mullings chats to Dr Justin Coulson on how to handle a whiney, emotional child.

If you’re the parent of a “whiney” child who is prone to getting upset easily, over seemingly trivial things, take heart. 

It won’t last forever. And according to parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson, a kind, understanding approach will not only calm your child, but will help both of you to benefit from the emotional moment—rather than simply feeling frustrated.

Remember – Emotional Development Takes Time

Kids are not simply small adults; they are developing and still learning how to control their feelings.

It’s important to remember this when responding to your child’s meltdown.

“Children learn to regulate their emotions slowly,” said Dr Coulson. “At age one they rock or chew something. Only by age 7 to 9 can they regulate their emotions properly.”

“Just because a child is walking and talking doesn’t mean they can calm down.”

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“Just Cheer Up” Won’t Necessarily Cheer Them Up

Half-hearted, throwaway comments designed to try and silence your child aren’t always helpful.

Instead of just having their emotions glossed over, children need to be understood.

“Saying “It’ll be alright” or “Cheer up” or “Don’t worry” doesn’t really help,” Dr Coulson said.

The 4 Steps To Take When Your Child Is Emotional

A mother consoling her daughter

To actually make a difference to your child’s emotional state and maturity, there are a series of four steps Dr Coulson recommends.

Step 1 – See It As An Opportunity For Connection

Instead of just seeing your child’s whining or emotions as an annoying interruption to your day, consider it as a chance to be close to them.

This will change your perspective and put you in the right frame of mind for responding with kindness.

Step 2 – Determine What Is Causing Their Emotions

Why is your child upset in this moment? Consider whether they are tired, stressed, in pain, or just hungry. Perhaps they feel embarrassed, intimidated by a sibling, or unfairly treated. Or maybe they feel left out, inadequate, or helpless.

Identifying the cause of their emotions will help you to realise they aren’t just trying to annoy you.

Step 3 – Tell Your Child What You Think They’re Experiencing

Share with your child what you’ve observed, and give their emotions a label to help them understand and identify what’s happening in their emotions.

Dr Coulson says the adage, “If you can name it, you can tame it,” applies well to children’s emotions.

By doing this, you will help your child to feel understood.

Step 4 – Work Out A Solution Together

When your child has calmed down feels understood, you can then chat with them about what to do about the situation they’re experiencing.

Perhaps they need a nap, something to eat or drink, or some quiet time away from their sibling. Talk together with your child about what will help to fix how they are feeling.

Let Your Child Know Their Emotions Are OK

A Father consoling his son

A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that no matter how emotional or whiney your child becomes, they need to always feel safe.

Instead of snapping and telling them to “grow up”, “shutup” or “stop being a baby”, it’s better to respond with kindness.

“When our children are having big emotions the short answer is help them feel safe and then help them problem-solve,” Dr Coulson said.

This way, they will know that they always have a safe space to be honest about how they are feeling.

More Info

  • Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting speaker, author and researcher, and founder of
  • His book “How To Get Your Kids To Really Listen” addresses this topic in more detail.