Parenting Skills: How to Teach Your Baby to Communicate Effectively

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 9, 2024

A mother wrote and said, “I’ve been watching the podcasts about whining, and wow, that’s great stuff.

Now I wonder what I can do with our fourteen-month-old, who’s whining more and more.

We’re trying to make sure that all the basics are covered, that he’s fed, rested, clean diaper.

I know it’s good to say, “English” to require that he talks, but he doesn’t know a lot of words.

What can I do better?”

Smart of you to pay attention to this behavior. Kids really watch us closely. If we reward ANYTHING they do—like whining—they’ll do it again, much like dogs and horses will when they’re being trained. If we give children what they want when they whine, we’re training them to whine.

Sure, crying in early infancy is normal, but very early you can begin to teach your son other ways to tell you what he wants. If you’re consistent, he WILL learn. Kids learn what you persistently teach.

The only reason children whine and make demands past age 8-12 months is because we TAUGHT them to. Now we can teach them not to.

The moment children become capable of communicating in a better way, whining cannot be tolerated. If you don’t stop the whining, it tends to continue for a lifetime.

I wish I were kidding, but look at how many older children, teens, and adults rage, criticize, beg, and manipulate, which are all forms of whining. And they learned it in infancy, where nobody taught them another way.

It’s MUCH easier to teach children while they’re young than to wait. Ever tried to teach a teenager or adult not to whine? Nearly impossible. 

Now, back to your son: First, understand that you cannot teach a child about whining if you’re irritated. If you’re irritated AT ALL—and kids can smell the slightest bit—your son will hear the “I don’t love you message,” and then he WILL be wounded, and usually he’ll respond with (1) more whining or (2) fearful silence, which quickly separates him from you and everyone else.

Second, when you begin to teach your child not to whine, you must understand that you will meet resistance, because up to that point he has successfully gotten whatever he wants simply by crying or whining, and now—suddenly—you’re telling him that his one effective tool is no longer acceptable. Unconsciously, he’ll be thinking, “What?!! Are you kidding me? Are you stupid? I’ve ALWAYS gotten what I wanted when I whined, and now you’re changing the rules? No way am I cooperating with this!”

Now, talking to everyone, let’s discuss how to teach any young child, as young as 8-12 months, how to stop whining. Watch the entire Parenting Training for a foundation in LovingandTeaching. You can’t expect to teach your children important principles until YOU are more loving. Decide that you WILL do this. You will LoveandTeach persistently.

Infants as young as 6-8 months can learn a kind of sign language designed specifically for pre-verbal kids. There are several books on the subject. Find them online. Once your child learns to SIGN for what they want, you will no longer respond to whining.

What if you don’t want to learn to sign? You can teach them to POINT to things they want. Many of those things won’t be in the room, so you can take pictures of most of the things and activities in the house they routinely want—toys, food, changing a diaper, and so on. You already know what those things are, and your kids can point to the pictures—either printed out or on your phone.

Now there is NO reason to whine. Parents who allow whining are guaranteed to have much worse problems as their children get older. Trust me on this. Do the work. Learn to love and teach your child.

As one mother said, “I would not have believed it possible, but my eleven-month-old son doesn’t whine anymore. Really, no more, and he cleans up after himself too. It’s amazing.”

If this mother can do it, so can you. It is so fun—and better for your child—not to hear that awful sound in the house anymore.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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