Here is my tried and true method to stop the habit of whining, learned long ago by another smart mom who taught me. This method requires us to stop and listen and them to communicate clearly.
I say, “I can’t understand you or hear you when you use that voice.”
And we must explain (in a kind, not mocking or frustrated way) that words don’t make sense to our ears at a certain pitch, all strung together. We just can’t understand what they are trying to tell us without a nice normal clear voice and we want to hear what they are saying. Blame the ears!
I have found that whining is a sign of tiredness on the toddler’s part to not speak clearly or use their words to communicate, a conditioned response (habit or learned behavior) to enable them to get what they want and often a way of getting our attention when our attention is too often elsewhere. What better way to use an irritating voice?
We can show them by telling them what a whining voice sounds like (which will usually make them laugh), and then what a normal voice sounds like and how the words aren’t all blended together. And then we can gently and or firmly, depending on the child and the frequency, tell them to “start again with the right voice so I can understand you and help you” whenever the whining starts. It might just once or twice, it might be something we have to remind them of again and again (“remember, use the right voice so I can understand”).
Special note for whining and late talkers-Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to want to be able to say something and not make your mouth move to form the right words? This is a whole other subject, but I would never frustrate a late talker by demanding they say words in order for me to understand them-I would encourage them by “giving” them the words (which can be a guessing game) they need to communicate instead of whining. ie. Did you mean ‘can Janey have more juice’?” Here are some great tips for helping late talkers communicate.